I thought that writing a post about my current situation might be a bit cathartic.
My son is five years old. His mother and I separated more than a year ago. The breakup meant that I lost a wife but also a best friend – and, indeed, all of my local friends. I also finished my second PhD around that time.
I finished writing my dissertation two years early and defended it successfully a year early. I did this because I was told that finishing early would help alleviate my financial problems. I was under the impression that I would continue to receive my contractually agreed funds (scholarships, bursaries, employment, etc). I was wrong.
All institutional support (financial or otherwise) was halted. I met with the Vice Provost to address this miscommunication. She informed me that graduating early meant that I no longer qualified for any funds, including financial aid bursaries. I was shocked. I found the administration at Trent University to be very cold to me when I emailed them about the misunderstanding. Instead of remedying my financial crisis I had in fact only deepened it. I wrote to the President of Trent University, Dr. Leo Groarke, and he complied with the Vice Provost.
I was kicked out on my ass. Dr. Poverty.
I had done so much for this university and I had the feeling of being abruptly kicked out on my butt, without any negotiation or understanding. Instead of being rewarded for my widely regarded scholarship, for my impressive scholarly achievements, I had, in effect, been punished.
I plummeted into darkness.
I am currently in an interfaith relationship with a Muslim woman. Her parents do not approve of our relationship and have attempted to separate us in fairly dramatic ways. One of the ways they attempted to drive a wedge between us was to steal our car. Now, without an income and without a car, I had to devise a plan to get my son to and from school each day. This was emotional torture, and it continues to be emotional torture.
My son goes to a school at the other side of the city. A typical day goes like this: I wake up and have to feed him, dress him, and find enough change in loonies and quarters that adds up to about $20. This pays for the local transit. We stand outside in the cold winter and wait for the bus to come. We get a transfer on the bus. At the terminal we transfer onto another bus. The total trip lasts about an hour, after which time we get out about nine blocks away from my son’s school. At this point I am ten minutes late for drop-off time. I pick up my son – his bookbag and my own bag in one hand and my son in the other – and I run as fast as I can for several blocks. I run for about 20 minutes until I make it to his school after the national anthem is played.
After dropping off my son at school 20-30 minutes late each day, I walk back home. The trip takes about 2 hours, in the freezing cold. Soren often cries and asks why “the man took our car from us.” This beautiful boy, who has to come to terms with the breakup of his mother and father, also has to come to terms with the instability of transportation and housing.
By the time I arrive home, or at a coffee shop, I have about an hour and a half, or maybe two, to myself to work. I can never focus. I can not lie – I often hide and break into tears, trembling for the lack of security my son must feel from all of this.
And then I rewind the entire trip – except this time, after walking all the way back to his school and getting him, my son has to stand outside in the cold winter for an hour and wait for the local transit to come and pick us up. Some days my son has to use the washroom while waiting. I walk back nine blocks to the school, he uses the washroom, and we return to wait for another hour in the cold. On those days, we wait for more than two hours. A few days ago there was a frostbite warning.
We eventually get onto the bus and ask for a transfer. We transfer at the station and get home after an hour trip.
I am exhausted from this day to day traveling.
Last month our landlord informed us that he wants to move his daughter into our apartment. So, we have to move to a new apartment. An average apartment is $1100 a month – too much for me to afford since I have no income. I have been forced to cancel my cell phone and my internet. I am three months behind in hydro payments and have been sent several disconnection notices.
I can not afford to make these expensive bus trips each day. I can not afford much of anything. I have never been so poor, so powerless, so alone, so without hope. And it is all, truthfully, because I was an outstanding student who graduated early from a PhD. I should have waited longer – I should have pretended I had more research to do.
I have no help when I have my son. I do all of the local chores: laundry, lunch packing, homework, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. My partner doesn’t help, perhaps because she doesn’t know how to help. I am in this alone. I feel powerless. I have nobody in my life who can offer me any help. I can barely find 10 minutes in a day to work on an application for a university position. I have sent 400+ applications and have still not been short-listed for a job.
I feel like the darkness will never transform into light.