16 and Solo
by Maya Gonzales
Dad: My name is Bill Gonzales, father of two.
Maya: Let’s talk about your worst experiences struggling financially...
Dad: To understand that, you need to put it into context right? Cuz everyone has a different idea of what rich and poor is. Growing up there was five kids, there was my grandma, my grandmother, and my mom and dad that lived in this house and we struggled. And they weren’t good with money. So often times, we wouldn’t have money for food towards the end of the month. Electricity would be out even for a week before it would get turned back on. So for me, growing up, when I moved out at sixteen, my struggle I didn’t feel was a struggle because I always made sure my rent was paid, electricity was paid and I had food. It wasn’t always easy. At sixteen you’re not making a lot of money cuz you don’t have a lot of skills yet. I did struggle doing extra things. So what it did is, it almost paralyzes you in a way, from a social standpoint. Cuz you can’t go out and go to the show. You can’t go do these things because your priorities are so- that you can only take care of what the immediate need is. There’s no, “hey let’s go out to dinner”. Even things like that was always tough. You know, then you’re isolated because now no one wants to hang out with you like that. Because they don’t always wanna be paying you or you don’t wanna be a burden on your friends. You become very isolated very easily.
Maya: What would you do in those situations where the unexpected would happen, and you didn’t have that extra money to pay for it?
Dad: My life was very, very, simple. I went to school. I worked. And I saved enough money from that job to buy a motorcycle. So the instant- the things that came up that were unexpected were like a tire for the motorcycle and to get it installed so that would be like a hundred bucks. So what I would do if I didn’t have that money for that particular item, I would walk to work and just save my tips from being a busboy and different things until I had enough money to fix it. So it just meant that I was doing one less thing that I would typically do. You know, not thinking “I
have to wait another two weeks before I can do laundry cuz I don’t have enough money”. So, I mean just the basic things we take for granted… I always thought college was this thing for people that were really wealthy people. It was only a path for rich people. I had no idea- until I met your mom. And then that’s when I realized that there’s options. Um, there was a point going kinda back to those early days- because of what I didn’t know at the time was… “Am I gonna eat? Or am I gonna go to school?”. And so I had to work to put food on my table cuz no one was supporting me.
Maya: So you know what SEED is right? If that was to exist during the time of your struggles… What would you do with an extra 500 dollars a month?
Dad: One, I probably would’ve ate better. Cuz often times when you are struggling- my biggest meal, my main meal was that of the restaurant cuz they always gave you a free meal. So I always ate something big there cuz I knew, you know, I wasn’t gonna have dinner or that was my one meal of the day that I was gonna eat. The rest of the time you’re eating stuff that’s really inexpensive to eat that’s not always healthy for you. Having five hundred dollars a month back then, would’ve been life-changing. But- if I think back, would I take it?... I don’t, I’m not really sure. You know? Cuz I always feel like there’s always someone worse off. There’s always someone worse off than you. And you feel like you’re taking something away from maybe a mother of three or four kids that could use that money rather than some single guy on his own. The five hundred dollars could make a significant difference in somebody.