I grew up in a working-class family in western Maryland. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. But I had started my career in media right out of high school and went on to work in the industry for almost two decades. After I lost a close friend to cancer, I changed careers to help others through music therapy, working in that industry for another decade until my position was eliminated at the beginning of the recession.
But I still had a mortgage, and the bills didn’t stop coming in. Meanwhile, my partner of 15 years got sick and developed cancer. I picked up the tab for his medicines and treatments along the way.
I did what other people in my position would have done; I took a job with a huge pay cut. My new job didn’t allow me to take care of my sick partner, and I couldn’t balance work and home life. His disease progressed and I needed to spend more time with him and was consequently let go from my job.
After my partner lost his battle with cancer I lost energy and motivation. I didn’t have the money left for both food and bills. I was literally counting out pennies every night and putting them in jars to save everything I could. But even the pennies eventually ran out.
I started going to the food pantry. Every time I went, they would ask, “Do you have FoodShare?” I always thought the next job was just around the corner. But it wasn’t. I took the plunge and got FoodShare so I could afford fruits, vegetables and my medicines again.
I found community and support at my local food co-op, which is needed when I struggle week to week. I walk everywhere these days. I save my bus tickets in case I get an interview and make sure I have enough money in my bank account to cover the $4.00 minimum. Sometimes that’s making a $2 cash deposit just to stay in the black.
I have worked hard my whole life. I felt I did things the right way and still ended up worrying about having enough food.