Last year I started working a photo studio job in North Jersey. I was commuting 2+ hours a day from South Jersey, 4 days a week, by train. Standing up to 9hrs a day with a back injury. After 2 months, I saved up to buy a car. Buying “Luna”, cut my commute time so much.
My work environment became so toxic that I eventually started breaking down at work daily. I decided it was time for a shift. So when I found an open room in JC, I was like... this is it! I saved again & decided I was moving up north in February. Hopeful that the shorter commute would make things easier- I paid my deposit, packed up me & my brother’s car and started moving stuff in on days I worked.
The commute was easier, but the new environment was far from perfect. Without going into detail I‘ll just say, boundaries were constantly crossed. Being immunocompromised, I have rules SET to protect myself- not to inconvenience people. I was rarely heard.
I was okay though! That’s what happens when you have roommates. As long as the bills were paid I was content. By the beginning of March I was no longer working at the studio. Got the flu and was out of work all of March. So I applied for unemployment.
Once the pandemic hit I still had enough to make ends meet- even started taking shoots again, but in May my car was shot while parked in front of my apartment & deemed totaled by my insurance company. I was completely zapped and back to square one. I made a gofundme and spent the last of what I had to get another car. Even maxed out my credit card.
I used my security deposit to cover the month of May. Got approved for & started doing doordash since my UE hadn’t gone through. Finally in July, after being threatened by one of the management partners with eviction (because of all parties), my UE (w/o backpay) went through.
Since the pandemic started I’ve been doing everything right. I never stopped working. I sold prints, I booked photoshoots, I applied for remote & limited contact jobs. I applied for rental assistance (wasn’t selected). I haven’t stopped & I am exhausted.
My social media family & my boyfriend have really held me down. From friends randomly sending me money not even knowing that it was exactly what I needed- to a simple repost supporting my professional career. I’m so thankful and blessed to have this network.
I’m blessed to be receiving something, but my backpay from March has yet to be given to me. I’m so thankful to the ppl that have randomly sent me money this summer. You’ve helped me stay positive and hopeful throughout this journey.
To date I only owe $2,580 (-cash app donations) but it feels like a million dollars when you are constantly dealing with a bunch of other bullsh*t. I’m honestly tired.
I need a fresh start so that I can take care of myself and prepare for the next phase of this pandemic. I do not feel safe in my apartment and I don’t want to be at risk once flu and Covid season begins.
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- Jelani Ameer