There was a point in my life once when I was 23 years old when I was homeless, sleeping under a park bench in Tempe, AZ.. called Kiwanis Park.
I had a driver’s license, a t-shirt that said “Have you hugged my t-shirt today?”, shoes, jeans, and a backpack and no phone and no one to call for help, I grew up in poverty, was humiliated, and almost daily basis in school, and my childhood was for the most part, hell.
By the age of 23, I was down to 110lbs and was donating my plasma at a local plasma donation center for $20 every 3 days. I had a rotting molar in my back jaw that was excruciating pain, and I had a good 3-day plan going where I could eat ONE Mcdonald’s $1 chicken sandwich 3 times a day with lots of condiments on it while nabbing oranges hanging from the neighborhood trees in alleyways, and a bottle of Nyquil to help me sleep at night for the pain. I showered using the sink in the park.
It was horrible, but I wasn’t dead yet.
And then… it got worse.. I was going to donate plasma, and I didn’t weigh enough to donate to make my $20.
Oh crap, I couldn’t afford to eat my Mcdonald’s sandwiches or drink my Nyquil to go to sleep under the bench. I really didn’t want to eat out of the trash or pick up a cardboard sign… I was actually starting to see the circle of homeless people’s routines and thinking.. “Omg, this is what my life has come to.” and that night after eating a lot of oranges and having a lot of bad thoughts about my future and the present.. It got worse.
A major storm rolled in, I went to the bathroom to hide but there were a bunch of crazy homeless people in the bathrooms, so I went to get under my bench and put the backpack sideways to block the rain, but without my Nyquil to kill the pain of the tooth in my mouth, which had turned into an earthquake on the side of my face and I could feel my pulse in my eyeball.. I couldn’t sleep.
So here I am, 23 years old, no real education, no job, no money, no car, no phone, a toothache, I’m homeless and my friends are all either dead, in jail, went home or went crazy.
I’m sleeping under this bench with this massive toothache and the rain coming in sideways is soaking me and I’m thinking.. “Wow, I’m going to die here.”
I had thought a lot about killing myself and had some razors in my backpack just in case it came to it, and I had been filling my own head with a lot of negative crud, like…
“you can’t get a job, look at you, you look like a starving homeless person.”
- “You don’t even have an address to put down”
- “You don’t have a phone for anyone to even call you back.”
I had a lot of time to think that night, and I finally convinced myself that I was NOT going to get a cardboard sign and beg for people to help me, I was NOT going to be sifting through the trash for food, I can survive on oranges. And I decided that who cares if I don’t have a phone or an address, I told myself I was going to walk up and down the streets and go into EVERY store and offer to work; anything is better than sleeping under that bench. Hell, I’d work for free to be in air conditioning or for food at this point.
So I walked up and down the streets of Tempe, AZ. I did in fact, go into EVERY store that was open along Baseline Rd, for miles, regardless if there was a hiring sign or not, regardless of what my negative demons were telling me about how I looked. I put a fake address down and a fake phone number, and since I didn’t have a phone, I just decided I would follow up in person to make sure and tell them I just missed the call if they called. I walked so long my skin was bubbling up from sunburn.
I got hired the second day when I followed up with a health food store and was hired on the spot by one of the most wonderful people I had ever met in my life, a beautiful ray of sunshine woman named Deb, the second day.. when I walked in to check on the application.
My shoulders were bubbling up from sunburn and I looked like a sad scarecrow and I knew it, but I smiled big anyway.
Deb gave me a $5 cash coupon for a sandwich in the deli as she filled out the new hire paperwork. Needless to say… damn that was one good sandwich, I can still think back and taste how good it was. I put everything on it, pickles, onions, spinach, mustard, ketchup..tomatoes, lettuce, everything, lol – I had a stomach ache afterward but I didn’t care I had a JOB, and in two weeks I wouldn’t have to sleep under that bench anymore.
I worked more than anyone, I worked doubles, I took everyone’s shifts lol, People wanted to go home early.. fine with me! I’ll work your shift! Hell, I’ll sleep under the register and start the morning duties! I was getting those $5 sandwich coupons everyday it was like heaven for me.
People are complaining about how long their shifts are, lol… I’m like, give it all to me! I was just happy to be in an air conditioned building during the day.
I’ll never forget this one lady, here I am waiting for my first paycheck so I don’t have to sleep under the bench in the park and this lady, rich lady.. Comes through my checkout line looking really angry and upset.. I said “How’s your day today?” she said “Horrible! The air conditioning is OUT in my house so I am having to sleep in a HOTEL, for the 3RD NIGHT IN A ROW!”, she was actually livid about it. I found it internally hilarious considering my own situation but I didn’t laugh at it outloud. I told her “That’s awful, I’m sure it will get fixed soon.” and she said “It better, this is ridiculous!” – Funny what we consider horrible living conditions isn’t it?
I got my first paycheck and put the whole thing down on a crack house neighborhood apartment (all I could afford) and had enough left to microwave potatoes in the microwave. I had no furniture and just did push-ups all day alone in my place waiting for my next day of work.
After 10 days, some crackheads broke my window in the living room, came in and threatened my life if I didn’t let them sleep in the back room. They were up all night smoking crack or meth and having sex so loud I couldn’t sleep on the floor in the living room, my window was shattered and it was hot, I went to work real early and after work I never went back to that place again.
I slept one more night in the park and used my NEXT paycheck to get a phone, I called someone I used to know from a church and asked if they knew any good places to stay and told him how much money I had.. Someone from the church made me a deal to move temporarily into a cute little home in a good neighborhood but it was 5 miles from the health food store, so I walked every day, next paycheck I got some rollerblades and some dishes to eat food off of and saved the rest, I saved money enough for two months I was able to get a nicer apartment in an even nicer neighborhood, right next to the health food store so I could make it to work in 2 minutes. I had a ton of free time not having any friends so I read self help and health, nutrition and fitness books from the shelves at the store and worked more than anyone.
I got smarter and I worked harder, eventually after 4 separate interviews I made supervisor at the store.
I started to learn about health and nutrition, I gained my weight back and kept working out, I kept saving. After 5 years I left the health food store to do sales for a much larger company, I was scared to leave because it was a comfortable job but I believed in myself and my ability to do more with my life than just a supervisor at a health food store, and since because I became amazing at the customer experience through the register, I could talk to people really well.
I became one of the best salespeople on a floor of 3,000 people, because I had the courage to take criticism from the managers well and do exactly what they said.. I wanted to be as far away from ever being homeless again as I could and I was DETERMINED not to let myself down, or let down the people that I might be able to help one day, for all the people who might ever end up in the situation that I was in, or grew up the way I had to grow up – I used all that as fuel to keep working harder, keep finding smarter ways to do stuff, I read tons of books, anything to do with psychology, or self help, developing willpower, mental conditioning, fitness, health, public speaking, writing..
One of the biggest things that set people back in life is the inability to accept change, to change the way they think, act, say or do things. I was not going to let the fear of change deter me. I became a sponge for information and applied new techniques to my daily routine, daily.
I realized that even though health food is more expensive and nicer homes in nicer neighborhoods are more expensive… the truth is… eating low-quality food is what’s expensive, and living in junk neighborhoods with crackheads and hanging out with negative people is what’s expensive.
- You don’t help yourself at all by being negative.
- You don’t save yourself anything by eating cheap food.
- You don’t save yourself anything by living in a bad or poor neighborhood.
“Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to live the life you really want.” That may mean giving up your current set of friends, maybe even relatives, or a husband or wife. It could mean eating only a small amount of healthy food over a large amount of unhealthy food or skimping on drinks or nights out or not buying the newest phone to continue to be able to live in a nicer neighborhood, with people who are going somewhere in life and have integrity, morals, kindness, and compassion.
- If you don’t have your health, you have nothing.
- If you don’t have a healthy mindset, you have even less.
You can actually go past zero, you can hit rock bottom and keep going down if you let your mind take you there.
I have no college degree and was a D- student in high school with the second-highest detention record in my class (and it was for reading books during class and skipping school to avoid being bullied and to read books at home) Out of 72 in my graduating class I was the 69th down academically and I was the class nerd, who had been bullied, humiliated, called faggot, queer, backstreet boy, Nsync and gay… since I was in 3rd grade. And I’m not even gay. I was just scrawny, uneducated, and didn’t fight back, which made me an easy target.
On my recommendation for college, my Principal wrote, “Thomas was a good kid who never missed a lot of school.” – nothing else. That was all he wrote. (the principal was being sarcastic)
“It’s been 16 years since I was that 23-year-old kid sleeping under that bench and there have been a few hard times in between but I’ll never forget the lesson being homeless taught me.”
I now have lived in a beautiful mountaintop home on an island in Asia, I go to the ocean often on boats and chill, I have a successful company of my own now, two actually. I have been to Costa Rica 3 times (you should visit), Germany, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, sailed the Caribbean… I have learned psychology, health, and fitness from world leaders, and been to retreats and seminars in over 8 different US states. I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I do what I love for a living, which is writing online, and I am writing a book about how to inspire people that I am sure will be a bestseller one day 😉
I am so glad I never killed myself in that park!
- Don’t give up on your future self. Be yourself. People are going to hate on you, blame you, gossip about you, make fun of you, try to put you down, or push and pull you around. Don’t hate them, don’t even acknowledge them, just keep believing in yourself.
- Run away from negative people, even if you end up homeless for it, you’re better off. It’s never the end unless you decide it is.
- You might be homeless but you’re not dead.
- Something miraculous happened to me in 2016, something you would not believe even if I told you. I don’t like sounding like a preacher, but I have to tell you that this life is actually just a test and we are all being watched, measured, and guided.
You’re not alone. Your struggles are known, and if you believe in yourself enough and have faith that things are going to get better, they really will.
I believe our lives are a test and hardship is a blessing. The harder it is, the more it is worth it. The closer to the bottom you start from, the greater the glory and appreciation you will have when you claw your way to the top. Don’t be sad you were born with less opportunity than someone else, be grateful for that! Your self-appreciation will reach a level that only a few people ever get to feel.
“For whoever shall asketh, and whoever shall seeketh, and whoever shall knocketh, thy door shall be opened.”
A lot of people like to stop at the ‘asketh’ part.
People are happy to ask! Anyone can ask or pray for something. But only a few people follow “asking” with “action”, only a few people ask and then “seek”. And even fewer ask, seek, and then knock. Many people ask, seek, and then get to the point where they have to knock on a door and freeze and run. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, or to seek it out or to knock on the door, even if it takes a lot of doors.
“Sometimes you have to take that leap of faith and build your wings on the way down.”
If you make the decision that you truly want to get out of your situation, and whatever it is… no one is going to come to pick you up and save you from it.
The only way you are going to get out of a negative situation is by taking action and doing the things that lead you away from it. If you are stuck in a bad situation and instead of finding ways to get out, you continue to pick up that bottle, or joint, or pipe… or hang out with those gossiping friends again…
You can’t expect change if YOU don’t change.
Don’t stay in a cruddy situation and convince yourself that “This is how it has to be, this is all I can do.” There is ALWAYS a way, if you ask, and you seek it out, and you knock on the door, the door will be opened.
If you ask for it, tell yourself you can get it, make a plan on how you are going to get it, stop making excuses for yourself and go knocking on enough doors, eventually the door WILL open.
But it’s not going to happen until you take the first step.
Don’t wait for everything to be perfect.