I had never heard of TED talks before this class and after exploring the website, I think they’re great–their central concept of “ideas worth spreading” ties together inspirational speakers from so many different backgrounds and disciplines to voice their opinions in brief video segments. After watching a few of these videos, I decide to write this week’s blog about Becky Blanton’s talk, “The Year I was Homeless”.
Becky Blanton is a notable writer, photographer and former journalist who decided to pack up all her belongings to live in a van and travel after her father died. She thought it would be fun to go on an “extended camping trip” but failed to realize 3 critical things she wished she had known beforehand: (1) that society equates living in a permanent structure, even a shack, with having value, (2) that the negative perceptions of other people can quickly impact our reality if we let it, and (3) homelessness is an attitude, not a lifestyle. What started as an adventure soon turned into a nightmare. Blanton explained that the summer was unbearably hot–even on the coolest nights it rarely got below 80 degrees, food would rot or melt in the ice chest, and some days she was too sick to get out of bed and was forced to use a bucket for a bathroom. Winter proved to be even worse with temperatures remaining below freezing, and Blanton drifted into a deep depression. She was amazed at how quickly her life had transformed from “talented newspaper editor to homeless woman” and eventually decided to seek refuge at a homeless shelter. Surprising, numerous volunteers at the shelter, as well as other homeless people, were quickly able to tell that she wasn’t really homeless, claiming Blanton “still had hope…and a job” (she began her travels as a freelance writer, but was later let go). She turned her life around when she re-read an essay she had written about her father before he died, and a year later was living in her own apartment in Tennessee, writing, and winning awards.
The take home message of her talk was that people are often stigmatized and criticized for living in their cars, and that people are not defined by where the live, but by the hope that drives them. I found her talk incredibly inspiring, and it’s made me much more aware of how our society judges people. I personally believe that those people who do continue to work part-/full-time and are forced to live in their cars deserve more respect, if anything. They must be extremely motivated and hopeful to not crumble under such trying circumstances that nearly cost Blanton her life.