image What happens when your life starts falling apart? Do you try desperately to hold it together so you won’t feel like a failure or would you do the unthinkable, allow your whole world to crumble and alow the chips to fall where they may?

For me it happened in late 2010. I was a busy grad student working as a waitress and a customer service representative. I was nearing my final semester of grad school and I was over extended with bills, life, my sons and basically everything. I was also in counseling trying to sort things out when out of the blue, one fateful weekend, my car was taken away for not being registered properly and I lost not one, but BOTH of my jobs.

I couldn’t believe it. I scrambled to find a new job and figure out how I would make it to finish up my final internship before graduation. Just 2 weeks into my Counseling internship I was so stressed from taking buses between cities to get to campus and my internship site, not eating and going crazy over my overdue bills that I decided to simply — let go. I withdrew from my final semester at grad school and went home to figure out what to do next.

Why was my life taking such an ugly turn? What could I do to get back on top? How could I work so hard and so long to only to lose it all? My biggest fear of all was becoming a complete failure. I cringed at the thought of becoming homeless, sitting on the curb clutching a beer can and asking for spare change from strangers. Who could recover from that?

I had no clue how to stop that from happening so the thought paralyzed me daily. Since I didn’t know what to do, I did the next logical thing; I did what I loved doing most. I started a blog out of frustration and I decided to share with other women how to overcome life’s inconsistencies. I felt like a complete idiot doing this while I was going through such a rough patch but the focus on this goal soothed my soul as I looked for a job and sought answers for my own life.

Then one day it hit me. If I am truly going to teach how to be an overcomer, I need to learn how to be an overcomer in the most difficult situation. I decided to face my own fear of extreme failure by doing the unthinkable and turning it into a project to inspire women. I called this project The Rebuild Your Life Project.

With trembling fingers I wrote a letter to announce what I planned to do: I will become homeless on purpose to overcome my fear of failure and teach women how to survive losing everything.

After I sent it to my friends and family, I knew I couldn’t back down. I spoke to my sons, who were living with their father while I was in school, and told them about The Rebuild Your Life Project. My sons were shocked but ultimately supportive and so was the rest of my family. Although I had transformed a very real and dire situation into something that would benefit other women IF I survived it, it didn’t ease my fears about HOW I would survive.

As the countdown to the project began I floated through my preparations for letting go. I gave away everything that I owned, everything that meant anything to me as a way of taking control over the situation. Instead of allowing life to happen to me, instead of sitting by powerlessly as my life took a turn for the worst, I took the reigns and faced misfortune head on.

No, I didn’t fight for what was lost, desperately trying to hold on to a life that wasn’t trying to hold on to me. I dared to revamp my dream and take a new and unknown direction armed with nothing but a small bag of items and a digital camera to film it all.

On April 11, 2011, I walked out of my apartment and onto the streets where I lived with homeless people for 4 months, learning about their habits, mentality and survival skills, raising money for a rental assistance grant that I gave away and organizing and executing a job fair for homeless women. As I write this it seems like I was some kind of superwoman but going through that process broke me down and changed the way I view the world and myself.

Today I’m different. I don’t socialize as much. I’m more detached from people and things. I am no longer afraid of loss. I am no longer afraid to start over. I no longer believe in the devastating situations in life being permanent. I know what it’s like to be viewed as less than human because I don’t have a home. I know what it’s like to feel the sting of complete failure.

I also know that no matter what, no one can scare me into believing they hold the key to my future. If I don’t want to be in a situation, I won’t be in it regardless of any threats of loss and doom being thrown my way.

I’m not afraid to fail anymore because I survived it once and I now have the skills to survive it again if it ever happened. Honestly, that type of fearlessness has moved mountains for me. I turned my problem into a project and I navigated my way through it. This is the baseline of every issue I will face from now on. This is the blueprint to understanding myself and realizing my dreams with no fear. No fear.

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more on XOJane!

  • ivrop

    I’m not being negative, and perhaps I’ve missed the lesson/message.. but I find no inspiration in this journey.

  • Serene

    As a person who was homeless in high school and not on purpose; I find this article so classist. Its great that you overcame your fears, but you really didn’t have to be in that situation. I was forced into it.

    Even though you were homeless, I think your position of overcoming your fears, etc puts you into a very different category of most people who are in homeless shelters.

    I sometimes hope Clutch can feature real people at the bottom with motivating stories. Articles like these always reeks of class privilege.

  • Mars

    They used too, but no one supported them by commenting and viewing them. This piece is not a Clutch article, it’s from another site they partner with.

  • Ask_ME

    Well, I have quit my job before and started over. However, I have a husband and a nice savings account to fall back on. Sometimes the need to start fresh is necessary.

  • naan

    if this woman was white Clutch would be all over it talking about class and race.

    I understand “letting go”— as in go ahead and get evicted, get your car repossessed, and stop fighting the battles that you cannot afford.

    but choosing to become homeless?

    and then what is striking is how she said she learned “their” habits. lol. everybody tries act like their ish don’t stink.

  • Candy

    Thank you for sharing your experience and truth! I understand and sit in this fear that traps us in living lives that are limiting and passionless with little possibility of of truly fulfilling our purpose and serving others in ways that we are all uniquely destined to do. I applaud your growth and ability to see the immense value in this experience and share it with others.

    It saddens be that others view this as privilege or a first world problem. Sure, part of this can be ascribed to privilege but the greater lesson had less to do with that than dealing with fear. For the writer it was homelessness, for others it maybe being single or not having the latest it shoe… Sure, the writer’s homelessness is as she states a choice, but given the details she shared it is clear that she was on the brink in many ways.

    Why can’t we see and acknowlede this? Sure I would love to know how she managed because having worked with the homeless the safety issues among others is real and it is very difficult to pull yourself out of a downward cycle. The write presents herself more as a reporter going undercover than one without options so homelessness is not the issue here; the issue is fear. My hope is that the writer continues to use this experience to help herself and others.

  • London

    Playing homeless now, are we? Ok. -_-

    But on the real, everyone’s life goes through seasons no matter what career they are in or how much education one has. Shit happens. This author was going through her winter. I know just emerged out of my winter. I lost everything after my business went under while I was preggo. It was so hard and humiliating last year. But now I’m just getting back on track, and I feel like I am in my Spring now.

    I don’t think she had to become homeless to LEARN how to deal with loss. All humans have the ability to adapt to ever-changing situations. If tomorrow we lost everything like those people in Oklahoma, we would survive. Just like they will (God Bless them). That’s why I feel projects like these aren’t necessary.

  • Ash

    I’m sorry but I don’t understand this. Staying in homeless shelters for enlightenment purposes seems to take away the funds and resources from homeless people that really need it. …But different strokes for different folks.

  • http://gravatar.com/heavenleiblu heavenleiblu

    Um, Ok girl.

  • StrangerDanger

    Umm let’s see. I’m glad she overcame her fear of failure and homelessness, but I wish she would have elaborated on how she made her way out of the predicament that drove her to do this in the first place. that’s real life.

    Did the job that she received out the homeless shelter allow her to buy a used car and get her life back on track? Doubtful.

    Most homeless folks don’t have the option to opt in or out of that situation. Understanding the mentality of struggle for people with few options is difficult if not impossible when you, yourself have a number of options, advances formal education, and a stable social network. The lives of the homeless are not a 4 month social experiment.

    This logic is akin to someone studying abroad for a semester in Ghana and claiming that they now understand the ways and mentality of Africans.

    As far as inspiring others, I learn more inspirational and practical solutions listening to people that overcome real personal obstacles and failures as opposed to people “solving” problems of their own creation.

    On a positive note, my mom always said, some people like to learn the hard way. I guess you learned . . .

  • Marie

    Wow, she deliberately chose flight over fight? I know people that squatted in their homes when the banks tried to kick them out, who graduated law school, med school, and college when their own parents and family wrote them off, folks who battled cancer and serious illness and are now living healthy lives, people who lost their jobs and marriages but fought back, hard, to get new jobs and mend their marriages.

    I’ve read the article twice and the lesson here: Give up – quit life, quit self, quit family.

  • bijoux

    But what about your kids? Why didn’t you fight for them? What motivated you to leave your sons for this kind of lifestyle? What message were/are you teaching them? Did they ever see you in that situation? Did you want them to see you in that situation? Do you really think they “understood” your decision when you told them you were leaving them to experiment homelessness?

    It’s cool when people do whatever they want whenever they like. However, when you have kids, I think it’s a different ball game. I feel like as a mother (first) there were other options you could’ve chosen.

    Just saying or whatever.

  • RenJennM

    Am I the only who was hoping for a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel? I expected to read a conclusion of triumph. But I didn’t get that… so… uh… yeah…

    I’m still not sure if she’s still on her journey or if she’s out of it now, but good luck to her. I get the intention, I really do. But the method though? Hmm… I’m not entirely sure.

  • omfg

    i think what she did was ridiculous. i can’t stand this crap. i don’t find this story amusing, enlightening or inspiring.

    i live in downtown los angeles. i’m actually maybe three to four blocks from skidrow. yes, the infamous skidrow. homeless people and people who are down on their luck are everywhere. unlike the author, many of these people have no education, definitely weren’t about to finish graduate school, they may have criminal records, have mental issues or a combination of the above.

    there are people out there who have absolutely no choices out there. i’ve seen people sleeping on the street with their children, people sleeping in the same spot every night for years like it’s their damn address, people urinating and even defecating in broad daylight on a busy sidewalk.

    homelessness is not something you should resort to for a fresh start. that is complete and utter b.s. it’s insulting to people who are homeless actually.

    she should have just finished school and maybe gone to another country to work. hell she could have entered a monastery of some sort where they live with nothing. she could have joined a community where they live with little. she could have sold all her crap and moved to a tiny house in the middle of nowhere and lived off the grid. there are other things should could have done without making a mockery of homelessness.

    i absolutely detest this piece. it’s just total navel-gazing self-absorbed trash. if this were a white girl doing this, it would be called out as such.

  • hollabacknow

    I agree. I’m actually repulsed by XOJane articles. It’s as if the black women writers there STRIVE to have “white women’s problems”. Or constantly want to draw attention to their “atypical-ness”. However, it just comes across as shallow, insincere, insecure, and narcissistic. I weep for our future.

  • theblackparacosmistmind

    What makes this piece detestable and sick is that this person doesn’t recognize their privilege. Yea she’s not rich or ballin’ but she has an education to lean on, more than just a bachelor’s but post-graduate school too?! F*ck outta here man! She can bounce back and go from homelessness to having a home again. There’s potential, even though she was going through rough times. Some of these people aren’t so lucky. Majority of homeless individuals are mentally-illed and are in and out of a system that lacks the health care to support mentally illed persons, veterans, and drug abusers. It’s more than just the old I can’t make ends meet or I’m lazy. And it’s really disingenuous to get to know and share space with actual homeless people and have them share their life stories with you only to get up and leave after 4 months. Digital cameras? What is this a show? Do you feel provocative? This is a piece of shit of an article.

  • Ramblin’ Wreck

    I have to agree. She basically said, “My luck is down, so I’m going to opt into homelessness to learn how to tough things out!”… or you could have just toughed things out to begin with.

    She complained about not having a car and losing your jobs. Find a new job (or two or three) and get a bicycle (or bus pass). It ain’t calculus.

    “As I write this article it seems like I’m some kind of superwoman…” not quite, dear author, but it does show the inherent benefits of having an education and experience, even in the worst of situations.

    Final note: I know that XOJane has a series of “It Happened to Me” articles, but nothing “happened” to the author. She VOLUNTEERED TO BE HOMELESS in order to “enlighten” herself.

    I wish I could un-read this article.

  • pe.riche.

    I was homeless too when I was younger. Fortunately, I am now in a position where I mentor and tutor school aged kids who are either homeless or living in transitional housing with their families.

    I am shocked and insulted that someone would purposefully become homeless to overcome their fear of “failure”. To think someone would voluntarily go without a very basic, yet extremely important necessity is still something I cannot understand.

    I find it amazing that she takes so much pride in this, when each day I work with 25-30 kids who are longing for a safe, stable, consistent place to live, when all they have known is chronic homelessness.

    Perhaps she should gain some common sense to overcome her stupidity?

  • pe.riche.

    I work in a non-profit, specializing in providing long-term housing for families who experience chronic homelessness.

    And people like her give those who actually NEED our resources a bad name.

    To think that her spot in that shelter was taken from someone who actually needed it is beyond infuriating.

  • bijoux

    “I wish I could un-read this article.” LMAOOOOOOOO

  • Nope

    Completely agree. It reeks of privilege. There was an article on this site a year or so ago abut a black woman in New York City who walked around topless for some feminist reason or another. She said that she wasn’t privileged and got all upset when we said she was. She asked “How can black women be privileged”? It was pretty funny. She and this woman seem similar. They have a very stuck up way of trying to “shine light” on less privileged people that this site would definitely call out if the women had been white. To me this is similar to Kony 2012, Blindside, white savior type of stuff. You know that privileged I went to a place with brown people and made a difference kind of thing that people find annoying when white people do it. It’s annoying on black women too. The topless feminist black woman was even more annoying because she tried to pretend that she had no privilege.

    And what was so bad about this article like someone below mentioned is that this woman sees herself as superwoman and doesn’t even recognize her privilege. Lol. I know a lot of people are irked, but it just made me giggle. Really?

    At the end, she talks about how the experience made her less high strung and self-absorbed, but this whole article and experience seemed self absorbed.

    I went over to xoJane. The folks over there actually called her out for it. It was interesting because a lot of times Clutch commenters have completely different comments from the xoJane commenters (more racialized I guess) but everyone saw how bad this post was.

  • Nope

    I don’t think that they strive to have “white women’s problems.” Narcissism, shallowness, and insecurity can be found in black women too. I just think xoJane writers are hipsters. Hipsters of all races and creeds are pretty self-absorbed, and this is what they do. And atypical-ness is the perfect way to describe it. Hipsters always want to portray themselves as different and counterculture and better than mainstream.

    Sometimes I find hipsters quirky and cute. Many times I find them self-absorbed and annoying.

  • Torahga

    In all honesty, it’s easy to argue when you think about mothers making sacrifices that are not considered the norm whereas men won’t think twice about combating failure especially when the final goal includes being financially secure for their family. Although it was extreme, I do commend her because she tackled her fears. Yes, she left her sons with the father but definitely not strangers and had her family involved in her decision. As being a mother first, your decision is to make sure that your children’s safety isn’t threatened.

  • EbonyLolita

    I must say I understand the author’s THOUGHT process. I too have had it all fall apart. But BECAUSE of my education & extended certifications I am able to prevent “skid row” homelessness. But I will have to give up my apartment, downsize EVERYTHING & start over. But you’re talking to a single woman with no children. The author did what few ppl would be WILLING to do though. She surrendered to her circumstances, which as Black women society tells us we are not ALLOWED to do. I hope she continues in her transition & gets what she’s seeking.

    But at the same time this reminds me of the white ppl who come from WEALTH & turn around & “play broke” for 30 days so they can “walk a mile in someone’s shoes.”

  • L

    I respect the author’s honesty but the only message I recieved from this article is “Some people like being the victim”. she made herself the victim. I would have rather read about how you were so stressed out from work/school/parenting overload and how you picked your life up from there. Not how you gave away your things to increase your struggle. I just can’t relate to this.

  • http://gravatar.com/bornliberian bornliberian

    homelessness does not = failure
    failure does not = homelessness. IMP!

  • apple

    i understand what she means.. i have this serious fear of death..its so bad i’m too the point i just want to do it myself to get it over with it.. but of course there is no coming back from it and saying “i got it over with it and now i know not to be afraid”

    but as far as the author “its not until we lost everything we are free to do anything” .. alot of people have done what she has done, but usually under a religious/philosophical/ journey

  • GlowBelle

    Girl, kick rocks. What a narcissistic bullshit article. What the author did was a stunt, pure and simple, not a journey, not an awakening, but a stunt. What she did is an insult to people who actually ARE homeless, or who have been through it. I understand that people deal with their struggles differently and that the author was trying to overcome her fears, but she had it “easy”, she HAD family and an apartment to go back to when she “got her lesson”, …real homeless people don’t have that cushy luxury, they are living it daily, not for four “soul searching” months. These kinds of “walk in their shoes” stunts are the reason why people don’t take homelessness serious, because we treat it like its some sort of stunt. No, it’s a REAL problem, a problem that some people never get out of.

    We all go through down periods, I’m going through one right now, but I check my privilege at the door, know full well that I’m better off than some people, and know that things WILL get better and that I just have to keep pushing. People like the author frustrate me because she had all the cards, even more than 90% of the population, but she chose not to play them. She should have tried to find another job, kept her butt in school (girl, you were in GRAD school…), and raised her poor kids and set a better example for them. You’ll never find what you’re seeking for when you do bullshit like this…

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