Being homeless means having a limited wardrobe.
Last week I set up a meeting with a gentleman about possibly re-designing a web site.
And since I do indeed have a limited wardrobe I did what I usually do with circumstances that I feel require me to present a more neat appearance – I went out to the thrift store to find clothing that was less beat up that clothing I already own. I was able to find a relatively decent pair of jeans and a shirt and I set them aside so that I’d have them ready for the meeting.
Yesterday, about mid-morning, I met with this gentleman at a fast food restaurant. It’s one of the few places I know of where I can plug in the laptop and sit for an hour or two without management getting upset about it.
When he arrived he sat across the table from me and we began talking. We didn’t talk about the project right off the bat however. Instead I began sharing with him various bits of data regarding homelessness and the overall numbers of homeless not only in the local community but throughout the nation.
The conversation finally drifted toward the reason for the meeting – the prospect of doing this project for him.
For a couple of days prior to yesterday, my other half kept asking me is I was feeling excited or anxious about the meeting. Now, there’s no need to deny that I was both – after all, I’m always excited about any opportunity to work. I was however, trying to keep things in perspective. I didn’t want to be so overly excited about it that I’d be unable to keep proper focus on the task ahead.
After he pulled out his laptop, we both positioned our computers so that we could see each others screens. And that’s how the rest of the meeting went -with both of us pointing from one screen to the other.
All the while, I couldn’t help to wonder what it looked like to some of the other patrons there. What did they see – if indeed they even noticed us at all? Did they see two men, one younger and the other, an older weather worn older man (me) who were just "brainstorming" with laptops or did they see two men – one homeless and the other non-homeless?
I’m not the type of person who ever really cared about what other people thought of me. If they liked me – fine. If they didn’t – that was fine too. For some reason, in the past, my own sense of self-worth wasn’t dependant on how others perceived me.
Now however, things are a little bit different. My own self-esteem has taken a severe beating as a result of the experience of homelessness. I know that, in part, it is because of how the majority of mainstream America views homelessness. With all of the stigmas and misconceptions that surround homelessness, it’s a constant battle to be seen as a person.
But the beating my self-esteem has taken is also a result of how I view myself; of what I expected my life to be at this age – and it certainly wasn’t homelessness that I had anticipated for myself at this point in life.
Like many Americans, I had thought that once I reached 50 or so, I’d be getting closer to retirement; that I’d have a stable home life; a place where I could look forward to just "kicking back" and watching the grass grow.
But, seemingly, in the blink of an eye – all of that was taken away. Now I face the difficult task of rebuilding.
Perhaps if I were in my mid to late 30’s the task wouldn’t seem so daunting. Right now – at 50 – it seems like an insurmountable mountain. The only thing that really keeps me pressing on is this small seed of hope that seems to be taking root.
Now, if I can just coax it to grow to maturity – that would be nice.