‘I take home about $1,600 a month. Our total budget comes to $1,568, and that doesn’t leave any room for emergencies or savings.’
I graduated with a degree that I hoped would lead to doing administrative work for non-profits. I worked as security personnel at a hospital while I pursued my degree and became disenchanted with the field after seeing the corruption and abuse that occurred by hospital administrators.
Changing my career trajectory entirely, I worked as a part-time librarian until I learned about opportunities to teach English as a second language, which led to me accepting a position in northern China. The job was a great experience; however, I chose to return home to help my family care for my ailing father and attend to mounting debt back home. As a consequence, I had to accept a position as a car-washer to help make ends meet.
An opportunity for advancement at a growing local marketing firm turned into unemployment, as the managerial position folded. Facing my remaining $17,000 of student debt without a job, at the age of 36, I moved back in with my mother just to have a place to live. To decrease the financial burden I imposed on my mom, I applied for and began to receive food stamp benefits while I continued to search for jobs.
After eight months of searching for and being rejected for jobs ranging from marketing to working as a janitor, I finally found work with the State of Maine with the Maine Conservation Corps. I now work maintaining the trail ways of Maine’s state park system. While the pay is very modest, my room and food expenses will be covered as part of my pay. I don’t mind living simply, and, as part of my job, my outstanding student loans will enter forbearance and Maine will assist me in paying them down while I work.
If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to find this job with these specific benefits, I know I would still be living with my mother to help lower costs. I can’t imagine what I would have done if my mom hadn’t been willing to take me back in. Bill collectors don’t stop demanding payment just because you’re down on your luck.
I have no idea what people who aren’t as fortunate as I am would do if placed in a similar situation.
It’s not possible to afford to live on your own in Maine on the minimum wage, even without any sort of loan debt. Our safety net system needs to be improved both here and nationwide. Without my mother being willing to take me in, there is no way I would have been able to make it back onto my feet.