07/10/2015 05:43 EDT | Updated 07/10/2016 05:59 EDT

Being Homeless Has Allowed Me to Reinvent Myself

The author has requested we omit her last name to protect her privacy.

I sat in the lobby of Metro Hall one early winter morning. Having just been let out from the shelter where I slept, I had two hours to kill until the drop-in opened at 9:00 a.m. I was watching all the civil employees walking by. Some were waiting for the elevator to go up to their offices. I envied that they had a job to go to. I envied that they would probably retire with a good pension. Hell, I envied all the good benefits they have as civil employees.

Most importantly, I envied that they probably came from warm homes and slept in actual beds instead of on a mat in a church basement like I did. I even envied the banter they were having while waiting for the elevator.

It was never supposed to be this way for me! Poor, homeless and unemployed. As I wrote in my earlier blog, "My road to homelessness is a painful topic. It's simple math though: Prolonged unemployment + exhausted unemployment insurance + exhausted savings + an inability to get an apartment on welfare = my homelessness. I had quit my sales job for health reasons. I desperately looked for another job and even enrolled in the government's Second Career program. But nothing could help and I lost my apartment of 17 years in 2012."

With my education and years of work experience, I should be an accomplished professional moving up the ranks of a corporation (or so they tell you at university). I should have the luxury condo, the yearly luxury vacation and, of course, the retirement plan. Instead I'm dirt poor with no place of my own.

I'm single but should have been married with kids. I should be living in that big house I always wanted with the big dream kitchen -- you know the one featured on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" -- to indulge my love of gourmet cooking and entertaining.

How will I ever catch up? My thoughts are constantly on getting out of poverty:

Here's my homeless bucket list:

1) Get off the streets -- CHECK (I recently got a room in a transitional home for the homeless.)

2) Sleep in a real bed -- CHECK

3) Shower everyday (a real luxury when you are homeless) -- CHECK

4) Change of undies everyday (another luxury) -- CHECK (Enough with the socks! Homeless women need, I mean, lingerie.)

5) Get my own place

6) Turn my passions of gourmet cooking, baking, etc. into a business or businesses (i.e. pop-up bakery & upscale vintage boutique? Personal chef?)

7) Get off welfare

8) Get a man! Too much loving has been stored up! Hmm...wonder if the new Old Spice hunk of burning love is available?

9) Have a real vacation. Provence is my dream. Maybe I'd finally use my degree in Communications & French (I've never had a job that relates to my degree)

10) Breathe

I can no longer see myself going back to corporate life, even though I'd love to have a job. (Do many "corporate lifers" truly like the life anyway?). I've become used to not working like I became used to not being able to afford and wear perfume. When I told someone that I'd hit bottom, he responded, "Then the only way is up!" So I'm digging my way back.

I'd love to use the phrase "bouncing back." But getting back to normalcy is not a sprint. It's a marathon! First you have to give "last rites" to your old life and related fantasies. The past is the past, though it can come knocking often, especially at 4:00 a.m. The sub-conscious is powerful, baby! (I collect and read children's books to put me back to sleep. The words and illustrations bring a smile to my face. Most of all, they always have a happy ending.)

I need to re-invent myself! The concept of multiple and creative streams of income comes to mind. I need to not think of "J-O-B," but ways to make an income based on my passions of Gourmet cooking, baking, writing, speaking, art etc. In one way homelessness has liberated me and reawakened me to what I most love doing. Since I don't have four walls of my own, a spouse or dependents, the world really is my oyster. Stripped of the old predictable life and strait jacket, it's on to the new creative way of living. As the saying goes, "No risk! No reward!"

Watch out world! There's a new Grace in town.


Canada's Homeless