I have never been to delusion to realize that even though I grew up very poor, and often times in not the most ideal situations, that I was born into privilege. Not the type of privilege that affords me a never ending trust fund, or even any inheritance, but the privilege to work hard and make a comfortable life for myself.
I clearly remember the day when it dawned on me that we were poor. I was 12 and sitting in the back of the car listening to my parents talk about money, bills and how to fix my dads broken truck. Now that’s not to say there weren’t signs before that, we didn’t have running water or a kitchen stove for over a year, clearly we were not rolling in it. One Christmas my Mom hand made all of my gifts, which to this day I still tear up about because although I loved them she felt horrible that that was all she could give me.
I resented my parents for a long time for having not one, but three children that they could not afford. They did always love us, kept us fed and took in all of our friends who were way worse off, but they couldn’t pay for college, or a lot of other things. Through it all though I gained a very important lesson, that if I worked hard enough and long enough I could change my situation. I learned this on my own, by doing it.
I began working as much as possible when I was still in highschool and by the time I finished my first year of college I figured out that I could get my bartending license and make the most amount of money in the least amount of time. I was determined to never be poor again, so I worked and worked and worked and when I could fit it in I would get another job. By the time I graduated I had three bartending jobs and was pulling in a lot of money. I had accomplished my goal by working hard and being a good employee with great work ethics. In my mind that was all it took to not be poor, to not have the same situation that I was born into, and to not be wanting. I knew that I was far from being rich, but I could pay for my life and still had money to play with. I truly believed that I had everything I did because I worked for it, and then I grew up.
I was given the opportunity to work hard, apply for multiple jobs, work up, save money and do it all again at another job because I was born in the country I live in. I am white and from nothing but a white background on all sides of the family. The fact that I grew up poor does not even play a role in my life now, other than my appreciation for small things. The fact that I went to a small state school that no one has heard of does not make a difference in my job application process. The fact of the matter is that I went to school, I was born and raised in the same country that my parents were born and raised in. I did not plan any of this, I did not even realise any of this was such a privilege, but it is. I’ve been walking through most of my life feeling so proud to have accomplished so much, feeling like my past was working against me, but in all actuality my past is what gave me the ability to make a life for myself. Yes I took advantage of my privilege and still do every day but it’s this un-requested privilege that has gotten me to my unlashived but comfortable life, not my strong will and hard work. If that’s all it took there would be a whole hell of a lot more people living as comfortably as me.