My name is Kirsten Raye. I’m a 49 year old single female (by choice). I am the only person in my extended family to have graduated from college. Currently I am a sole survivor. I do not have family.
I studied Liberal Arts at Worcester State College, where I mistakenly crossed Abbie Hoffman’s funeral procession by while parking at the Temple Emanuel. It was across the street from the school. I would park there because I couldn’t afford an on campus parking sticker. I’m only mentioning this because it’s a memory that in irony is coming full circle today.
The reason I chose Worcester State College was because I was a homeless kid and the school offered me a Pell Grant with a special circumstances clause which took me off the streets and put me into a dorm room. The education was a bonus. I worked full time and studied full time until the date of my graduation.
I was abandoned by my father at 8 years of age, and my mother left when I was 16. A “free” dorm room was the only way to survive with no money, no car, and with no guidance from the adults who allowed me to fall through the cracks of this thing we call a system. My discovery of the Pell Grant system was not through a counselor or teacher but the result of wanting to overcome the challenge of starting life with a deficit.
The day before I was to graduate college, I dressed in my poverty best and walked into a lawyers office with their help wanted sign in hand. I was applying for an entry level assistant position which I was fully qualified for. The receptionist, who was approximately 65 years old, took one look at me and shook her head “no” and sent me packing before I could even put my foot through the door jam. After spending my entire childhood and teen years surrounded by rejection and mistreatment, it never occurred to me to question the reasons behind her immediate dismissal of me. I simply accepted it and walked out the door. It wasn’t the first or the last time.
Why am I telling you this? Because in my 30’s I’d finally had enough. I took matters into my own hands and created my own employment opportunity. It was an opportunity that grew 5000% every year for the first 5 years… I was finally off the streets, living comfortably and even had a taste of excess.
November 2008 was when the world began bracing itself for a market crash. It was when my clients stopped paying their invoices. For several months I spent everything I had trying to save my business. My largest client, a fashionista in Manhattan, NY, lost 50% of everything she had invested with Bernie Madhoff. She and her husband were helping her friends in Boston who lost 100% of everything. Everything I had been tucking away was gone and I’ve never been able to rebuild.
I am living under the threat of homelessness on a day to day basis. Currently I live in a 14′ X 20′ studio apartment where I routinely go several days at a time without food. I have not been to a doctor, dentist, car repair shop, hair salon, spa, or even a restaurant since losing everything at the bottom of 2009. These are things you take for granted, and while you are enjoying those things, I’ll continue my fight daily by pounding the pavement in a world that refuses to offer jobs to anyone over 40, especially women, or to anyone who hasn’t worked steadily enough to not have gaps in their resume. What a vicious cycle it is for someone who is so ready, so willing and so able to do more than hustle and hard work to get back on her feet.
In the interim, while I continue to try and find my way as if I’m 19 years old again, there’s always ebay (Amazon, Etsy, Catawiki, Marketplace). I can sacrifice food and take what little I had and instead of eating, invest it into a new, home based, micro business. Certainly worth it, right? I’ll start out small, rebuild it one day at a time, one product at a time, one wish and one stroke of luck at a time.
Unfortunately, (Whoopie Goldberg can vouch for me) the majority of the products you’ll find on eBay are either coming directly from China and being sold to you directly from the manufacturing plant or by domestic based Chinese manufacturers who were relocated to the United States at no cost, at the hands of our own government and our largest most wealthy corporations. They were given free financial backing, free manufacturing equipment, free warehousing and office space, free exportation via the U.S. tax payers and the USPS who donates $350 million annually to this, “developing country” we call China. Now that China is tapped, our financially powerful leaders are looking at handing the same opportunity to the citizens of Korea, India, Mexico and Nigeria. Everyone gets a dream and a hand up but American citizens. You’ll never see my items as you search eBay. I have to few items to have a presence and not enough support to advertise to create a presence. There’s also a search engine which favors the flavor of Mandarin.
I’m pretty sure that I would not have time to be writing this lengthy open letter to you if I were given this same opportunity. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be starving for days at a time and feeling so angered by your ignorance of what it’s like to live on Main Street and not inside the bubble you don’t seem to be very thankful for.
You say you want to leave the United States because it’s frightening that Donald Trump has been elected president… and refuse to acknowledge that the hurting population who didn’t vote for the woman who created the laws and treaties that dictate the situation I described above and am forced to fight to survive, 16 to 18 hours a day, on an empty stomach and a prayer are finding hope in the promise of a renegotiation that will more than likely continue to leave American citizens at a disadvantage. No, we don’t have blind faith, we have pain.
I am a sole survivor. I have no family to catch me with a net when I fall. I am out of resources in spite of my 16 to 18 hour a day fight to make that sale and build that business. I’m swimming against the current trying to build/rebuild a business where the game is rigged against me. My own government will not allow me the same opportunity (described above) and no matter how hard I’ve worked, can work, will work and no matter how capable I prove I am and can continue to prove I am, and no matter how much fight I have in me, it will never be realized.
If you choose to move to Canada, please consider this; while you’re there under the facade that you’re making some kind of sacrifice, rather than committing career suicide by speaking on issues you have no authority to speak on, come walk in my shoes, and the millions of others like me and be willing to REALLY make a sacrifice because it would mean suffering. Take off that white suit because suffrage has a completely different meaning from where I’m sitting.
Tonight I am having Saltine crackers and a glass of water for dinner. My $198.96 in ebay sales this month means that I will more than likely not be able to see your response to this letter as I pack up and contemplate where I go from here, but I am still inviting you to come sit with me and look me in the eyes as you step outside of your bubble and learn (or be reintroduced to) what it’s really like to be living as an American citizen in 2016. I’m tired of you whining about not having the continued privilege of trampling over the people who pay your wages, the masses.
Never impose your language on people you wish to reach — Abbie Hoffman
Thank you for your time and lack of consideration,
When decorum is repression, the only dignity free men have is to speak out — Abbie Hoffman
Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Cher, Jon Stewart, Lena Dunham, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Raven-Symone, Keegan-Michael Key, Ne-Yo, Samuel L. Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Bryan Cranston, Madonna, Rosie Odonnell, Ellen Degeneres, Hillary Clinton, Katy Parry, Fox News, CNN, SNL & cast, Alec Baldwin… and every person who has never walked in my shoes.