Prom Queen Hits Rock Bottom, Goes on Welfare / by Dana Bergstrom

The one and only advantage to being crowned high school prom queen is that you get to make up crazy blog post titles about it when you're a middle-aged lady. That's the sum total of all the hyped-up teenage glory.

A few years ago a high school friend mentioned my prom queeness in a comment thread on Facebook. The fun payoff from that leaked information was sheer ridicule. I got called a "mean girl" and "stuck up" and something else unpleasant I can't remember by my then current friends to my face.

Holy High School Hostility! I had no idea this nearly three decade old news would bring up past wounds and judgments in people.

Here's the thing. I have discovered no upside to being dubbed prom queen. Sure, you think you're hot shit for several days in high school. Then you come to your senses and recognize that you're not any hotter shit than anybody else. But that's it! It is much ado about nothing. And all of the hating that continues into adulthood is a strange use of energy indeed.

And, yes, this high school prom queen is actually on welfare.

Are you judging me for being a prom queen or for being on welfare? Or possibly both? How do those judgments feel in your body right now?

If I were reading this post many months ago, I would've definitely been judging me for being on welfare. I would've felt righteous indignation and a little burning in the pit of my stomach. I would've also had some harsh words for someone like me who is able-bodied and has half a brain.

"Who do you think you are milking the system? Get a job like the rest of us! Sell your goddamn houses, vehicles and boats! Stop with your stupid blogging and annoying selfies! You're wasting my hard-earned tax dollars, you lame-ass loser!"

In truth, I often had judgmental thoughts about other people who weren't working and were on welfare. My Inner Bully would take me over and go nuts with the judging. I'm not proud of that.

This month I began getting assistance with medical insurance (welfare) because neither Pauly nor I have jobs with health insurance. Actually, neither of us has a job right now.

I left my job as a non-profit grant writer/reporter a few years ago to dig myself out of a deep depression, and I'm happy to say that it worked. Last month Pauly quit his job which provided us with all of our income plus health insurance. All we have now is a short-term loan to work on the house next door. That's our full-time job and the intent is to turn our labor of love into dollars when we sell. But right now we have no income, so we qualify for assistance.

Pauly does have a business, Jin Shin Jyutsu, which he loves doing but he's currently working with a number of people who cannot pay, so it's basically a volunteer job he does when he isn't remodeling.

Why am I telling the world this horribly embarrassing information? Well, it's only embarrassing if I think there's something to be ashamed of, which I don't. I'm writing about this because judgment weighs heavily on a person. It weighed on me when I was constantly judging other people for not living up to what I thought they should be.

And the only reason I was judging other people is because I was unhappy with my life. I was fearful I wasn't measuring up, so my fear was projected out as judgment. "Everything you judge you fear."

I came into this world with the belief that we're all inherently unworthy and broken, so we all must work hard to prove our worth. And this belief was reinforced over and over until I tried so hard to prove my worthiness that I fell into a depression that literally made me too physically tired to work anymore.

I was living a life of "shoulds" and was living for external authorities. I thought I should have a professional job with a specific income, a retirement plan, and as an opinionated, self-proclaimed interior designer, a certain look and style in my house, just so I could feel like a normal middle-class American and okay about myself.  That's what worthy, good people do.

Thanks to the insights I've gained over the last few years, which I'll continue to blah-blah-blog about, I am no longer living my life according to anyone else's expectations. I know my time on welfare is a temporary thing that is currently offering me the opportunity to discover what I came to planet Earth to do, which right now is to blog the hell outta everything!

I used to equate money with freedom so it's blowing my mind that I simultaneously have no income and also feel free for the first time in my life. I wouldn't do anything differently than what I'm doing, even if there weren't a safety net of government health insurance. I feel fantastic and am more authentically me than I ever have been. And that is the glory of being alive, no sparkly tiara required.