A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Student Life

Living on low income

Finally, Sr. Michael Watts (not his real name) found a place to stay. Although the house was  extremely cramped and he had to share a room with his dad, it was a place he could call home. His dad, sister, and he had been bouncing between hotels, campgrounds, and friend’s homes for weeks. Between juggling school, sports, and taking care of his sister and pets, this new-found home was a dream come true. Watts no longer had to worry about where his next bed was going to be or how he would get his next meal.

  The family had finally found their home. Until, they lost it. Again.

 “I thought we were gonna stay there longer and you know, be there longer but we had to leave,” Watts said. Due to loss of money, Watt’s family moved out and stayed in a hotel for a few months until continuing to search for a new home.  

  The issues Michael faces at school and home has been an ongoing problem throughout his life. Watts is extremely bothered by these difficulties, especially when people tease him about it.

 “It’s embarrassing. There are people going on big vacations and getting the iphone 8 but I can’t afford those things…people are mean about it,” Watts said. Watts deals with bullying on a daily basis. “It makes me feel like I need to go to amazing places or have a bunch of technology to have connections in life or have friends,” Watts said. The bullying leads to depression, anxiety, and embarrassment. “Over the years, it’s caused some damage. People comment on some of my clothes and the fact that I can go to their house, but I don’t want them to come to mine,” Watts said. People who do not know the struggles of having a limited amount of clothing or being embarrassed of their own home do not understand how damaging their teasing and naivety is.

  “The number one thing that I’m teased about is my phone.” Watts said. He has a small, cracked, android smartphone. “People laugh at it and question why I don’t have an iphone when they see it and I just tell them I can’t afford it.” Michael said.

  “If I had an iPhone, I’d brag too. If I went to Paris or the Bahamas, I’d brag too. It still bothers me for some reason. I’d do anything to have these experiences.” Michael said. Throughout his life, Watts has never strayed far from home. His dream is to go to Europe with his family. “Out of everyone, people who live on a low amount of money deserve vacation the most, I think. My parents work so hard to pay the bills, feed the dogs, feed me and my sister, you know all the basic stuff no one thinks twice about,” Watts said. Watt’s ultimate goal is to get out of Michigan and experience other places when he has the money.

  Clothes is another thing Michael is teased about. “I would say I have relatively decent clothes but, I don’t have a lot of them.” Sometimes, Michael is forced to wear the same thing multiple times in a week. “My friends always comment on how often I wear the same things and I just laugh it off but it makes me really uncomfortable and kind of ashamed.” Watts said.

  Another struggle Michael faces is having enough money for the things he wants. “Before I had a job, I wasn’t able to pay fully for dates with my girlfriend, or get things for sports that I needed. I’d also have to wait until my mom or dad got paid to be able to get school supplies and clothes,” Watts said.  Not having the right school supplies or equipment for sports makes it harder for Watts to succeed.

  Eating healthy has been a struggle for his whole family. “Healthy food is expensive. My family kind of has to decide, do we want to eat healthy or do we want to pay the bills?” Watts said. Most of the time, Michael’s family eats fast food for dinner. Eating fast food regularly can result in multiple health problems such as obesity, cancer, heart disease, memory loss, constipation, etc. It can also affect your mental health negatively with illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or an overall chemical imbalance in the brain. “It’s not like I want to eat like this. It’s either eat unhealthy food or don’t eat at all,” Watts said. Watts hopes to follow a healthier diet in the future, when he has the resources to do so.

Although it is a hard way to live, living on low income has made Watt’s work hard for what he wants. “Hopefully in the future, I’ll live a better life and provide my own kids with a stable life and a stable place to stay,” Watts said. The way Watts lives now has given him motivation to try harder in school and sports.  

   “I wish I had the chance to give my mom and dad a better life and better jobs which would also give me and my sister better lives,” Watts said. As Watts gets older, his determination to change his life around has grown stronger. “I’ve taken the bullying, the moving every two months, the familiar McDonald’s fries, and I’m trying to make a change and turn all those things into something better for my mom, my sister, and my dad,” Watts said. Watts is planning to go to college and working hard to have a successful career.

  “It’s hard to be a high school student with such low funds to your education and your sports, but you just can’t let it control the outcome of your life. Ask for help. That’s the main thing, I think,” Watts said. The struggles that Watts deals with on a daily basis will stick with him the rest of his life. It has taken a toll on his efforts in school, work, sports, and friendships.

  Above all this, Michael strives to be just as successful as people who have money and will stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

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