This week is the Thanksgiving Week, a week of gratitude to reflect on big or small favors that you receive from the people close to you, and/or from the entire world. I decided to share my own Homeless experience with you, along with some background that led to it. It’s a little long, but I hope that it would be of some interest to you.
Do you know what it feels like when the night comes and you do not have a place to stay, and a bed to sleep on? A sense of anxiety due to indefinite non-belonging in this world? Unless you become a homeless, you may not know what it is like….
If you have read a little about me, you would know that I have gone through a difficult period through my graduate studies. The first year of my master’s degree I was fortunate to earn a scholarship and did not pay anything. I also had very good monthly living stipends. I guessed I took everything for granted. So Life decided to teach me what the meaning of money to me. After lots of ordeals, I ended up going for a second master’s degree, which was at a private prestigious but very expensive school. I had never planned for this. But I was very fortunate that my parents were able to support me financially for a second degree which I (or rather my parents) had to pay everything. Since this was my second master degree, I was extremely determined that I wanted to finish the degree as soon as I could, and didn’t want to spend one extra dime of my parents’ money. Certainly, I did not expect that I would almost literally fulfill my determination.
In the last two quarters of my second master’s degree, my strong desires for learning led me to undertake a curricula that were extremely demanding. In the back of my mind, I knew that this was probably going to be my last chance in school, learning. So I kind of did the “impossible mission”, took on several tough classes, a couple of which was said to require a full 40 hours every week to complete the class project.
How was this “impossible mission”? On the average, I probably slept just 4 hours a day for probably 4 consecutive months. Too bad that there is only 24 hours a day. I really did not sleep by the schedule of 24 hours. My “day” was more like 30 hours or so. Quite often, I would go non-sleeping for 20 hours, sometimes 28 or even 36 hours. And then I would sleep for 4 to 8 hours. Sometimes, I would sleep on the “bed” made by aligning 4 chairs in the computer lab. Sometimes, I simply passed out sitting in the chair. I watched sunrise in the morning about every week in the lab. Others in the computer lab maybe went home at midnight at 12am, while I went back at 12pm noon after working through 12 additional hours.
But I guess the “impossible mission” was a little bit too much. In my last quarter, I couldn’t complete my class project before the final date which was supposedly my graduation date. The reason that I couldn’t complete the project was mainly due to my two other partners on the same class project, with whom I had to make up what they didn’t do. Anyway, my partner requested an extension, granted by my professor. But it was beyond my summer graduation date.
I knew the project was very close to completion, but I had no ways of predicting how much longer it would take. The lease term for my dormitory was up. And you know what, I was determined that I’m not going to spend one extra dime of my parents’ money for my second master’s degree. So I decided that I would not renew the lease for the summer. I was living in the computer lab anyway most of the time.
I didn’t tell anyone, not my partners, nor my parents. I guessed I was just too proud and too shy to ask any favors from others. I was just going to make it. Because of the granted extension, my partners no longer worked through the night (they just did it a couple of times, and couldn’t take it anymore). So came the the day that my lease was up. I loaded up all of my belongings into the car. Moving, except that I didn’t have a place to move to. Then, came the night….
I parked my car at someplace remote on campus. The night was really chilly even though it was summer. I let a small opening in my car window so that airflow was not blocked. And I just put on extra clothing, and tried to sleep. I was really homeless, but I was so glad that at least I had a car. I was a little anxious indeed, since I didn’t know how many more nights I needed to spent in my car.
The sky was clear with all the shining stars, and the parking lot is totally empty. Everyone had gone home, a term that I had taken for granted without thinking. Reflecting over my plight through my graduate studies, the physical demand on my body and mind in that last year was not much, compared to all the emotional soul-wrenching experiences in the previous year at my first master’s degree program. Soon, my weariness took over me. I was soundly asleep.
After another homeless night, my friends found out and insisted that I stayed over in one of the friends’ apartment. I shyly accepted their offer. I took a shower after two days (it was not the first time. When you don’t sleep every 24 hours, you don’t take shower every 24 hours either.) My friend had a fullsize bed, and he insisted that I slept on the bed with him. It felt a little weird, but it was probably just an issue for 30 seconds. I fell asleep very soon, and I finally slept on a bed for 8 straight hours, which I never got to do in the last 4 months. It was very refreshing, waking up with your brain not in a sleepy muddy state.
With my friends’ blessing, the next day after, I finished my project, got approved by my professor, and wrapped up all the graduation paperwork, and was ready on my way to head back to my brothers’ place 800 miles away. I got an A in that class, but grades were no longer an issue to me. I bid farewell to my friends who were my classmates, thanking them for their support through my difficult days. They still had another quarter to go. Most people in that master’s degree planned for an extra fall quarter. But I just didn’t want to spend my parents’ money more than it was necessary.
One of my most favorite movies is Pay It Forward. Patch Adams and A Civil Action are my most favorites too. In Pay It Forward, the kid named Trevor, invited Jerry, a homeless person, to stay in his house, and getting back on right track. I don’t know anybody who has invited a stranger to stay in home, nor do I recommend you doing that. But still, everytime I see a sign of homeless held up by a poor person, I cannot stop and think about all the what if I do this and that, and what should I do this and that. And then I would think about this movie. If everyone can be like Trevor, being altruistic just for a few more moments, our world can be transformed into Heaven in no time.
My website is about money, or more specifically how to make and retain more money. But at the end of the day, let us remember that it is just money, and money is definitely not everything. In this Thanksgiving season, let us all remember to thank the people that we should have, and be grateful for whatever big or small things we receive from the world. And give a helping hand to friends or strangers, and give with a true heart. Homeless people don’t just need physical shelters. They need some carings too. They are our fellow human beings.