An Open Letter To Someone Who Has Experienced Being Truly Broke

Dear whoever,

I want you to know, first and foremost, that you are not alone. Although it may seem like everyone that says they are a “broke college kid” really has never felt truly broke, there are people out there like you. People that know what financial instability feels like, and that are still affected by knowing what it’s like to not have money.

Are you confused about whether or not you are or have ever been “truly broke”? Here are some things that you might be familiar with if you were. When you were younger, you might have not felt like you fit in with the other kids because your clothes were second-hand or bought at Walmart, and they were never quite on trend. You may have even been teased because you weren’t wearing the “right” clothes. Along the same lines, you may have had to wear the same clothes for months or years on end, recycling the same shoes, coats, or shirts because they still fit for the most part, and weren’t completely useless, even if they might have had some holes or stains.

Another sign is that you might have been unsure about when you were getting your next meal, or where you would be sleeping some nights. When you did get the chance to eat, you may have eaten too much because you didn’t know when your next meal would be. Alternatively, you may have not eaten enough, because you were waiting for the other people in your family to get enough to eat before you got seconds. A good night’s sleep may have been foreign to you. You may have slept on couches, on blow up mattresses. Maybe even, at some points, the street. Sleeping in a bed in a room that was yours and only yours may not have been something you were very used to. Sometimes you may have shared a bed with a parent or a sibling.

A major way that you could gauge whether you have experienced money issues is that you feel uncomfortable spending money on yourself, or maybe even don’t have the money to do so, even if the things you’re buying are necessities. Being hesitant to buy yourself things like shampoo, toothbrushes, or winter boots can be a very big indicator that money isn’t something that you feel comfortable with.

You may have even struggled with the path to college. On top of trying to find a good college that was right for your future, you had to find a college that you could afford. Endlessly applying for scholarships, constantly stressing over grades in high school in order to earn merit scholarships and to get into the school you were aiming for, and feeling guilt for putting your family through the stress of paying for college may have clouded any feelings of excited anticipation that you felt when going through the decision-making process.

Now, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, but if these things sounds familiar to you, you are who this letter is for. Now, let’s talk about what this does and does not make you.

This does not make you less valuable than people that have more monetarily. You are just as valuable as the “haves”, even if the government, media, and society make it seem like only people that have money should be allowed to have proper health care, proper housing, or any other basic human right, to an extent. You may seem like you were born into a position that makes you less than those around you, and I want you to know that your worth will never be determined by society’s standards, only by yourself.

This also does not mean that, in order to be valuable to society, you need to be a perfect, smart, talented individual. Sometimes it may seem like the only way you will be seen as worth something is if you are a phoenix rising out of the ashes, an underdog that comes from nothing but becomes a star athlete, a famous musician, a world-renowned doctor, or something along those lines. It may seem like if you don’t achieve that kind of star status, then whatever you are working towards means nothing. But whatever you choose to do with your life is meaningful, and even if you need the assistance of others or the government in order to get by, for any length of time, that does not make you less of a contributing citizen.

What does this make you?

This does make you worthy of basic human rights, such as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This does make you important and necessary.

This does make you valuable.

This does make you priceless.