HOMELESS TO HAVARD: the Liz Murray story

Liz at 15: troubled by a dysfunctional family and homeless.

Welcome to this read.

Liz preferred to go by the name Liz or Lizzie and that’s because ‘Elizabeth’, was what her mum called her when she was slipping into crazy.

She loved her family so much that she baby-sat her whole family especially her mum. In between living in a dingy apartment where the bath tub wouldn’t drain so she she’d shower ontop of an upturned bucket to escape the dirty water, and trying to get whats left of the money her mum hadn’t used for drugs to buy food, she didnt think of school. Liz hated school anyway. She turned up at the end of the term just to write her exams. She dropped out at grade 8. She was the absolute outcast in school. She smelled, she itched.

“my house wasn’t a place you could come out of and be normal”

Its heartbreaking to watch a child cling hopelessly to a drug addict. An addict who would always go back to the same things. Her mum always got taken to a mental institution for her schizophrenia, then released back.

Liz shoplifted a bit, ate in dumpsters, hung out in alleys, and slept in underground train stations.

She nursed the hope that everything would turn out right once again if she just continued to help her mother. When Liz’s plan didn’t work, she got a reality slap in the face.

Liz became her own knight.

She worked hard to get back in school. She studied maniacally and completed four years of high school in two (she didn’t want to end high school at 21 and she’d lost some years already).

She worked hard for an essay scholarship and got it. At the award of her New York Times scholarship, a journalist asked:

Journalist: “Liz, Liz, how did you do this?”

Liz: ” how could I not do it? My parents showed me what the alternative was”.

“I feel I got lucky because any sense of security was pulled out from under me, so I was forced to look forward. I didn’t have a choice so I got to the point where I just thought I had to work as hard as possible and see what happens.”

Likes
I really like the narration Liz did in the background. It worked well with the whole narrative, it gave it solidity and perspective. Her voice held a certain appeal too.
I really like how convincing the acting was. They each acted their part. Sister was detached; Mother was hopelessly addicted and sick; Father was intelligent yet crazily absent in a world of his own, lacked social skills and consumed by AIDS; Friend had lost all hope; and Liz, Liz was passive about her life in a big world until she changed her own story.

Dislikes

We don’t get enough perspective on her elder sister.

Excerpts

“the world moves and in just a sec, it can all happen without you. Situations are not conducive to what you want for yourself, someone else’s need, someone else’s plate is going to be stronger than yours is. Then, people just get frustrated by how harsh life can be and so they spend their life dwelling on that frustration, calling it anger, keeping their eyes shut to the wholeness of the situation and to all the little tiny things that have come together to make it what it is”

The place of family:

I think the best part for me was the relentless optimist and softie she was for her family.

Journalist: “Is there anything else you’ll like to tell us?”
Liz: “I loved my mother, so much. She was a drug addict, an alcoholic, legally blind and schizophrenic but I never forgot that she did love me even though she did all the time, all the time, all..all the time”

Journalist: “Is there anything you’ll change if you were able?”
Liz: “Yeah, I’ll give it back, all of it, if I could have my family back.”

About her mother:

It wasn’t like she was running off being a good mother to anyone else. She just didn’t have anymore to give”

Production:

Original release date: April 7 2003.
Its an american TV film directed by Peter Levin. Written by Ronnie Kern. Original language: English. Movie length: 1 hr 27 minutes. Thora Birch played the part of Liz Murray.

The movie has been nominated for many awards. It won the best edited miniseries or movie for commercial use -Anita brandt -buryoyne.

Apparently in 2018, another boy goes from homeless to havard: Richard Jenkins by name.

Who should watch this movie? Everyone! For an appreciation of the privilege you have and not to take your security of a decent life lightly. Remember:

“I feel I got lucky because any sense of security was pulled out from under me, so I was forced to look forward. I didn’t have a choice so I got to the point where I just thought I had to work as hard as possible and see what happens.”

P.P.S: Because I’m so hooked on this Liz Murray’s story, I wholly encourage you to read her interview done by BBC.

Because this story is incomplete without the BBC interview version, I insist you read it.

With abundant love,

Debby.

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