By: Revanche

Surviving the Ascent out of Generational Poverty

April 9, 2011

A couple days ago, FB revived interest in my earlier post, Generational Poverty, when she wrote her own thoughts on her motivation to save.

The latest commenter, Layla, asked some practical questions that I simply had to answer in a post.

And I can’t imagine doing what you did during school. Did you fail any classes because you chose sleep over school? When did you have time to shower? Didn’t you go crazy with no time to yourself to tidy up or get yourself organized?

1.  I didn’t precisely actively choose sleep over school.

My conscious priorities were school, then work, then sleep.  However, I would only take the minimum number of courses per quarter full time (12 units = 3 classes) because I could do that, plus a couple summer quarters and still graduate on time in order to make sure I could also work at least 20 to 40 hours of overtime every week.   That meant I was only sleeping 2-4 hours per night, depending.

An average day: up at 7 or as late as I could get up and get dressed, brush my teeth, grab my bag and get out to the car in five minutes. I was a 15 minute drive to school and a quick run to my 8 am class.

My school schedule was either a Mon/Wed/Fri block of 8a-12p days, followed by a scheduled workday (1pm – 10 pm, and stay as late as they needed me).  I’d squeeze in a quick nap and make lunch for my mom (she was ill for a time) if I could in the 12-1 hour.  Those quarters, I’d also be working Tues/Thurs/Sat/Sun.

During quarters when school was scheduled Tues/Thurs 8-5pm, I might have had those evenings off, and work the rest of the days of the week.  I studied between classes, during work breaks, and during other classes if they were boring.

I never failed any classes, but as far as being a straight-A student went, I failed at that. The schedule on paper was perfect but I was one tired puppy all the time and the grades reflected that.  I brought home a handful of Bs with my As and that was pretty disappointing considering I was slaving away for my own education.

Funny Story: I did always fall asleep in my philosophy class.  And I did definitely only get a B in that class. And I didn’t know until after graduation but because I always sat at the back, behind one of my friends, he used to sell me out all the time to the professor. He’d move so the professor could see me conked out.  Meanie.

2.  I always showered after work no matter what time I got home – 11 pm, 12 am, 2 am. After an 8, 10, 12 hour shift, following after a day at school, you must shower.  Even if you’re mostly asleep, forget if you have or haven’t shampooed and end up shampooing three times and conditioning none.  (Happened many times.)  But I mastered the five minute shower. 

3.  Go crazy?  Well, not for lack of organization – I lived and breathed organization being straight out of high school so that wasn’t any cause for concern – I knew how to structure my life into a highly productive, totally efficient schedule so I did it and it felt comfortable in the sense that everything kept turning like clockwork.

I still lived the academic schedule so I always knew when I had to do that next set of planning.  My time wasn’t my own.  But we were all students – my entire cohort was, so that was normal.

You know … I honestly can’t even remember much other frustration. I don’t even remember if I was all that upset by my life being dominated by this grind, other than being annoyed by people who got in my way telling me not to do it.  Friends who didn’t understand why I was working so hard or all the time, who wanted me to just get out and play; I can remember being aggravated by their lack of understanding. I needed to make a living to pay the bills and the simplistic outlook on life because they didn’t have any responsibilities didn’t jive with my moral compass and vision. But that was just grit in daily life.  


I knew why I was doing what I was doing and that was more than enough for me.  And at that time, my family was still intact.  I had a strong reason to believe it was all worth it. I was doing it for my family that I loved and that loved me.  There was no grey area.

Ed Note:  At this time, I was working to pay for:

1. Tuition and books
2. My parents’ debt, in $10k chunks
3. Household bills, I was starting to take over paying the rent and utilities because my parents weren’t making enough to pay the bills anymore.

10 Responses to “Surviving the Ascent out of Generational Poverty”

  1. Daisy says:

    I’m pretty sure that I’d read in one of your posts that you have a brother, right? If I’m right, where was he for all this? Helping out as much as you?

  2. eemusings says:

    Have I ever told you that if I had a sister, I’d want it to be you? Because, yeah.

  3. Ciawy says:

    Thanks for sharing all of your inspiring stories. Working closely with students who are going to college, I wish they could read your posts, be inspired, and go after what they really want. Of course they have to make some sacrifices, like you did.

  4. Sense says:

    you do what you have to do, right? there was no other way to make what you wanted to happen (pay for school so that you could make money to support your family afterward), so you did it. that is what i’m getting from this post.

    that said, no way could i have sacrificed that much sleep. not to mention make A’s and B’s and still have time for a boyfriend and friends AND STUDYING. and eating?grooming? how on earth did you fit all that in?! much respect. if i had a company i would hire you, for sure. that work ethic and self discipline is extremely admirable!

  5. Certainly not to the extent to your schedule, but it does ring familiar with falling asleep in class and being on a tight schedule.

    I’d be up early to do homework quickly, 8am – 1pm classes, sneaking bites to eat while running to my next class (luckily, I planned my courses to be close to one another rather than one across the campus from another), then go to work, work late, come back, read my homework/notes, shower and THINK about the notes. Jot down thoughts and questions, sleep, wake up the next morning and write quickly.

    A student, I was not.

  6. Revanche, that is super inspiring.

    I can imagine that it was super tough to do that when I’m sure many of your classmates did not have the same priorities. College is often portrayed as the “best days” of one’s life, to party hard and study hard. (Though IMHO, more emphasis on the former).

    Good for you. It is very inspiring to read about young individuals like you and FB who have worked so hard to become financially stable.

  7. Serendipity says:

    Sometimes, you just do what you have to do and don’t think twice about it. I do have admirable respect for you on multiple levels. You are one of my role models, believe it or not. You are such a great inspiration. =)

  8. Revanche says:

    @eemusings: aw, gee. Considering he was always trying to make me a boy, I never knew what it was like to be someone’s sister 🙂

    @Ciawy: I always wonder if hearing it would be useful to anyone at the age to read these stories. Since I’m anonymous, I suppose they could and you could do an experiment to see if they change anything! 🙂

    @Sense: Pretty much. To be fair, social life took a much distant back seat.

    @FB: Surprisingly, I was the crappiest note taker. Best of intentions but very crappy notetaker.

    @fabulouslyfrugirl & Serendipity: Aw, this was just answering some how-to questions! I mean, I didn’t want y’all thinking I was a massively unwashed ball of grease for four years! 🙂

  9. MOm says:

    I haven’t read your entire blog, but. You sound likemy daughter and your brother sounds like my son. I know the frustration. We eventually ” invited” him to leave…
    Anyway, it sounds to me like he’s mentally ill, possibly bi-polar. Have you considered this? Not that you can “make” him get treatment, but it does lessen the rage to know what the $&@/?!’ is wrong with him. And a diagnosis doesn’t lessen his responsibility btw.

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