S2: Episode 9 - Tess

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode nine, Tess.

Tess: Uh, I’m a journalist. I have been a journalist in some capacity for 12 years. I’ve worked for tiny little weekly papers and I’ve worked for big dailies, and the only thing that changes is the pace and the demands of the people in charge. It’s an interesting line of work because of the people. It brings you into contact with CEOs and governors on a daily basis. As far as my education, I graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in communications. Uh, the focus is in journalism. From from the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a reporter.

Our situation is not a, a catastrophic singular event. Ours is life. It has been a little bit of everything for 11 years, whether it’s losing a job or it taking two months to find a new one instead of two weeks, it is employers who have gone bankrupt and stopped issuing paychecks. It’s having paychecks bounce. So when you have no disposable income, these things that most people don’t think twice about can devastate you if you live paycheck to paycheck. Yes, I know hunger. I I know what it is to not be able to look at anything around me that reminds me of food, because I know I can’t have any. I know what it is to go to sleep at night crying because I don’t know where anything is coming from the next day.

I’m married, uh, have been married for 11 years. Uh, we have a beautiful five-year-old son. He is my priority. His needs have always and will always come before mine. Our child has never missed a meal and never will. I realize I can’t say something like that with any certainty, but it, it’s the commitment to protect my child. For us when there’s no food, that, that is the signal that everything is about to unravel. It’s not as though you literally wake up one morning and there’s no food in the pantry. You see it happening that, that every time you open the refrigerator or the pantry, there’s a little less and a little less. It, it’s this gradual loss of control. It would be very easy to not pay a bill and, and have two weeks worth of groceries, but that’s intrinsically tied to the sense of responsibility to keep life moving.

Hunger is an issue of invisibility. You have to want to see it because you can be educated and professional and appear to everyone around you as normal, and yet you’re hungry. It is terrifying. Sometimes I’m very grateful that hunger is invisible because it is humiliating on the inside to wander through the grocery store and know that I have got $12 and 23 cents, and I have got to somehow figure out do I get the, the quart size or the pint size? Do I’m, I’m bargain shopping in 1 cents. Yes, but it, it’s for survival. And those are the times when I’m, I’m just so grateful that no one has any idea of of the personal hell that’s going on inside my head. I get so tired, but somehow that’s what makes me keep going. Whether it feels hopeless or not, I know that it’s not. Uh, I know that that’s just a feeling. This is temporary, but I can’t let myself even think for a minute that it’s a permanent way of life. I think I am incredibly responsible and I’m just too stubborn to not come out the other side. It would be so easy to give up, but I can’t do that.

[Outro Music]

Host:  This is a weekly podcast season two narrative histories and stories about the experience of hunger close up. It’s also about resilience and understanding. I met Tess in Alabama. She was a reporter doing a story about hunger in her community. I asked her if she had ever experienced food insecurity. That question resulted in spending two days with Tess and her family talking about her own very personal experiences. We are grateful for Tess’ courage, her great determination and presence. May something in her story stay with you. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for photographs and transcripts. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else.