For context, I have been taking art and creative writing classes through this local nonprofit organization that offers free classes and excursions for low-income people who have dealt with homelessness, addiction, or mental illness. They have an annual fundraiser and they asked me to speak on their behalf (along with two other students). These classes have done wonders for my self-esteem and mental health, and I jumped at the chance to help them out. So, this was my speech. A lot of it includes stuff I’ve talked about here. If you are in or around Seattle and you think you would qualify, I’d be happy to pass on information.
Hello, my name is [redacted] and I am a [name of organization] student. In 2009, I was working full-time as a writer at [well-known company] in Bellevue while attending University of Washington full-time as a graduate student. Towards the end of my academic program, I came down with viral pneumonia. It started as a normal respiratory illness, but progressed until I was non-functional. I had no health insurance and I did not want to stay in a hospital because I was afraid to accumulate more bills or to take time off of work. In June that year, shortly after my last class at University of Washington, I drove to Hall Health, desperate for some form of medical treatment. I was still eligible for a free quarterly visit. I was too weak to park far from campus, and I didn’t have enough money to pay for parking. I decided to risk a parking ticket because I didn’t plan on being in there long. The campus doctor said, “It’s viral, wait it out,” which is the same thing I had been told five months earlier. I got a prescription for cough syrup. When I returned to my car I found a parking ticket on my windshield.
En route to my home in White Center, my car broke down on I-5 and I coasted off an exit ramp to an empty parking lot. My cell phone had been shut off due to non-payment. I sat on a curb, coughing up blood and crying. A woman saw me and let me use her phone. I called my car insurance company – that was one bill I hadn’t stopped paying – and they set about to arrange a tow truck. Unfortunately, my insurance company would only pay for $50 and all of the towing companies wanted to charge over $100. I had about $3 to my name.
I had laryngitis and I was hacking and coughing and crying. The insurance representative eventually broke down and agreed to bill me the additional costs later. The whole reason my car broke down was because I had been driving with so little gas for so long that I damaged my fuel pump. I had been sick and working inconsistently for months and I never had enough money to fill my gas tank.
My job was a contract position with no sick days, and my illness affected my ability to perform well or even show up consistently. I had very little income as a result, and I was living without electricity in addition to living without a phone. I was unable to eat properly because I could not cook or store food. I was reprimanded at work several times. Due to the stress, I ended up leaving my job in a panic. Months later, unable to pay rent, I was evicted from my apartment. I fell into a severe depression. I had lost everything and I felt like a worthless failure. I was homeless and still had pneumonia when I applied for (and received) state assistance. I eventually found myself spending my nights in homeless shelters downtown.
I was assigned a case manager to assist me with my mental illness and navigate the state’s social services. I was homeless for a year when she was able to get me into an apartment funded by [housing agency] . It’s part of a two-year transitional program that serves homeless single adults and families while focusing on the management of mental health conditions and addiction. I got involved with [arts organization] through the social worker at my apartment complex.
Before my involvement with [arts organization], I had not written anything creative in years. I had lost all of my confidence and I was very frightened even to show up for my first class. I’m afraid of speaking in public, but I’m here today to show my support for an organization that has improved my life so much. I immediately felt at home in my first class with [the writing instructor], which provided a welcoming environment where I could learn and rekindle parts of myself that I had allowed to lie dormant. I never would have had the confidence or the money to enter a regular classroom. When you’re suffering from mental illness or living in poverty, it can be difficult to relate to “regular people” without high anxiety. On occasions that I do socialize with “regular people” I worry about what will happen if they ask me what I do for a living, or if they ask me where I live. I feel comfortable with my [arts organization] instructors and classmates because the students have similar struggles and there’s no shame.
Being poor is exhausting. It stunts every part of your personal growth. When you are trying to survive day-to-day, you tend to ignore things that aren’t overtly inherent to your survival. I used to enjoy going to art museums when I was younger, but as I became sicker, poorer, and more stressed, recreation went by the wayside. [This arts organization] has allowed me to experience so much more. I never thought I’d see or even enjoy an opera.
After losing my home, I was numb. I couldn’t form new relationships and I couldn’t maintain the relationships I already had. I still have days when basic household tasks overwhelm me. [The arts organization] has provided me with a comfortable, low-pressure environment where I can express myself without fear of judgment, and where I am free to explore new media. The instructors encourage class participation and give everyone individual attention.It’s otherwise difficult to meet people who not only share elements of my background but who also have similar interests and desires.
Over the past three years I have worked to find stability. [This organization] has given me a routine and something to look forward to each week. I have less fear of social interaction, and my mind has opened to so many things I never thought I’d have the chance to see and to learn. The staff and instructors are wonderful and inspire me with every class. I feel like I found another home.
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- horsesfor-fraublucher likes this
- laleddybug said: Beautiful speech. <3
- applegoat said: This is great!
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- thisismymonkey said: Thank you so much for sharing your speech.
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- thewomanofkleenex said: Thanks for sharing your speech. I’m so happy that you have access to such a wonderful service.
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- towitistowoo said: Well, shit. No wonder people cried.
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- rouxbacca said: This is amazing. Well done and big hugs to you, lady.
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- abbyjean said: tears. beautiful. thanks for sharing it. xo
- sunny1 said: lol I thought the speech started “For context”
- bedbugsbiting posted this