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I’ve always considered myself a prepper.  Raised by grandparents who survived The Great Depression and WWII, I was shown ration stamps and told stories about making do with nothing.  Sired by a man who was born in Texas in 1936 to a mixed race migrant worker and his Texan bride, I was made aware of the reality of poverty, starvation, and uncertainty.

So, I learned to prep.

I cook from scratch, and I can.  I derive tremendous delight from the sight of a counter top covered with worn and tattered dish rags, home to rows of jars cooling and popping.

I buy in bulk and store the excess in old bakery buckets I purchased for a dollar from a local grocer.

I prepare for a government shut down, the loss of my ability to work, and the zombie apocalypse.

But, I’ve never really prepared for life.

I started to.  Once upon a time in what now seems like another life.  I built a reputation in my chosen field.  I excelled.  I was dedicated.  And, I was good.

I purchased life insurance and invested and saved money.  I bought tangible items that had monetary value.

And, I lost it all for the hope of a dream that became my nightmare.  I didn’t prepare for the possibility of the painful reality that he was a liar and his only intention was to use me and break me.  I didn’t prepare for being left alone and destitute at the end of the middle of my life.

I fear I’m not a true prepper.

Preppers are ready for any eventuality.  I wasn’t prepared for this.  I wasn’t prepared to lose my health and my stamina, the tremendous energy I prided myself on.  I wasn’t prepared to be abandoned by a man I deemed unworthy of me, a man less accomplished, less intelligent, less everything.  I foolishly thought he’d be glad to have me and would never leave me.  Like everyone else had.

I wasn’t prepared to lose both of my parents in seven months.

In fifteen months, I lost my health, my husband, my mother, my father, and my brother.

I stood alone.  Empty.  Unprepared.

The thing about preppers is that they strive to bounce back in the event of catastrophe.  Sure, they anticipate hiccups.  But, they believe they are ready and able to face a disaster and maintain a sense of livability.

And, that’s the thing about me.

I hiccuped.  But, now, finally, I’m ready to face the disaster of my life and regain a sense of livability.

My body feels broken, and I pray myself through every work day.  This recent accident–another thing I was unprepared for–has opened my eyes to some profound truths.  My fear that I can’t keep this up much longer isn’t just in my mind.

When I can’t work, I don’t have an income.  No sick leave.  No vacation pay to tap into.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I earn my bread by the sweat of my brow.  When my body betrays me and I am unable to work, I have no income.

I haven’t received child support in a month.  He only paid half.  Again.  This seems to happen frequently.  He’ll pay steady for a few months.  And, then, a hiccup.

Unfortunately, this hiccup came at a time I could barely work.

It’s like seeing the stock market drop.  Or, the US dollar lose its value.  Or, watching the unemployment levels soar.  Those factors scare a prepper into stepping up the game plan.

And, these recent factors have scared me into realizing that I need to step up the game plan.  No knight in shining armor is going to come rescue me from this new free life that feels more like a different kind of hell.  The courts will not force my ex to be responsible for the children he helped bring into this world.  And, I’m not 29 anymore.  I can’t work myself harder and harder in an attempt to catch up on twenty years lost to domestic violence and the vices of a wicked man.

I will have no retirement.  I have no home.  I cannot rely on my children in my old age.  And, I have no inheritance.

So, like a smart prepper, I read the signs and decided to start getting ready, slowly, a little at a time, as I am able.

I requested an impromptu meeting with a counselor at the local community college.  Some sort of mix up occurred that placed my first round of credits under another social security number and my second round of credits under my married name, though I was unmarried when I graduated.  In order to fix it, I must apply for a new social security card in my new hyphenated name and present the new card as proof to the college.  Then, they can combine my two accounts and figure out how many of my old credits can be applied to a new major.

I’ve put off changing my name.  I don’t know why.  Last spring I was eager to gain a sense of independence by taking back my maiden name and adding it to my married name.  I thought it would make me feel a little like my “old self.”  Whatever that meant.  But, I’ve dragged my feet.  Until now.  Until I had to.  I was somewhat afraid of becoming a new woman, a mix of the old and the new.

So, I’ve had my meeting at the college.  I’ve put in a request for a name change with the Social Security Administration.  I’ll take my placement test in January.  And, I’ll be working on scholarship and grant applications in the meantime.

I’m beginning the initial steps of prepping for a new life.  A real life.  Not a pseudo life full of fear and uncertainty.  But, a life with the hope of a marketable trade that I can pursue into old age.  A career that would bring in a living wage instead of barely eking out a substandard existence.

I have a long row to hoe.  My thought processes aren’t as functional as they once were.  I’ll still have three traumatized children to raise alone.  I’ll still need to keep a roof over our heads, wheels beneath us, and food in us while I attend school.

But, I’ve also come to realize lately that my teenage and adult children aren’t all particularly fond of me.  While I can’t “punish” the youngest two for the behavior and attitudes of the older ones, I also have to prepare for the possibility that they, too, may grow up to blame me for their pain or look upon me with disdain for the failure that I am.

I don’t think I can live my life for my children.

I may find myself sixty years old, destitute, with a body completely broken from a life of physical labor, and standing completely alone as all of my children run quickly into their own futures, far away from the mother that didn’t prepare a better childhood for them.

No, I need to prepare for a complete familial shut down, the loss of those I love, and the offspring apocalypse.

In the event my youngest two children have compassion for me and don’t harbor deep seated resentment, I still would like to leave them more than my parents left me.  So, I need to prep.

The signs are all around me.  The time is now.  I can no longer put off learning to cope with the challenges of the disaster of my life.   I must respond to the crisis with a sound plan.

It’s time to be a real prepper for real life.