Building vs Buying

When I first decided that homelessness was a likely occurrence, and decided to meet the situation with some preparedness rather than meeting it in my underwear in the middle of the freeway, my first question was what kind of camper would I use.

In the beginning, I thought that it would be easier to buy a manufactured pickup camper, either a pop-up with those cool little side awnings or an old fashioned one with the legs that crank down when you want to take it off the truck.

But the pop-ups weren’t sturdy enough or low key enough and the old ones that I could find were in less than preferable condition. They were also too expensive for my soon to be homeless budget.

There was also the option of a standard pickup topper. But those are not well-equipped for living out of, no room to stand, barely room to sit, and it’d be like living in a coffin. No.

So I decided to build my own.

I mean, how difficult can it be to build a wooden box in the bed of your truck?
Not too difficult actually. Sure, it’s not as tight as it could be, but a few more screws and it’ll tighten up quite a bit. It might be a bit drafty but that’s what weatherstripping is for.  It’s a fair bit the ugly red-headed stepchild of camper tops right now, but given some time to mature I think it will grow into itself and be a nicely rounded, well mellowed, personable camper.

And that leads me to the real point of this post.

I’m glad I decided to build. It’s been a rather hectic week, all building, designs in my dreams and in almost every waking moment. Lots of cutting, drilling, sanding, screwing (screws, not the opposite gender, unfortunately), a bit of pounding with the appropriate hammer (rubber or roofing), lots and lots of lifting, too many splinters, and one smack on the forehead from a thrownback bit that left a welt and a cut.

But I’ve been busy enough that I haven’t had time to meltdown about the prospect of being homeless. And I’ve been actively *doing* something about being homeless. I think, for me, the scariest part of not having a traditional living arrangement is the lack of control. Where can I park, how do I get mail, how do I stay clean, how will I eat healthy, how can I sleep safely, how can I study and concentrate on my classes, what will I do if I’m harassed by police or other homeless or predators. By building my own living space I’m taking some control; maybe not control of all the factors that I listed in the previous sentence, but at least control over how my environment will be arranged. Will I sleep on an air mattress, a cot, a foam camping mat, or a hammock. Will my clothes be on a hanging rod or in a box or on shelves built into the camper just for that purpose. Will I have to open my truck to see who’s banging on my door or will I look through the peephole I’ve installed in the door.  Any bit of control I can take of my situation helps me stay capable rather than helpless. It’s essential to my mental well-being. It reminds me that I am not helpless just because I can’t find a job that I can succeed at in my current situation; I can still take care of myself to a large extent.

And I like building, I like making things, creating things. Especially useful things. I have found great pride in seeing my camper come together, in learning as I go, and in the increased speed of my assembly as I learn how to work more efficiently. I like looking at my camper and saying to myself “I made that.”

I like looking at my camper and saying to myself “I can live just fine.”

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