Trying Hard

Joan - Spokane, Washington
Entered on February 21, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in perseverance. I grew up in poverty in Cottonwood, Idaho. Dad made $9,000 a year in the ’70’s which is unremarkable except that he had ten kids. To make ends meet, I had a paper route for five years starting at age eight and later became a janitor for the Community Hall in addition to regular babysitting jobs while in high school. My parents taught me to believe a better life was out there if I just worked hard.

After five years of working for the government as a secretary, I realized the best way to get ahead was having a college degree. So, I returned to school; however, during this process, I experienced several stressful, life-altering events which set me back, the beginning of a schizoaffective illness which overpowered my life. But, I didn’t let it stop me.

After attending Gonzaga University, I returned to Washington, DC to become a struggling stockbroker working on straight commission where success again eluded me. Homeless for four days, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture, slept on an airbed for two years, had little cash for food and borrowed money for doctor visits and medicine. Yet I continued to believe a better life was just around the corner if I could just hold on and wait.

After I got back on my feet, working for a defense contractor, I experienced more bad luck. My psychiatrist opened up a pipe bomb in the mail and it blew up in his face. I had to switch psychiatrists. The new one weaned me off a drug, its absence causing full blown mania. I ended up running up my credit cards, thinking that I would become a millionaire from my writing (even though I had never published), chasing an old boyfriend to Florida and ending up in bankruptcy. When I came down from my high, I felt my life was ruined.

A friend encouraged me to go back home where I would be surrounded by people who loved and cared about me. So, I retreated to the Northwest, tasting poverty again for the third time, and still maintained that if I kept trying, I would one day realize my dream. I’ve been writing now part-time for twenty years and haven’t received any money for publishing to date, yet I continue to believe what someone once told me, “You’re only a failure if you quit trying.”