On March 18, 2019, my mother passed away due to colon cancer at the age of 56.
This was bittersweet for me. My mother had always been my biggest bully, my biggest source of emotional and mental trauma, as well as the biggest source of my depression, CPTSD, trust issues, self worth issues, and many other horrible things that I have been trying to correct to almost no avail.
I am neurodivergent. I have ADHD, severe anxiety, CPTSD, depression, I am on the autism spectrum, and I have borderline personality disorder. This combination of issues makes it almost impossible for me to acquire gainful employment, and makes it even harder for me to keep a job once I have one. I have worked in fast food and retail stores, and I'm sure you, the reader, are well aware of the sort of workplace environment those sorts of jobs breed. I just can't do it. It's not that I'm lazy, or that I don't want to, it's purely and simply that my brain is not wired in a way that permits me to deal with the sort of day to day things that come along with a regular 9-5.
To add to all of this trouble, I live in Portland, Oregon, where it rains more than half of the year. It's cold and grey and wet and the horrible weather year round triggers seasonal affective disorder for me, only adding to the depression and anxiety. I honestly don't know how much longer I can stand to be in this kind of weather. The fact that I don't have a car, and have to walk or ride my bicycle everywhere only exacerbates my hatred and, honestly, fear of the rain and cold. The cold weather here also exacerbates physical pain conditions in my body, again, further adding to my overall depression and suicidal ideations.
Furthermore, I am constantly at risk of becoming homeless at any time. I have never had a place of my own because I simply cannot make enough money to afford an apartment or even a room in someone's house. I have bounced from one family member's house to the next, and I am currently living in the home my brother, mother, and I lived in during my teenage years. I live with my younger brother, and while on paper this house belongs to both of us after our mother's death, in reality, it's his. He's the one that's lived here the longest, he's the one that does all the yard work and takes care of the house. If he asks me to leave, I don't have a choice but to do so. Before this, I lived with my aunt, but her house became so flea infested and filthy that I had to leave for my own health and safety. She refuses to do anything about the infestation, claiming that she's never seen any fleas, but I have video evidence of being COVERED in them after only a few moments of kneeling on her floor. If my brother asks me to leave, I cannot go back there.
Before my aunt's house, I was staying at this house that I am currently in. (I have moved in and out of this house several times.) I left this house to go to my aunt's to help her take care of my then dying grandmother who has since passed away, only a few months after my mother did.
I also stayed, for a while, at my stepdad's house. Since my mother passed, that house is no longer available to me so if I am kicked out of the place I'm in now, I cannot go back there.
I have NOWHERE to go if I am asked to leave this place, and I will not survive on the streets. Not to mention, I also have a cat. His name is Gizmo, he's just shy of a year old, and he is my best friend and emotional support system. If I lose my housing here, I will have to rehome him, and it will break both of our hearts.
The FINAL straw, for me, was the inheritance I got from my mother's death. She left me 15,000 USD, but set my aunt, her sister, as the trustee with the caveat that I am not allowed any access to those funds unless they are being used SPECIFICALLY for college classes. Right now, college is a priority, but it is far, far down the list. I only have 200$ of food stamps a month for food, and with my brother also eating my food, it doesn't last the month, and I typically spend the last half of each month going hungry because I've run out of food stamps. As I stated, I could become homeless at any moment. I need to be proactive on this subject and secure myself a safe place of my own that nobody can take away from me.
That being said, and the sob story having been told, here are my plans. I want to buy a used motorhome to live in full time. I intend to buy a shorter rig, somewhere between 22-27-ish feet if possible, which is more than enough space for me to be comfortable staying in. I am opting to go for a motorhome/RV instead of "van life" because of the slightly larger size of the vehicle, and the inclusion of a toilet and shower. I also prefer to go this route because I have absolutely no building skills, so buying a van and converting it into a home is not something I am capable of doing currently. A motorhome would solve those problems as all of those things are already built into the vehicle.
I've been doing my research, and within even just a half hour's drive of my city, there are plenty of safe places where RVs are allowed to park, many of them completely free. There are dump stations and fill stations nearby, as well, so finding places to empty and refill my tanks won't be any sort of issue. I don't plan to go on any road trips or do any traveling immediately, at least not for the first year or so. Right now, my priority is a roof over my head that I can be sure will not be taken away from me. I can't be evicted. I can only be asked to park elsewhere. If I maintain proper insurance and registration, and make sure only to park in places I'm allowed and strictly follow those rules and regulations, I won't even need to worry about being towed. Yes, there's the chance that I could have a breakdown and the RV might need to be in the shop, but since I don't plan to leave this general area any time soon, I feel confident that I could stay at a friend's house for a few days, or even just find a hotel to stay in while my home is in the shop.
I plan to use the funds my mother left me to go to school with, likely online given the current pandemic. I plan, also, to find work that can be done remotely, such as call center work, editing, or photography. My schooling will help achieve those goals as I can take classes that will help lead me into better remote working.
I've already been doing some shopping around, and I am very confident that I can find a rig that suits my needs perfectly for somewhere between 1000-1500 USD. This is how I have come to the goal of 2000 USD. I believe that will be enough to get me the RV, the insurance, the registration, and a full tank of gas. It will get me started. Eventually, I plan to attach a motorcycle rack to the back of the RV, and getting a little moped or a small motorcycle for day-to-day around-the-town driving, which will save me money on gas if I'm not driving the RV except to park it somewhere else. Currently, I have a bicycle and I can use public transit to achieve the same end.
As for my cat, Gizmo, he will be living in the RV with me. I have done research into other RV or Van Lifers that have cats as opposed to dogs, and it is something that is absolutely doable. Purchasing quality kitty litter to minimize odors and keeping the RV's ventilation going for his safety will provide us both with a very comfortable living space. I'm also in the process of harness and leash training him so that I can take him out when we're camping so that he can safely enjoy the outdoors with me.
All in all, this next step in my life is not just for the fun of it, or because it's trendy. I am trying to save my own life. I realize that sounds dramatic, but that's the point at which I find myself. Eventual homelessness that I know I cannot survive for long, or the life that I have been dreaming of since 1998, when I first saw the movie Paulie and watched as a talkative parrot and his elderly caretaker traveled the country in an RV. I used to think you had to be retired or extremely rich in order to live that kind of lifestyle. Maybe in the 90s that was true, but today, it is becoming increasingly common for young people like myself to pursue this kind of lifestyle. It is less expensive than renting an apartment. You're afforded much more freedom in all aspects of your life. Living full time in an RV will completely change my life. I don't expect it to be a fix-all, of course. I still have a lot of work to do on myself, but having an RV and being able to live in it, alone, will eliminate so many of the obstacles that are preventing me from living my best life.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read this post. Anything helps me, even just sharing my story around if you, yourself, cannot give anything. Again, I thank you so much for your time and support. Gizmo thanks you too; I think he's even more excited than I am about the prospect of this new chapter.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your support means EVERYTHING to me.
- Katie Marsh