Reaching for Stability and Sustainability

Answering a bunch of questions and explaining why and how I can move toward financial stability and sustainability.

I wish I could say that I’m doing a lot to support others. The truth is that I’m fighting to survive, and I do what little I can. The only reason I was able to make it through the summer is that I received a good number of generous cash gifts. I also took a housesitting job in mid-August and that helped buffer expenses. Life is expensive, and it’s getting more expensive all the time. Where do these generous gifts go? I sometimes feel like I’m being irresponsible, but then I think about how much I would be making if I could work a normal, full-time job.

Why haven’t I been writing much this year? What’s so expensive that I have to constantly fundraise? Why can’t I work a normal job anymore? Why haven’t I gotten disability benefits of my own? What gives me the right to expect others to compile a livable wage for me, when I’m only writing a few blog posts a month? When am I going to finally finish the memoir I’ve been promising to work on for over 8 years? What kind of school am I doing exactly? What would it take for me to stop needing to constantly asking for help on Twitter?

Writing on the blog

My blog has slowed way down this year because I’ve been doing school and improving my writing process. I’m on break until the last week of September, so I’m trying to write as much as possible this month. My writing process has changed because I rarely just post my free-form thoughts anymore. I take the time to brainstorm the topic, outline it logically, and then write. This takes longer, but my writing has gained clarity. This post is going to be all over the place because I’m just up in the middle of the night worried about making rent.

Living Costs

I have until the 5th of the month to make rent, and then an $85 fee is added. Landlords don’t care about adjusting late fees for long holiday weekends. This month and next month, my regular rent is $1,315. I usually split it 50/50 with my partner. They receive a disability check every month, and I get a paycheck from Patreon each month. Patreon is a site that pools resources from supporters. Whether my readers can spare $1 or $100 per month, that goes toward my survival fund. Right now I make about $700 a month from Patreon. Ryann gets about $750 in disability benefits.

If we didn’t spend a penny, rent takes almost 100% of our combined income. With the $85 late fee, I need to pay $1,400 today. We are working on renting out the second bedroom of our little space, but that’s been complicated. We can’t split rent three ways yet, but maybe soon that will be an option. Today is the 6th and I need help.

Employment

I haven’t worked full-time since 2017. I tried to work part-time a few times since to supplement my writing, but it was impossible to keep my attendance consistent. I have chronic illnesses that flare up when I spend a lot of time on my feet, and my pain is unpredictable. I don’t have as many hours in a day as the average able-bodied person. I sometimes wake up in so much pain I can only hope to cope with a heating pad and the slight buffer painkillers offer. I am seeking medical treatment, and my latest med change seems to have helped to an extent, but it has taken years to get it prescribed.

I left my job at a grocery store deli in March 2020, and was diagnosed in July of that year. Since then, I’ve been relying on Patreon to make rent. I’ve also been piecing together other funds, mostly relying on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about my needs. I ask for donations to my Cashapp and Venmo to cover the Internet and cell phone bills, and to buy necessities like soap and underwear. The cat food, cat litter, and other pet supplies are also a major priority, so we restocked those already.

Disability Benefits

Anyone who’s gone through the process of applying for disability support in this country – or almost any country, for that matter – knows that it is a grueling slog. My income complicates things, because the government doesn’t know exactly what to do with me. I’m technically self-employed with clients, working from home. The fact that I have to take a lot of personal time, and I don’t log many hours working, is hard to show. So making the case that I can’t work has an extra layer of complexity. In addition to that, my income can cancel out benefits. That is to say, my partner makes almost the same amount of money that I do. Even if I make it through the whole process of winning a disability case, I might make too much anyway. Yes, even if I’m literally surviving on less than $1k a month.

Housing

Housing should be a right, but there’s a housing crisis happening. So many people are right on the edge of homelessness or becoming homeless as rent costs skyrocket. Our rent is being raised to $1,450 in November (I previously posted that it was going up to $1,415 but I was incorrect – it’s more than that). We are talking about moving to a less expensive part of the country, but that will require more fundraising, preparation, and time to achieve. We will have to uproot ourselves from where we’ve established solid community, not to mention medical and mental health care.

School

If you’ve followed my story all these years, you’ve seen how much I’ve fought to find my footing. I’m more stable than I’ve ever been in my adult life, and as I’ve taken time to educate myself this past year, my income has reached a plateau. I cannot afford for this to happen, but I must improve my education and writing. I never finished high school as I once thought, and the shocked comments on the high school transcript I wrote for myself as a young adult revealed to me that I needed to find a way to go back to school and finish properly.

The school program I’m doing is like a GED, but without the test-heavy elements that would put me at a disadvantage with my learning disabilities. It’s called High School Plus, and it’s offered online through my local community college. My instructor has been wonderful and if I keep it up, I should finish and graduate in another two quarters. I’m fitting four years of high school into just over one year. It’s already informed me significantly about what I missed out on while I was busy raising thirteen younger siblings.

The Memoir

As for the book, it is my most prominent long-term goal to finish it. I was not capable of writing a decent memoir ten years ago, or eight years ago. I don’t know exactly when I will be ready to return to the project, but it was causing severe anxiety and depression to reopen those wounds by writing about them. I’m doing multiple forms of therapy to improve my coping skills and using EMDR to process the complex memories. I need to focus on recovery, self-care, and school. I will write as much as possible here on the blog and get back to the book as soon as possible.

How you can help

If you choose to support my work monetarily, you will be helping to alleviate the stress that is keeping me up in the early morning right now. You will be actively declaring that you believe in my ability to get past this point in my life. I am already doing so much better than I was, but I need to keep going, and that means establishing a sustainable income. I simply cannot spend the rest of my life asking Twitter for a few dollars here and there to place my next order for groceries, toilet paper, or shampoo.

A few months ago, I had a supporter ask me: what would I need to realistically make to avoid piecemeal fundraising on social media? I’ve agonized over my finances for months, and my answer is $3,000 per month. That is what I would need to stop asking for help all the time. It would cover housing and bills and basics. It would give me the freedom to stop worrying about having my bank account constantly overdrawn, in danger of bouncing a payment. It would leave me with enough to even buy clothes sometimes.

If you’ve been able to spare a little here and there, please consider making a pledge on Patreon. Even $1 or $5 adds up. It’s the most sustainable way to establish that I actually have a paycheck I can rely on to make ends meet. If you’d like to make a one-time payment, please direct it to ArtStardust on CashApp or Venmo. I cannot express my appreciation enough. Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for reading this long post. Thank you for your support. I hope, someday, I can use my work to be of more support to others, too.