In October 2013, Linda Tirado, a 32-year-old mother of two who worked two low-paying jobs wrote a piece about poverty, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts.”
It originally was written in response to the question "Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?", on a Gawker online forum.
Little did she know at the time that her post would go viral ... Her response was ...
Her response was subsequently reprinted by The Huffington Post, The Nation and Forbes in November 2013 under the title "This is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense".
The article was read by over 6 million people and led to Tirado receiving a staggering 20,000 + emails in just one week.
Tirado, herself a poor person, rationally explained through her writing why poor people do things that to the rest of us seem so destructive. She explained the reasons why poor people repeatedly make bad decisions, poor choices and live their lives the way they do.
She puts things in context and her reasoning allows for all of us on the outside looking in, to gain a better understanding on the destructiveness of poverty on peoples daily lives.
It brings about a better understanding of the human condition, struggling, suffering and hopelessness.
It reveals to us what over 50 million North Americans living below the poverty line have to face every day of their dreary lives.
The question is, how can everyone else live knowing that so many of us have to live like this?
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
Tirado had been attacked by some journalists and social conservatives for fabricating her story and being a phony due to some alleged inconsistencies and alleged misrepresentations in her story. She defended herself by clarifying what she wrote.
Due to this, at first I was slightly hesitant to post her story due to some in the media accusing her of being a fraud. The last thing I wanted to do was to give a fake story credibility by unknowingly spreading falsehoods and lies.
I eventually decided to post her story because there was no real solid proof against her. It seemed to be mostly based on people surmising her situation and making unfounded accusations against her.
From my experience, in situations like these when you weigh all of the facts, there is more often than not more truth to the story then outright lies.
Tirado's writing reveals to us the importance of having greater understanding, kindness, consideration, thoughtfulness, compassion, empathy and caring for one another in our world.
She has also become known as the woman who has accidentally explained poverty to America. And has become a voice for the poor.
These are the reasons why I decided to re-publish her post below.
Here is Her Post That Went Viral:
Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts.
There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why.
We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.
Rest is a luxury for the rich. I get up at 6AM, go to school (I have a full course load, but I only have to go to two in-person classes) then work, then I get the kids, then I pick up my husband, then I have half an hour to change and go to Job 2.
I get home from that at around 12:30AM, then I have the rest of my classes and work to tend to. I’m in bed by 3.
This isn’t every day, I have two days off a week from each of my obligations. I use that time to clean the house and soothe Mr. Martini and see the kids for longer than an hour and catch up on schoolwork.
Those nights I’m in bed by midnight, but if I go to bed too early I won’t be able to stay up the other nights because I’ll fuck my pattern up, and I drive an hour home from Job 2 so I can’t afford to be sleepy.
I never get a day off from work unless I am fairly sick. It doesn’t leave you much room to think about what you are doing, only to attend to the next thing and the next. Planning isn’t in the mix.
When I got pregnant the first time, I was living in a weekly motel. I had a minifridge with no freezer and a microwave. I was on WIC. I ate peanut butter from the jar and frozen burritos because they were 12/$2.
Had I had a stove, I couldn’t have made beef burritos that cheaply. And I needed the meat, I was pregnant. I might not have had any prenatal care, but I am intelligent enough to eat protein and iron whilst knocked up.
We know exactly what a dollar’s worth; it’s counted in how many more times you have to duck and bend sideways out the drive-through window.
Or how many floors you can vacuum, or how many boxes you can fill.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
I know how to cook. I had to take Home Ec to graduate high school. Most people on my level didn’t. Broccoli is intimidating. You have to have a working stove, and pots, and spices, and you’ll have to do the dishes no matter how tired you are or they’ll attract bugs.
It is a huge new skill for a lot of people. That’s not great, but it’s true. And if you fuck it up, you could make your family sick.
We have learned not to try too hard to be middle-class. It never works out well and always makes you feel worse for having tried and failed yet again. Better not to try. It makes more sense to get food that you know will be palatable and cheap and that keeps well.
Junk food is a pleasure that we are allowed to have; why would we give that up? We have very few of them.
The closest Planned Parenthood to me is three hours. That’s a lot of money in gas. Lots of women can’t afford that, and even if you live near one you probably don’t want to be seen coming in and out in a lot of areas.
We’re aware that we are not “having kids,” we’re “breeding.” We have kids for much the same reasons that I imagine rich people do. Urge to propagate and all. Nobody likes poor people procreating, but they judge abortion even harder.
Convenience food is just that. And we are not allowed many conveniences. Especially since the Patriot Act passed, it’s hard to get a bank account. But without one, you spend a lot of time figuring out where to cash a check and get money orders to pay bills.
Most motels now have a no-credit-card-no-room policy. I wandered around SF for five hours in the rain once with nearly a thousand dollars on me and could not rent a room even if I gave them a $500 cash deposit and surrendered my cell phone to the desk to hold as surety.
Nobody gives enough thought to depression. You have to understand that we know that we will never not feel tired. We will never feel hopeful. We will never get a vacation. Ever.
We know that the very act of being poor guarantees that we will never not be poor. It doesn’t give us much reason to improve ourselves. We don’t apply for jobs because we know we can’t afford to look nice enough to hold them.
I would make a super legal secretary, but I’ve been turned down more than once because I “don’t fit the image of the firm,” which is a nice way of saying “gtfo, pov.”
I am good enough to cook the food, hidden away in the kitchen, but my boss won’t make me a server because I don’t “fit the corporate image.” I am not beautiful. I have missing teeth and skin that looks like it will when you live on B12 and coffee and nicotine and no sleep.
Beauty is a thing you get when you can afford it, and that’s how you get the job that you need in order to be beautiful. There isn’t much point trying.
Cooking attracts roaches. Nobody realizes that. I’ve spent a lot of hours impaling roach bodies and leaving them out on toothpick pikes to discourage others from entering. It doesn’t work, but is amusing.
“Free” only exists for rich people. It’s great that there’s a bowl of condoms at my school, but most poor people will never set foot on a college campus. We don’t belong there.
There’s a clinic? Great! There’s still a copay. We’re not going. Besides, all they’ll tell you at the clinic is that you need to see a specialist, which seriously? Might as well be located on Mars for how accessible it is.
“Low-cost” and “sliding scale” sounds like “money you have to spend” to me, and they can’t actually help you anyway.
I smoke. It’s expensive. It’s also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. It’s a stimulant. When I am too tired to walk one more step, I can smoke and go for another hour.
When I am enraged and beaten down and incapable of accomplishing one more thing, I can smoke and I feel a little better, just for a minute. It is the only relaxation I am allowed.
It is not a good decision, but it is the only one that I have access to. It is the only thing I have found that keeps me from collapsing or exploding.
Poverty, or poor, or working class—whatever level of not enough you’re at—you feel it in a million tiny ways. Sometimes it’s the condescension, sometimes it’s that you’re itchy. I don’t think people who have never been poor quite understand that.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing?
It’s not like the sacrifice will result in improved circumstances; the thing holding me back isn’t that I blow five bucks at Wendy’s. It’s that now that I have proven that I am a Poor Person that is all that I am or ever will be.
It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to.
There’s a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there’s money in your pocket, because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway.
When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning. I imagine having a lot of it is the same thing.
Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different baby daddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive.
You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that’s all you get.
You’re probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable.
It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters.
We don’t plan long-term because if we do we’ll just get our hearts broken. It’s best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it.
I am not asking for sympathy. I am just trying to explain, on a human level, how it is that people make what look from the outside like awful decisions.
This is what our lives are like, and here are our defense mechanisms, and here is why we think differently. It’s certainly self-defeating, but it’s safer. That’s all. I hope it helps make sense of it.
Image Credit: Feature Image: Source Linda Tirado's GoFundMe Page
Linda Tirado's Update:
The response to this piece is overwhelming. I have had a lot of people ask to use my work. Please do. Share it with the world if you found value in it. Please link back if you can.
If you are teaching, I am happy to discuss this with or clarify for you, and you can freely use this piece in your classes. Please do let me know where you teach.
You can reach me on Twitter, @killermartinis. I set up an email at killermartinisbook@ gmail as well.
This piece has gone fully viral. People have been asking me to write, and how they can help. After enough people tried to send me paypal money, I set up a gofundme. Find it here.
It promptly went insane. I have raised my typical yearly income as of this update. I have no idea what to say except thank you. I am going to speak with some money people who will make sure that I can’t fuck this up and I will use it to do good things with.
I’ve also set up a blog, which I hope you will find here.
Understand that I wrote this as an example of the thought process that we struggle with. Most of us are clinically depressed, and we do not get therapy and medication and support. We get told to get over it.
And we find ways to cope. I am not saying that people live without hope entirely; that is not human nature. But these are the thoughts that are never too far away, that creep up on us every chance they get, that prey on our better judgement when we are tired and stressed and weakened.
We maintain a constant vigil against these thoughts, because we are afraid that if we speak them aloud or even articulate them in our heads they will become unmanageably real.
Thank you for reading. I am glad people find value in it. Because I am getting tired of people not reading this and then commenting anyway, I am making a few things clear: not all of this piece is about me.
That is why I said that they were observations. And this piece is not all of me: that is why I said that they were random observations rather than complete ones.
If you really have to urge me to abort or keep my knees closed or wonder whether I can fax you my citizenship documents or if I really in fact have been poor because I know multisyllabic words, I would like to ask that you read the comments and see whether anyone has made your point in the particular fashion you intend to.
It is not that I mind trolls so much, it’s that they’re getting repetitive and if you have to say nothing I hope you can at least do it in an entertaining fashion.
If, however, you simply are curious about something and actually want to have a conversation, I do not mind repeating myself because those conversations are valuable and not actually repetitive.
They tend to be very specific to the asker, and I am happy to shed any light I can. I do not mind honest questions. They are why I wrote this piece.
Thank you all, so much. I don’t know what life will look like next week, and for once that’s a good thing. And I have you to thank.
Since her post went viral Tirado has been requested by numerous supporters to share a little about her life with them. Tirado uses her Go Fund Me page to share her life with her supporters.
Her life story below, with accompanying updates, is just as much, if not even more touching than her original post. Below is her life story from her Go Fund Me Page.
Poverty Thoughts - In Book Form
Hi. I'm KillerMartinis. (online name)
If you are here on this page, it's because of this. That's the essay that started people talking about poverty in a way that we don't often see.
People have told me that it made them cry and think and understand and talk about what it is that millions of Americans experience as daily reality.
And that's why I wrote it: so that people could understand a little about what it is to live on the margins.
It...for someone who is briefly famous on the Internet for having the right words about a thing, I can find none here. You have no reason to do this. None at all.
I am not a particularly deserving person. I have made mistakes out of desperation and fear and because I am not a particularly good or bad person, but entirely average.
And I have tried to balance my mistakes by actively doing good things, because while I am not a believer in God I do at least see that it is about doing your best.
Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don't. And so when you see me misstep or stumble please keep in mind that I am simply doing the best I can with what I have.
At this point, enough people are asking that I will tell you about myself, because I am getting a lot of the same questions.
I was raised middle class, by a factory worker and a teacher. They are my grandparents, and they are Mom and Dad.
But I was given to them after I had lived with an overwhelmed mother and a father away in the Navy and Mom has always been convinced that I suffered terrible emotional issues because of my very early years.
And so we embarked on a lifetime of therapy, which is where I picked up my knack for introspection. I was literally raised to it.
I have memories of playing games on the office floor of a beautiful woman named Kerrie while we talked about my day and how I felt. There were others, but she is my favorite.
As far as I’m concerned, I earn my wages with my scars. Anything above and beyond that is me doing my employers a favor. And I’m not inclined to do favors for people who treat me poorly.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
During the course of therapy, they tested my IQ. You have to understand that it isn't actually terribly impressive. It is higher than average, to be sure.
But my mother grew up quite poor in Detroit and she is very impressed by these things and so she decided that I was a genius. And she nurtured it. She is a teacher.
I was given music lessons and she learned languages with me. I have no aptitude for dance or art, but we tried those too.
I was in competitions when I was five, and they lasted until college. And so that is how I know how to talk to people who are in the upper middle class.
Because I got a partial scholarship to Cranbrook but we couldn't afford the other half. But my parents knew damn well what Cranbrook was and they were determined that I would have a chance at it.
They gave up much to send me to private schools. Not expensive ones, I went to a small religious elementary. They taught me much about Satan and also had strict academic standards for the ten kids or so in every grade.
If you are old enough, you will recall that there was a time in the late 80s and early 90s in which Donahue was talking about the secret satanic sex cults that were a plague in private daycare centers, because of course.
My mom had just bought a daycare. It was her dream. But as it turned out, there was a child being sexually abused that was under her care. It was just happening at home instead of at the school.
The kid's mom couldn't believe that her new husband would do such a thing, and so she called everyone. Everyone.
This is not the first time in my life reporters have been on the line when I picked up the phone. It's just that the last time this happened I was eight. It was a nightmare, and it was one of those things that went fucking viral. Not in reach, but in ridiculousness.
Children actually told grownups that my mother had tried to shoot them with a gun she kept in her desk and so they got the other gun and shot her in the arm.
And the adults believed this. My mother, quite reasonably, promptly went completely nuts. We suddenly left Michigan and moved to Utah.
And so that is why stability and trust are not things that I have easily. I was taught to be ready, to be wary, to be mistrustful, because the world is a hard place.
We should devote ourselves to something that doesn’t benefit us more than it absolutely has to?
We’re meant to care about their best interests, but they don’t have to care about ours?
If you’re going to put as little as possible into my training and wages, if you’re going to make sure that I can’t get enough hours to survive in order to avoid giving me health care and generally make sure that I’m as uncomfortable as possible at any given time just to make sure I know my place, then how can you expect me to care about your profit margin?
Remember, you get what you pay for.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
And that is how the real troubles started. My parents found solace in the local religion. I was wearing flannel and listening to grunge. My mother was not a rational person most of the time.
It is why I am willing to reason with unreasonable people. And what you have to realize is that I was very young and my world was spinning too.
I could not understand that she was overwhelmed. I only saw her battening the hatches and driving me into perfection and going ballistic if I fucked the slightest thing up with the best of intentions.
I was a teenager, but one dealing with parents who were barely holding themselves together. It was hell for everybody involved.
And so I worked very hard at excelling and I graduated high school when I was sixteen and I went away, as far away as I could get, to college. That is how I know how to make it on my own.
And I promptly made the sorts of decisions you would expect out of a kid that age with low self-esteem and no social skills and access to what I saw as the cool kids who saw me as an intelligent kid sister and were willing to include me in things. I didn't make it long.
I spent some time bouncing in and out of school and joined my first political campaign. It was amazing. And so I went for it. I moved all over the country and chased jobs and found that I was never quite a good fit, because I never have fit in anywhere entirely.
And when it wasn't campaign season I worked pretty much whatever I could find. It's not high pay compared to relative expense until you're pretty well-established, particularly if you are not good with money.
I was poor in the way that most people who do not have resources are when they are young and idealistic. I didn't mind it much. I thought it would end when I was ready.
And so that is how I know things about media and framing and what sort of good I can do and how to pick stories out of shared experience.
And then I was hit by a drunk driver, fucked up my teeth and took the insurance check before I realized that it meant they would not be covering dental, thank you very much.
I was nineteen, I think. I simply trusted what I was told by the people in authority. I don't think I can be blamed, although I have never been so foolish since. But my teeth kept getting worse.
Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
There are a lot of reasons, I have not been gentle on them, but I have at least cleaned them. I know what Crest is.
It's just that when teeth crack and are not attended to, they develop problems, which spread no matter what you do unless what you are doing is going to a dentist. Which I could not afford.
And as the problem got worse I saw my prospects fade. I understand it. I would make the same call. Many people think I am simply too dumb to know how to brush my teeth.
Whether or not that is true, it is not a first impression on behalf of a candidate or company that you can give. And so that is where the slide started.
During this time I was simply spinning around the world and hoping to make sense of my life. I struggle with things sometimes. I do not know why, whether it's inherent or whether my mother is right or whether what happened to my mother is what did it.
But sometimes the world seems suddenly bizarre and I have to practice a strict control in order to behave as though the world were real.
I have seen many therapists. I know what it is. I can't afford the medicine and so I have learned simply to control it because it is not the worst case in the world. But it took me a lot of years to figure out how to function properly.
And I am often depressed because I am intelligent enough to see that I have much to give if I could figure out a way to do it. Those things are what I struggle against and why I have made many demonstrably bad decisions in my life, because I had lost the fight with myself.
And so that is how I kept sliding even when I had all the potential in the world. I simply had too much life to process. Mental illness is a common thing in the world I live in.
And that is the answer to the question many of you have asked. How is it that someone with such clarity and evocation has any right to assert that they are poor? It is likely untrue. Well, it is and it isn't.
You have to understand that the piece you read was taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not.
I am reasonably normally lower working class. I am exhausted and poor and can't make all my bills all the time but I reconciled with my parents when I got pregnant for the sake of the kids and I have family resources.
I can always make the amount of money I need in a month, it's just that it doesn't always match the billing cycles.
When I got pregnant, we were in a typical lower-working-class bit of fuckuppery. We had moved to a city so my husband could go to school on his GI bill.
But due to some sort of oversight, we never did start getting the living stipend that we had budgeted for. We had decided that my career was over and it was his turn, so instead of looking for work in the field I loved, I took a job in fast food. So did he.
We saved two pay periods and got the cheapest apartment we could find, figuring that we would be getting the stipend soon and could move someplace better when we did. And the checks didn't come for five months.
I eventually reached out to legislator's offices and they got the wheels turning. We would get a lump sum for what was due us.
I was well along and while I had medicaid, I couldn't find anyone accepting new patients except a charity clinic that told me that Jesus wanted me to keep my baby but had very little information for me about the state of my uterus.
So instead of missing a day of work to hear about Jesus, I got books and read websites and did what I could on my own.
Women have been pregnant for thousands of years and humanity seems to be doing okay. And I am smart.
And then our apartment flooded and we still didn't have the check and then suddenly everything that we had carefully saved for this baby was gone.
We had two feet of water in the place. We went back to the motel, which at least did not have bedbugs. In Cincinnati, that's a big deal.
But the cost was double our rent and we had barely been floating when we had clothes and things, much less nothing and extra rent to pay.
And the frustrating thing about it all was that we had done the fucking thing correctly. We would have had more than enough money for a decent apartment and baby things if we had been getting our stipend, the one we were contractually due.
And so that is how I know what it is to rage at the universe because you are doing everything you can and it is still not enough.
When my parents came to be there for the birth and they saw what we were dealing with they moved us to Utah and gave us a trailer to live in.
And then when we had our second and final daughter they helped us find a house to live in and now we have some space for once.
That is the sort of person I am. I chased dreams that I couldn't afford for longer than was strictly necessary and only gave that up when children made life suddenly more stable.
I have to think of whether I can afford any potential treatment emotionally, financially and time wise.
But fate is a chancy thing and I am after all perfectly suited to write about poverty. I have been privileged while poor, because I am fucked up and spent decades in therapy, because I have been given access to these words, I am well-suited to this.
I do not speak for everyone that makes the same amount I do. I speak for many of us. Those are different and I do not confuse them. I did not think that I would ever do better than scrape by but I am managing that without relying on charity.
I have had much luck and many breaks. Things could always have been much worse for me. But I have lived in the places where the worst situations are dealt with.
I have seen what it is to be worse off than I am because I am white and all of my class markers are fixable because I did not develop them as part of my being and my mental problems are not so severe and I do not live with a disability and my parents were kind and loving and just didn't know what to do.
Because I happen to have been given this outlet I am telling these stories. Some are mine, some are things I have seen. All are a mix of luck and strength and intentions and failure and success.
Very few people in this world are saintlike. Most people who are poor have not gotten there faultless. I didn't. And so I am talking about the people who are of average moral character, not the ones who have a clearly obvious leaning toward evil or good.
The people I speak for are not the ones shooting each other but everyone damn well knows what it sounds like when those people visit. And they are likely to hustle and make the most of every chance because that is what success is.
Coming up with enough money that you are comfortable is the real American dream and it is one that the people I am used to don't believe in as much as hope hard for.
I have spent my life on the margins due to my own actions and an equal amount of things that I cannot control.
One does not negate the other but if you are looking for a paragon of virtue you will not find many among the people who have had to decide whether to work in a morally dubious establishment or not work at all.
When people say that I am perhaps not legitimate, it is maybe sort of true if you mean that when I was at the low points I did not have time for blogs and since I do now I am not at the bottom.
That is a true thing. But it is untrue if you mean that you think that because I have some knowledge of and access to an intellectual culture higher than my station I must be the average Gawker or Times reader. I am not.
There are a lot of us, particularly since the economy collapsed and, well, you read the same news I do. You remember. We remember what it is to be professional a little bit and we have a few close friends who have done well for themselves and a few that haven't.
My closest friends are both living with family. One has chased work all over the country and just can't seem to find the right door for her foot.
One is a single mom of a severely autistic teenage daughter who has hocked her future to put herself through grad school. And all of it while supporting her family and spotting friends if they were desperate.
They are the ones who have done everything correctly. I just happen to have this skill to tell the stories. I didn't even know it until last week.
The point is, I did not ask for any of this. I just wrote a thing on a Gawker forum. Everything that has come after is because something about the way I said it has resonated with hundreds of thousands of people. Everything that has come after is magic.
I do not know if it is earned, precisely, but I am familiar with the concept of grants and if people are determined I would be remarkably stupid to turn it down. I have learned not to make promises that I am not certain I can keep and so here is what I have:
This is a shot at a second start, now that I have gotten over myself and understand what it is to be an adult. I have always had great potential and some talent for things. I am lucky that way.
I have the tools that I need to take this gift and do good things with it. I think that even if everything ends tonight, if the Internet finds another talent in some corner and moves on, I have done something good here. That makes me happy.
That people are willing to reward me for that is humbling and I consider it a grant to give me the time to keep speaking about these things I have seen ...
because I am the sort of person who reads Woodward and Stiglitz and also the sort of person who has lived with three prostitutes who were great because they always paid the rent on time. I can explain one to another, a little.
At least I can shed a tiny bit of light on it, and maybe that is how we manage to get the votes we need to extend SNAP benefits if we can afford to extend agricultural subsidies.
Because I know those policies, I watch politics and policy instead of pop culture because I am a nerd but my best friends are directly impacted by that change. And so I can speak about the human impact.
I do not think, overall, that people are giving me this money because they feel poorly for me. There are a lot of fundraisers that are unfunded of people in much more dire circumstances.
I set up a fundraiser after the first fifty people asked how they could help me write. I think that people are giving me this money because they think I can do a good thing and they do not care so much about how I got here because they understand that it is easy to do.
Not that it is good, but that it is average. I think that they are giving me this because they see that I have the skill and will be able to do something to help.
I am not stupid enough to not take this shot. But I would like to tell you how I am going to handle it.
You know that commercial where the band Survivor follows a guy around playing “Eye of the Tiger”?
Yeah, it’s like that, but the musicians are invisible and they’re playing the shower scene from Psycho.
First, I have been contacted by an agent and am writing a book proposal. If I manage to sell the book, it will reach people I could not on my own.
If it doesn't sell, I will have a rough outline of something that I can publish for free on the Internet. I will write about these things on my blog. Because people have given me this money to write.
Be very clear about this, please: I am quitting one of my day jobs. The one that is an hour's drive through snow in the mountains. And I have actually nailed a bigger contract with my second job, which pays better hourly anyway.
This has given me the tiny break I needed to be able to make it without utter exhaustion. I will use the extra time to sleep more than I am used to.
I will see my kids more because now I can work from home, and so our budget is expanded because childcare is not an issue.
Tom is keeping his job. This is all magic and wonderful but it is fleeting. We have learned and are careful now. And we have more than us two relying on us taking this oddity and using it wisely.
And so I will accept with gratitude and I will give this money to tax lawyers to deal with and I will use it as long as I can to speak about these things I have seen, since that is why it has been given to me.
I will not waste it on frivolity, but I will spend it on being healthy and making sure that if one of us gets the flu the electric bill is still paid.
And I am giving some away because many people have helped us and I think they need some magic. I am an arbitrary pick out of millions of hardworking and talented people.
People had raised some money for dental surgery. I am grateful but have found someone to give it to given my changing circumstances. I will pay a bill or two to the people who have loved me that are struggling.
I might take a thousand just to do things like get a really comfy blanket that fits the bed perfectly. I am being told that it is wisest in my situation to simply pick a small bit and that is what you have to spend. That makes a lot of sense.
So I will have a bit of luxury because if nothing else I have spent endless hours on the internet discussing these things and being patient with trolls and I have earned a small bit, I think.
I will say that I will always speak about this in any medium or venue that I can access. For some reason I have this chance to explain realities that a lot of people never imagine and I will do it at every opportunity. That is all that I can promise you but I think it is enough.
Linda Tirado's Go Fund Me Campaign:
Okay, at some point I am going to have to bump this number to something that really does make me feel like an ass. I hope you people are happy with yourselves for that. God knows I am.
This...this is unbelievable. We have now entered the fully surreal. If this keeps going, I will have to look at what can be done with it, as this is more than I could possibly use for research.
I think I will stop thinking about maybes and what ifs and just let this do what it is going to and when the dust has settled we will see if it can't be used to do real good for people who recognize themselves and their lives in my writing.
Thank you, so much. I am both humbled and grateful.
You should know what sort of a difference this is making. I am speaking with a tax attorney Monday to set up some sort of nonprofit structure.
I think that at the end of the day, what I would like to do with my life is fight for people who cannot fight for themselves. And so I am going to set something up with this money that will allow me to do that.
I do not know yet what that will look like. I need to wait until the internet has moved on and I have a chance to breathe and figure out what I am working with.
I have simply been moving the cap higher because I have every hour expected this to stop, for people to donate elsewhere, for the total to stop climbing.
And I couldn't bring myself to put a huge number up there as though I was asking for that particular amount because it seemed so ridiculously entitled.
When this all started I thought that maybe people were talking three thousand dollars so that I could work part-time and research and write a book for a few months.
I have never been a public figure and I am not used to how one must behave. This is more than I ever could have imagined.
So here's the deal: I have been offered increased hours at a job that I love. I have had offers from publicists and agents and editors and all sorts of people.
If suddenly everyone decided to ask for the money back, I would still be better off than I was two weeks ago, by a substantial margin and I would have an honest shot at success.
I will take some of it. I will get the surgery I need and get health insurance. I will use some of it to write with and research with. But the total will far more than cover that at this point.
I am not interested in being vaulted into the lower middle class because I wrote something once that resonated. If I get there I want to know that it is completely mine.
It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me and my family and this is what we have come to.
I will take the money and set up something that can last, that can do good, that can give voice to the voiceless.
I have only just now realized that I can do this, that I can make this into something so much more than a book or a lecture to a class or a small miracle in my own life, that the chance I have waited for to make a meaningful impact is here in my lap.
I have decided to throw caution to the wind. I think the part where I am worried that people might misunderstand my intentions is past. Most people, I think, understand that this is simply happening.
Right now, I have the ear of a lot of very talented people. They can help me do the thing properly. And so I am raising the cap to $100,000 and if this insanity doesn't stop and we get there, I will make it $150K.
I will keep raising it by unthinkable amounts until it stops. People are giving me these resources of their own free will and they are doing it because they believe that I can do good.
I will consult with people who know how to manage these sorts of things. When the dust clears, we will look at what we are working with and figure out how to use it to make the biggest impact and we will do that.
We will advocate with this money. And I am not ashamed to ask for help with that.
If you are donating at this point, you are donating to something not quite defined yet because two weeks ago I had not exactly been planning for what I would do with more money than I have dreamed of making in a year but it is something that I will dedicate my life to because I have this opportunity.
I will live my life and work and play with my kids, but I have dreamed of being free simply to work on behalf of people that I have known that are so much better than the small chances they have been given.
I know how to do that. So that is what I am going to do with it all and I would like to thank you so much for being a part of it.
When I have a firmer idea of the form this thing might take, I will come back here and tell you about it because you are the reason and the method and deserve that.
I do not explain these things for the people who would like to see me fail but for those who have been part of this chance to make a difference. You should know what that looks like.
I am humbled that you have chosen me. I am grateful. And I can make something of this that we can be proud of.
Help spread the word!
I would like to say how grateful I am. And humbled. And I cannot help but feel the support as something visceral, something that has given me heart.
I am just a night cook, a mom, a wife, an activist. I have not known how to process all of this. I have been overwhelmed and struggled with what the right thing is in a world that has made very little sense over the last days.
This is what it is to be poor, to have great good fortune and freeze like a deer in the headlights and not know what to do.
People have told me to take what I can get and make a better life, to use it for the greater good, to invest it for the future.
I have not been able to figure out how to deal with virility and generosity and love when I am so used to anonymity and work and my simple small pleasures.
This is unfathomable. Any more than this is not going to change my life more than it has already been.
I have enough now to completely cover my surgery and still have some left over to write with. That is more than I ever dreamed of, it is life-changing and I would like you to go change more lives. I am so, so grateful.
But the reason I have been uncomfortable with this is that you have made my dreams come true and no matter how big people tell me my dreams should be, they are only what they are.
I would like you to go make dreams come true for people who are not viral, who have not just been given a life in which they can work and still have time for the dishes and the kids.
That is my dream. Health, and a reasonable assurance that if I get the flu I will not miss the rent and more time with my family. And I am in tears realizing that that dream is true now. I have that. That's mine. I can count on it. You gave it to me. And I and my family will be forever, always aware and grateful.
So I'm shutting this page down. It's amazing, what you have made happen here. All of my bigger idle dreams, all of the opportunity I have dreamed of having to succeed or fail on the merit of my contribution and not my circumstances, they are possible now.
I can make them happen. What I want to do is fight for people who can't fight for themselves. I think that saying thank you, I have enough and I will sort it out when I have been able to sleep a whole night and I have some clarity, is the best decision.
It is more me. It is more okay in my head. That doesn't make sense to a lot of people, I think. What matters is what I and my family think of me.
This is how we keep ourselves, how we take a good thing and do good things with it without having to worry about more than that. It is how we take a blessing and keep it as simply, amazingly that.
I am so, more than I can say, more than words exist for, grateful for your support and solidarity and patience. And if you would like to help me, at this point I can say to you that I will be okay.
Go and help someone who is the me that existed last week. Find a gofundme for a single mom who needs tuition, or a medical bill, or a roof repair. Those things are life-changing too.
I would like to find a way to give voice to the voiceless. I will do that. I will be its first donor. But for now, I have this book and this blog and so many people to respond to and it is too much to do at once.
I will use this blog as a platform for people for now. And in a few months I will take my platform and leverage it into a project that will outlast this bit of attention-whirlwind I am in the center of.
Watch the blog and when I have rested and written this proposal and caught up on my email, I will create some structure to make sure that the platform isn't just mine anymore.
Help spread the word!
Since Tirado's Go Fund Me Campaign raised over $61,000, she has written a book, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. She's also been able to quit her job as a night cook, is an activist and works as a writer.
What are your thoughts on Linda Tirado's post?
Is our society set up do discourage the poor from bettering themselves?
Is the system set up against poor people getting ahead in life?
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