A Turtle Without a Shell: How Intuitive Writing Helped me Survive Homelessness





Phase 1~The Spark

The journey through intuitive writing connects us all to the healing process.

-The Intuitive Writer

If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is it homeless or naked? Over the past few months, I’ve contemplated the meaning of this question more than 1000 times, and for good reason.

This question first presented itself to me in the form of a fortune cookie while enjoying lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant with my mother. Originating from an ancient Chinese proverb, the phrase can be translated into two simple questions – Does having a physical home give one a sense of belonging? Does not having a physical home diminish us, or the aspects of our inner being that we choose to mask?

If a turtle didn’t have a shell, the turtle would die,” we both agreed. Case closed. Who could have thought that a little cookie would raise so much awareness? Eager for another round of spring rolls, we contemplated the meaning of this proverb once more. It was months later did I realize this ancient proverb was a metaphor for life. But only if you’re willing to ask the following questions. What is nakedness? What is homelessness? Along with, the qualitative question of – Why the turtle never had a shell, to begin with? Was the turtle not given a shell by accident? Or was this circumstance created by design? It gets pretty complicated when you accurately think about it. 

In traditional Chinese culture, the turtle is also a totem for protection as well as a symbol for longevity, both closely linked to its shell. For me, a turtle without the shell points toward the question of what remains of something, or somebody, after you remove the most prominent trait that defines this thing or person within society. Is this person naked, in the sense of having revealed its true nature to the world? Or is the person now lost to homeless forever?

Like this strange thing we all call life, the proverb holds many meanings. If homelessness is the answer to the proverb, the shell from a metaphysical sense would symbolize a lost creature that needs to find a new home. If the answer is nakedness, it means that due to circumstance a person is now showing their true form to an expecting society. Either way, little did I know that stumbling across this simple proverb would later spark the metamorphosis for a powerful journey. One that would forever change my creative fate.

My journey began on March 15, 2018. It was the end of my junior year in college, and the deadlines were mounting. I was behind on much-needed study time for approaching midterms. I was also behind on my personal finances.

As a young adult living in Denver Colorado, I grappled with the rising costs of tuition, monthly living expenses, and other educational obligations. I knew that gambling with student loans in order to pay for my future would someday pay off. Mortgaging my future with student loans in exchange for a diploma had suddenly come to head. Despite having only 3 semesters left to complete my undergrad, I quickly realized I was in great financial peril, as everything I thought I knew about my future shifted before my eyes.

It all happened so fast. Despite working a full-time job, and driving Lyft part-time on the weekends, I could no longer afford my apartment. I decided to keep my car so that I could still make it to classes on campus, packed the essentials I could not live without (clothes, food, toiletries, books, laptop, and my journals) inside the trunk of my car, and moved the remainder of my belongings to a low-cost storage unit downtown.

I didn’t fully understand my decision at the time. I just knew I did not have enough to sustain my expenses that month (or going forward) and would soon receive an eviction notice. I needed a change in my life, and I needed this change to occur rapidly.

I spent the first few weeks with family, sleeping on a comfy pull out sofa in the living room of a one bedroom apartment located smack dab in the center of downtown Denver, Colorado. Space was quaint, but I was incredibly grateful and eager to make it work. Until the morning my living arrangement changed. Though I was temporarily staying with my mother until I got back on my feet, after receiving a new job offer in a different state she decided to relocate and wanted me to do so as well. I tussled with my thoughts over and over and told myself a thousand times, that I was making the biggest mistake of my life remaining in Denver for the remainder of college without stability. But switching schools during the middle of senior year was not an option.

I will never forget the moment I watched my mother and my dog, Angel drive off into the rocky mountain sunset into a new life. With the promise I would join them as soon as the semester ended, I affirmed my mother of my decision to stay just a day before. I’ll be staying with a close friend, were the words I told her. Needless to say, she was not happy about it. Yet nothing about my future, or currently living arrangement felt certain. I kept this aspect of my plan a secret in order to make the transition less stressful. With a promising prospect on an apartment located in Englewood, Colorado at my fingertips, I assured my mother of my safety with the hopes this distressing time would soon pass.

Since I had a car, it was easy to bypass Denver’s shelter system. I was OK for about two and a half weeks. But when my car needed a jump, I was forced to stay with a close friend who lived an hour from the city. It was a nice escape. This is where things got tough for me however due to the daily commute to school and work. So I developed a system to remain at my friend’s house only 4 days out of the week if the weather permitted, and on campus in my car the other 3 days. During this time I learned a great deal of compassion, empathy, and new ways to survive. For with every new challenge comes deeper understanding. Though I was only homeless from May 2018 till June 2018, I will certainly never forget this experience as it has shaped the Creative I am today.

I encourage college students who are currently facing homelessness to seek out opportunities for help and free housing through your university such as working as a resident assistant in a dorm. Though this path is not ideal for all students, a friend of mine whose circumstances were similar, took this route and was successful. But again, not every student has this option.

Look for resource centers for homeless youth and college students in your area and check your school for year-round housing options and food pantry assistance. Ask your friends if you can stay with them or at least store your belongings at their place until you’re more stable. This will save tons of money and ultimately help you transition smoother. Utilize every resource you can find. Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you have to give up on school. Fortunately, surviving as a homeless student is not the end; you can finish your degree and accomplish your dreams. Trust me! Try to find artistic activities to keep you balanced during this time. For me, my journal literally became my best friend, and second brain to me. I wrote every day and during this year alone I have written the most intuitive stories of my life.

As I approach graduation in the spring, I’ve written my very first poetry book called The Wombniverse, which features my poetic interpretation of the world and detailed insights of my story. The process of writing the narrative for the enriching experiences I faced with homelessness, undergrad, and society was the necessary Feng Shui I needed to cultivate within my soul in order to create space for inner transformation. Through the process of intuitive writing, I was able to generate positive creative movement for my young adult science fiction novel, The Alike, set to release on Amazon in fall of 2019. I couldn’t be more excited.

So now that you’ve read a piece of my story we have most certainly grown closer. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening. During the nights I snuggled beneath the stars in the back seat of my car, I found my best self in the middle of the dimly lit pages of my journal. I rejoice each day for the opportunity to share my experiences. When the words I was writing not only began to heal me but also helped me recognize that they had the potential to help others, I knew my journey had begun. A process I call, The Metamorphosis, which thus far has enhanced my intuition, expanded my emotional awareness and fortified my inner warrior goddess. Writing authentic words from this raw place of vulnerability not only helped ease the feelings of pain, fear, and anxiety as I contemplated the whereabouts of my next sacred living space. But it also created a ripple effect within my life that I never anticipated and has thus far fortified me as a writer. By learning to channel my thoughts and later processing these thoughts on paper, I was not only able to create a plan for recovery but also generate the blueprints for the next chapter of my life.