UPDATE: I wrote this post for the Huffington Post’s All Work, No Pay series about people who believe the American Dream is dead. I have contacted them, but have not gotten a response yet. For now, enjoy my article!
Different, that is the one word many people have called me through the years. Some of the reasons I am called different is because of my size, the way I look, the interests I like to follow, the way I speak, my political views, and yes, because I have Asperger’s Syndrome. Different is the reason why I was bullied and almost beaten by many kids while I was in school. Different is the reason why I was abused by some of my family. Different is the reason why I have held 13 different jobs in the last seven years. And different is the reason why I am sitting in my apartment and unemployed. As well as living on very limited income and on food stamps.
I want to rundown some of my job history. I have been a dockhand, screenprinter, temp worker, fast-food worker, shift manager, front desk clerk/server, truck driver, and a delivery driver. And in every job I have done, either the management or the employees have found any way possible to take advantage of me. I have broken the soda machines and other equipment at the fast-food restaurant. I had employees sabotage me while at my shift manager job that got me fired. I worked in a run down resort hotel with no hot water and broken windows, while comforting four young women from Romania who were crying because of the horrible working conditions. And I was fired from the delivery driver job because I was out for 14-16 hours a day, for $400 a week. I asked management for help but I was denied. The contractor I worked for sued the company back but they lost.
Now, I am on food stamps and only get $189 a month, which means I only eat one meal a day with a snack sometimes. I am supposed to take medicine during the morning, but without food, I can’t take it. I have a cap missing from one of my teeth, and more teeth needs their fillings replaced. I have not had a haircut in over six months, and my hair looks very interesting. And I am surviving, thanks to relatives. If something happened to my relatives, I would be sleeping in an abandoned building in town, because there are no jobs in East Alabama. And if anyone is hiring, they usually turn a blind eye on me. I have been homeless before and know what it’s like to sleep on the streets. I wonder if God put me on this Earth to always struggle, remain jobless, be abused, be ignored by most people, and be in poverty?
In the East Alabama region, jobs have been lost left and right. Things are so bad, there was a reality show on TV that featured unemployed men going to Central America to mine for gold in the jungle. Alexander City has lost over 10,000 jobs, Sylacauga/Talladega is the 5th poorest region in America, Gadsden is the fourth poorest city in America, and the Anniston/Oxford area is the second worst performing small metro area in America. Yep, East Alabama is doing so good right now.
Some people have called those on government assistance receiving section 8 housing, medicaid, food stamps, and disability, as lazy. These people say people on welfare drive a new car, have new clothes, have a cell phone, buy cigarettes and booze, and other false claims. Some people claim living in poverty and using welfare is a career choice. And that is far from the truth. I am living on food stamps and applying for Social Security disability because no one will give me a chance. I have some health and dental problems I can’t treat because I don’t have the money. And I have a car, that is broken down. That means I have to walk miles to get to places like the store, since the bus system here is often full and unreliable.
Today, I write the blog Geek Alabama that has many readers, I just don’t make hardly any money off of it. I have taken my photo and video taking skills and covered many events ranging from concerts, festivals, conventions, 5K runs, charity events, and even the arts like dancing and singing. I often go to cover events by walking several miles down the road, and hoping I get a ride back. I also give time on my website to talk about shows, products, charities, small businesses, and crowdsourcing projects so other people has a chance to live the American dream.
I enjoy helping others achieving the American dream, even though I am not living the American dream. And have doubts that the American dream will ever come to me. I have tried various avenues hoping to find funding so I can grow the website instead of job searching. I have tried banks, my own crowdsourcing project, area chamber of commerce’s, family and friends, and other means. But nothing has changed.
Even though I am the only one who writes all the posts, covers all the events, and does all the website maintenance. I enjoy what I do, and it gives me a small smile on face that is overwhelmingly sad and in doubt. You can see why I have given up hope and somewhat depressed as well. I have applied to over 500 jobs. I have also been to 14 job fairs. But hardly anyone calls me back. Most of the time, I get those nice e-mails saying I have not been considered. I have done some things most people have not done in their job search, like create a visual resume, that has over 5,000 views. But still, no one has contacted me back and I wonder if anyone will ever contact me back. You can see why I have almost given up all hope.
Some people have asked me if I applied to media organizations in East Alabama. And I have done so, but the media folks do not like me because I am considered competition. The owners of the local newspaper wants me out-of-town. I volunteered my time for the local TV station for a few years, but never got recognized or paid. The only media that actually supports what I do in East Alabama is the radio stations, and that is because photos and videos is not a competition to radio. I also believe the ones who were the bullies while in school, are the ones who are running the companies and corporations today. And they continue to prey on the ones who can be taken advantaged of.
I believe the American Dream has come and gone. Today, it’s like what you see during the Medieval period. Where a fortunate few get everything they want, while most others are left with the scraps. It’s almost like you could scrap the Statue of Liberty and give it to a country that has more successful dreams for people. Or you could remodel the Liberty Bell with the money symbol, because America has lost its liberty because of money. Or you could remodel the heads on Mt. Rushmore to four guys of greed, because it’s not about the dream anymore, it’s about greed. And, you could replace the Lincoln Memorial with statues of donkeys and elephants fighting each other. Because people in America can’t agree on anything anymore. America has lost the art of the compromise and it has become the it’s my way or the highway attitude.
When I think about my situation while my stomach is growling, I think of this Bible verse from Exodus 5:9; It gets worse before it gets better. Even in the Bible and in church, the good book and pastors keeps telling you that you start at the bottom and work your way up. That might have been true 50 years ago, but today, you start at the bottom, and stay at the bottom with very few opportunities to work your way up. America has become a country where employers screw their employees and keeps most of their profits to themselves.
America has become a country where our politicians work for the corporations and not for the people. America has become a country where average people fight each other over money, religion, politics, the people next door, and just about anything else. More and more people are taking the it’s my way or the highway attitude, and that is destroying this country. I leave you with one of my road drawings, it’s starts off as one great road, but then splits off into many different directions. Which direction will be the one that will that lead me to my American dream?