This is not a sad story, but it’s kind of a heavy one. I approached Harlow about writing this for the Pay It Forward series she’s been doing, but after relaying my story to her, she said it would be much more effective coming from me. I write this blog in the hopes that people will learn the power of what SL can provide, and what it’s good for. For me, during this story, it did help me quite a bit through a tough time.
Some people may know that I’m a college student; those who are on my Plurk timeline, from around October of last year, also know that I had a financial aid problem with my school that forced me to drop out. It was due to a registration error that I couldn’t fix in time, and as a result I lost my funding. In order to cover the debt, I dropped out and attempted to find work. The work didn’t come (or at least didn’t pay enough), and so I unfortunately lost my home for a few months.
I lived with my stepfather for a few weeks after that. It was supposed to be until December since he had a spare room, but he became very controlling in a short period of time. He had always been abusive, but he took it to the point where I was afraid of everything while living with him.
For example– When I first arrived, I was in the middle of getting ready for a solo art show, and needed to finish some pieces before the end of the month. He informed me upon arriving–no painting. Not allowed. He told me the landlord didn’t allow painting in the apartments at all. It was a pretty blatant lie, but I couldn’t argue about it, so–lost the show. Lost my things, they got locked away. I couldn’t even paint anymore.
The list of things I couldn’t do grew from there, as well as the times I couldn’t be inside the house: eight in the morning until ten or eleven at night. I had nowhere to go so I just sat around in a suburban neighborhood, that was boring as all get-out, or hung around the library until it closed. I managed to get a job while I was out there, but I wasn’t scheduled to start until a few weeks later. The job would run to December–but it didn’t make my stepfather any happier. So.. yeah. Things were getting bad pretty quickly.
Using my laptop, I got away from the house and started searching for a place to go. Luckily, a shelter was right around the corner from me. I remember one night sitting on the floor and crying after a very bad incident (my stepfather started to demand my personal cards), after I tried the first time to leave. He found out and with the police, they convinced me that the shelter was already full and they wouldn’t take me. So I decided I would risk living on the streets for a while. My other family members didn’t get involved because they didn’t want to be “in the middle of it”, and my best friends either still lived in my hometown or had flaked out. So, I asked those I knew on SL for advice.
Sitting on the floor and asking your SL friends in a Skype conversation, what would be good to take in a bag just to survive and stay safe, is probably one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Half were trying to figure out with me what’s good to fit in a backpack, the other half felt it would make things worse if I left. After some deliberation, I had an idea. I was going to find a better way to leave.
Instead of just running off, I approached the shelter about volunteering for them. I did secretarial work for a few days, which made my stepfather calm down and behave very nicely towards me. The owner figured out what I was doing and let me know when an intake day would be happening. When my stepfather snapped again, I packed my bags, called the police so nothing would happen to me, and left for good.
Shelters in Detroit have limited funding. This is why I was lucky: I happened to stay at one of the best ones in the tri-county area, that allowed you to stay up to four months. The churches from nearby took turns taking care of everyone for a week at a time, and tried to make our stay as nice as possible. Most had wifi, so I was able to work through SL and keep my mind off of my situation as much as possible. Moving and being around people 24/7, otherwise, was extremely depressing.
After almost two months, I managed to get in touch with family in Atlanta who helped to pay for a ticket to stay with them, until I was able to get back in school again. By then, I had worked out the issues with finaid at my school, and was enrolled for January. So, I went to Atlanta until then.
There was one person throughout all this, who didn’t know me very well at all when she first reached out to me, who ended up talking to me almost every day through my ordeal.
She’s someone who hasn’t talked about it, but I think that because of her willingness to not only keep me motivated, but also help me search for solutions to problems I needed to solve at that time, that she should get a big thank-you for it.
When I first met Gorgeous Yongho, I wasn’t sure what to think of her. My landlord, Melanie, was a friend of hers, and based on Melanie’s sheer inability to tolerate bullshit of any sort, convinced me that I could trust Gogo to collaborate with her. I started working for Chelle a bit before this happened. Instead of allowing me to quit, Gogo kept pushing me to stay strong.
From the period of October to December, you may have noticed Chelle had increased output. That was because of all of this happening to me. Gogo gave me requests and assignments that would keep me distracted from what I was going through, which helped me so much, from a mental standpoint. The first time I told her I might lose my home, she immediately began suggesting different avenues to try and avoid forfeiting my home. When I had to pack my things, we looked for hangout places in the neighborhood where I would be staying, so that I could keep working and stay in touch. When I moved to the shelter, we increased production and kept the focus on success. when I moved to Atlanta, we kept working, but she was mostly happy I was in a safer place, and was relieved I would be going back to school after that.
It was a seriously trying time, and I do have a great core of friends who were there every step of the way. Knightly Gearbox, Dawn12 Parx, Avrilen Ziebzen, Ashling Alchemi–these great friends were cheering me on every step of the way. It made me happy to see they stuck beside in rough times, but I want to point out something about Gogo.
I didn’t know her very well when this first happened. I was one of a few people collaborating with her on Chelle. I could have easily just dropped out and come back later, but instead she reached out to me and helped me keep my head up.
When people help others even though they don’t know them, that really says something about that person. I wasn’t earning so much money for Chelle that it warranted her going out of her way to do that. She did it from the kindness of her heart.
This happened last October, I only mentioned this once on a forum, very briefly. But I want to give this recognition now.
Thank you, Gogo, for paying it forward when there was no call for it and no obligation for you to do so.