Disorganization has been my mortal enemy lately. So much so, that I often feel that if it weren’t for disorganization, I’d probably be able to get my musical produced. Although we all have a tendency to be set back by forces beyond our control, it seems to me that disorganization is something that I can control. It therefore leads me naturally to wonder why it is that I have become so disorganized. I used to be one of the most organized people on the planet.
I used to be so punctual that people practically set their clocks according to the time that I was going to show up. Once, back in around 2003 or so, my client told me they had almost called the cops out of concern for me — only because I was ten minutes late. It was unlikely that I would have shown up later than a minute before the prescribed time.
I used to run my morning ritual like clockwork. There were about five or ten actions that I performed religiously every single morning, in the same order every morning, without pausing. Nowadays, the occasion of getting out the door in the morning is almost nothing but one giant pause.
“Where’s my shoes?”
“What happened to my headphones?”
“I could have sworn I had one last coffee filter!”
So how exactly did I become so scattered? The answer could be given in less than four words – but here are the first four that come to mind:
TWELVE YEARS OF HOMELESSNESS!
When I was homeless, I had no problem finding my shoes because I slept in them. Why, you may ask, did I sleep in them? For at least two reasons. First, at any time of the day or night, anybody could come out of anywhere and interrupt my sleep, sometimes with knife in hand. I needed to be able to get up and run as fast as I could, as far as I could, calm my nerves, and find another place to sleep.
Secondly, if I took off my shoes and set them at my side, there would be a strong chance they wouldn’t be there in the morning. They just might be the right size for another homeless guy whose shoes had been stolen as well. Shoes, after all, go for at least five bucks at the pawn shop. And five bucks when you’re homeless and out in a thunderstorm can save a homeless person’s life. That person can get on a warm bus and sleep all night, rather than die of hypothermia in the elements.
Headphones? You think I would dare own a pair of headphones under such conditions? Well yes, I often so dared, and I would have to buy a new pair before I knew it. Why bother? A pair of headphones equals a twenty dollar bag of dope in that realm, and I might even risk bodily harm if I tried to defend myself.
(The absurdity of there being any role for coffee filters in such a realm is so obvious, it is probably redundant for me to have alluded to it even once.)
But the bright side of all this is a fact that not many people would even guess, had they not themselves been homeless over an extended period of time. For that same homeless person who stole your twenty-five dollar SONY headphones will later drop a twenty dollar bill in your cup without saying a word.
Barring the sociopathic and criminal element — which does indeed exist but is far from the norm — the homeless person doesn’t steal because he is a thief by nature. He steals out of desperation, and feels pretty bad about it. Even a young man who stole an entire laptop from me felt so bad about it, he ingratiated me with various gifts for two years, until I finally told him we were even.
So it’s not too much of a surprise I’m having a bit of difficulty getting organized, considering the level of “organization” I was dealing with for the better part of twelve years. I’ve only lived indoors again for about a year and a half now, and old habits — or the lack thereof — die hard.
And if you want to find out what homelessness is really like, find out from someone who has been there. Not for a week, or a month, or a season. From someone who has been homeless for nearly half of his adult life — and who amazed everyone he knew by pulling out of it.
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