If Timika were to paint a portrait of her life now, it might be vibrant and bursting with color. Her talent has turned a painting hobby into new opportunities, plus she just earned a promotion at work.
“I worked a lot of jobs, but for the last 14 years, I've been working with the school district. I started off actually in the kitchen, and then I was a substitute, and then I was a teacher’s assistant, and then I was an executive assistant, and now, I just got a new job as a communications marketing assistant,” Timika said about stepping into a position that will devise creative marketing strategies to boost student enrollment for the Austin Texas Independent School District.
“I'm learning the role and I'm just grateful for the opportunity. They believed in me, so I'm, first of all, grateful to be there, and second of all, I'm grateful that they're giving me an opportunity.”
Timika was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana; her family moved to Austin when she was 14 years old. 33 years later, Timika has three adult-aged daughters who live in Austin, as well as two granddaughters—ages six and eight years old. She gets to see her grandkids often since they live right down the street from her. Timika shared with us that she often thinks back to celebrate how she endured challenging times raising her girls as a single mother.
“We were struggling, and we were on welfare and all of that when they were little, and as they got older, I started getting myself together a little bit more. A better job, a little bit more stability. We just kept struggling together and making it together."
Their bond remains strong. Now when money is tight for Timika or her children, they often turn inwards to pull each other out of financial binds.
“We call it recycled money. We all help each other, and then we all pay them back.”
Timika admitted that sometimes there are still scenarios where pooling resources is not enough. “I'll just go pawn something. [I] go through our credit union, they offer all of these little loans that help you get through, too. So I have resources, but I really don't like doing that,” she said.
The rest of her family is scattered outside city limits. She’s the oldest of five children—twin siblings in California, a sister in Houston, Texas, and another sister living in Japan. Timika’s mother lives in San Diego.
While Timika loves being an Austin resident, she’s now encountering a systemic challenge with her housing situation. Now that her daughters are grown and no longer live in her home, Timika’s property manager is forcing her to downsize to a smaller unit.
“I'm on a housing program, and so with the program, when your family cards change, you're going to change. I've been here 15 years, so I did love staying here,” Timika explained. “At first, they never enforced [occupancy standards] because when my daughters were away at college, I was by myself. But under new management, some of the rules have shifted.”
When the stressors of life try to sketch a different story, Timika refreshes her outlook by picking up a paintbrush and releasing a rainbow of colors on a blank canvas. She started painting as a hobby nearly 10 years ago, and now that talent is paying off.
“I really paint out of emotion, and I've probably sold about 100 [paintings]. I've been in a couple of art shows that I've been invited to. I have been studying art a little bit, doing a little research," she shared.
I've done free art classes, abstract art, just to do something in the community.”
Timika used some of the funds she received from UpTogether to purchase a canopy tent that shelters potential customers and her artwork from outside elements at various festivals around the city. She says she learned about UpTogether from a co-worker three years ago. Since then, Timika has encouraged other friends to join the community, set goals, and support one another.
“We are all out here trying to make it. I did like the goal aspect [of UpTogether’s online platform], it puts you on front street with your own goals and things that you need to be doing for yourself. So I really did like that."