I remember when I was homeless.
I remember how I felt hollow and afraid all the time.
I remember sitting at the lake, tears streaming, as I tried to imagine a future I couldn't see.
I remember feeling embarrassed and humiliated when I had to ask for help, and the people who were supposed to be there to help me were scornful and sarcastic.
I remember people in my life who offered support, but did it by telling everyone about my situation and gathering things for me. Things I had nowhere to put, and felt ungrateful for their help - and that made me feel like a jerk.
I remember how frustrating it was to be told that McDonald's and Kroger and everywhere else was hiring. As if I wasn't desperately seeking employment that would support myself and my daughter.
I remember going to interviews and falling into uncontrollable sobs in my car as I drove away, because I knew, I sensed, I had not done my best. I was so exhausted from being homeless.
I remember feeling worthless and ashamed as I showed my pay stub as proof I really needed help.
I remember driving by other people's houses at night and seeing their lights through the windows. I remember wondering if I would ever again have a home.
I remember reading posts on Facebook slamming people who used food stamps, and I remember deleting from my "Friends" list everyone who would fan those judgmental flames.
I remember looking at my last $20, and trying to calculate how much gas I needed to get to my tutoring job, and how much money would be left to buy some groceries.
I remember feeling my self esteem slowly slip away.
I remember how it felt to longer believe I was a valuable member of society. Instead, I was a burden and a drag.
I remember being told there was a rumor going around that my daughter and I were faking homelessness - and how on top of trying to keep our heads up and being strong for her, I had to defend against those accusations.
I remember. I embrace those memories, because they gave me insight into the human condition and deepened my compassion and ability to understand. Sometimes, I cry when I remember, but then I also remember there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was and is hope.
I always remember.