If It Weren’t for Welfare…

The governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, decided to set a 4-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits. Well, well, well. It’s about time! OK, wait, take the wrinkles out of your forehead and peep this. If it weren’t for welfare, the world — or at least the U.S. — would be a better place. Why? Because welfare cripples the mind and the spirit. Once one has reserved him or herself to dependency, it is hard to turn back. And if you read my first post, you know I am all about stepping out, living life to the fullest and getting it done.

Now, I am beyond sympathetic to individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet. Especially during this economic downturn which has fittingly been dubbed “The Great Recession.” I understand that life circumstances (i.e. lack of education and/or exposure, criminal history, physical or mental disability, lay-offs, etc.) have great potential to directly impact one’s ability to provide financially for his or her family. However, there are practical solutions to all of these problems. The solutions may not be easily gained and someone who is accustomed to getting assistance from the government is less likely to have the get-up-and-go required to overcome adverse life circumstances that ultimately lead to financial instability. That in itself is reason enough to limit how long an adult can receive welfare benefits. Notice, I said adult. Children are just that. They are dependents. Not fully mature beings who deserve and require assistance to acquire and maintain a high quality of life marked by adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter. That’s why I like Indiana’s welfare policy — a two-year limit for adults and no limit for children. Hey, if you choose not to use 730 days of assistance to find a job, that’s your business.

Adults are fully mature beings. Well, supposedly. And even though childhood experiences have a significant bearing on the type of adults we become, we can not use them as an excuse or “reason” to be crippled! I don’t appreciate the “product of my environment” defense one bit. And in the future, I will discuss that mindset across many platforms. I understand the psychosocial implications of childhood experiences. Trust me — I know! I get it! We all live with some of the choices that were made for us or around us as children every day. Good and bad. Right and wrong. We may see the ways of the people who reared us in ourselves. Sometimes their voices shoot right out of our mouths. The example they set has been our blueprint.

But you see, that’s the beauty of being an adult. We get to do it our way. We are allowed to reflect on everything we saw, heard and went through as children. After reflecting, we can sort through our experiences and decide what we want to apply directly to our lives and various situations that come about, use as examples of what not to do or use as motivation to get to where we want to be and how we want to be.

For example, if you grew up in a single-parent household that consisted of two bedrooms, five siblings and thousands of play-cousins named “Roach,” you should milk this experience for all its worth — good and bad. Perhaps you want to be as strong as the single-parent who kept a roof over your head (no matter how meager). Maybe you want to always stay as resilient as you were as a child in this situation. It could be that you know above all that you will not have that many kids and the ones you do have will get their asses whooped if they don’t keep their rooms as pristine as military quarters — it’s no way in hell you are going to have roaches in your house!

Now, I know things go deeper than that. Some people have horrible parents or no parents or like me, a situation that falls somewhere in between. Some people are molested and raped as children, or beat everyday, or watched their mother get beat everyday. This is not about these tragedies. My heart aches for people who have demons like this to face. Continue to fight the good fight and press forward.

I am speaking solely about a person making a conscious decision to go to their local assistance agency and sign up for welfare without having any real intention or game plan for making it without welfare. Now, if you grew up with a mother who was more than content with her welfare checks and had no intention of getting a job or a father who’s biggest tip to you was to have as many kids as possible because each body meant a bigger check, then I can empathize with your state-of-mind. I would call your parents trifling but I won’t because for all I know, there parents could have been setting them the same self-deprecating, hopeless example. It is a vicious cycle.

That is why someone has to break that cycle. All of the financially empowered persons, cultured and well-rounded families, stable businesses, churches and non-profit organizations that make up the community need to come together to educate and empower people to be self-sufficient. Likewise, people have to want more for themselves, not only financially but in terms of health, career goals, interpersonal relationships and spirituality. I know that a shortage of positive role models makes it difficult for one to acquire and maintain the mindsets necessary to develop, grow and flourish. But its far from impossible. So seek, and ye shall find.

Missing: Me.

As of late, my life has been a whirlwind. I’ve been faced with some tough decisions and coerced by fate to make some semi-major moves. Aside from the occasional spontaneous happening, I am largely a creature of habit. I like routines. I like order. I like to plan things out to make sure everything in my chaotic world goes as smoothly as possible. However, my best-laid plans are usually the ones that go awry. No matter how many “to-do” lists I scrawl, budgets I make, or goals I set, things are always a little off-kilter. I guess that’s a little something I like to call “life.” It’s only recently that I’ve began to make a marked effort to leave the planning in the classroom and let the chips on all other fronts fall where they may.

While I don’t consider myself to be a control freak, I do like to be in control of my itty-bitty piece of the universe. Yes, staying grounded and playing it safe has given me many opportunities and saved me from a lot of grief over the last 24 years. But there’s this aching feeling that I’ve missed out a little — even when I wasn’t fully aware. To this day, I still carry the weight of chances and risks that would’ve been worth taking. I am a little unfulfilled. Not a lot, just a little. And no, I can’t go back in time and tell off that bitchy bully in high school who had it coming. I can’t go back and fight that fight on the elementary school playground. I can’t go back and get out of the toxic relationship sooner or tell a friend how I really felt before drama reared its ugly head. However, I can re-design the way I approach life. That way, by the time the future is my past I won’t have any regrets.

So, the game plan. Yeah, I know. I’m planning again. But let’s not think of it as a plan. Let’s just say these are things I am absolutely going to do if I am physically and mentally able. Period. No “maybes.” No second-guessing myself and being scared of what will happen if I do this or that. Apprehension is out the window. I’m not saying the idea of reincarnation isn’t chic, but as far as I know, I only have one life to live. I might as well live it my way, on my terms. Now, change doesn’t come over night. Change is a process. And no matter how much I change, I won’t let my quest for self-awareness turn me into a selfish being. Proving to myself once and for all that I am just as independent, self-reliant, strong and capable as I *usually* think I am doesn’t mean I am going to be cold, distant, unapproachable, reckless or careless. That’s just not my make-up. I pride myself on being  very loving, warm and forgiving, and somewhat easy-going, thoughtful and communal.

I’m educated. I have a career. To date, I’ve been able to pay all of my bills on time. I’ve done a lot of adventurous things that prompt a laugh or wide smile when I think about them. Most importantly, I have a great family and a fantastically fun group of friends. I have my health. I have God. Take all of that for what it’s worth. To me, it’s priceless. Just because I, and most of us for that matter, can drop a scroll that lists our personal blessings on the floor and watch it roll out the door and down the street doesn’t mean we don’t want more.

A characteristic of all living beings is *growth*. If we are not growing, we are dead (or might as well be). I am constantly seeking. I always want more. I want to be better than the me of yesterday and of tomorrow. I have never really been happy and for years I couldn’t figure out why. Then, a la Chrisette, came the epiphany. I have withheld my gut feelings and instincts too much. I haven’t been doing what I want to do as much as I should. Therefore, I’m not content. I’ve tried to find personal happiness in people close to me — what they think of me, how they perceive me, how they treat me, talk to me, talk about me, etc. has had too much influence over my state-of-being. How foolish!

“You are responsible for your own happiness.”  On occasion, I have had the NERVE to say this to other people who I thought were being too whiny, self-pitying or clingy. Never did I stop to practice what I preached. Right now, the only thing missing from my life is ME. The real me. Doing what I want to do, how I want to do it.

I have always loved to write. Poems. Plays. Hard news. Editorials. Journal entries. I like writing. And for almost two years now, I have wanted to start a blog. Nothing fancy. No special effects. No pictures of me in expensive ensembles or trashy lingerie lingering in the background. Just me, writing. I love to talk but in my opinion, what I’m thinking and feeling about the world around me always comes out better in print. So here I am, finally doing what I want to do. I vow to say EXACTLY how I feel even when it makes me uncomfortable and everyone else angry, befuddled, etc. I vow to not let *this* fall by the wayside because of any obligations — actual or assumed. I have the noble, yet non-progressive habit of letting the needs of others come before my own. I even get bogged down by my own needs and subsequently, forget my wants. You know, the *fun* stuff. The “just because” stuff. The “ah, what the hell!” stuff. The “well…f*ck it then” stuff. I have not been very attentive to myself. I think I’m over that.