Issues of wealth

November 2, 2007

In seventh grade I started attending a new school.  My best friend in sixth grade transferred out of public school and the next year I dutifully followed him into the private school ranks.  I wore a tie to school, stored my books in an open locker and became introduced to the world of the rich kid.  I began to notice the little polo insignia on the shirts of so many of my classmates and began to attach importance to those few threads. I felt the line that separated me from them.  In public school my friends lived in the neighborhood and knew where I came from–we inhabited the same environment of middle income families.  Now I felt the shame of my comparable poverty.  I was learning to find my place in the world and at the same time discovering that money meant advantage.

What was one day enough now became too little.  My lens shifted and the world took on a new tint.  I noticed that the family car had a little rust near the door, my room was too small for both me and my brother, the limitlessness of unconcern now focused on the lack of material items.  Being invited to my new friend’s houses expanded my new vision.  Kitchens bigger than half of my house!  Extra bedrooms, maid service, toys shiny new and foreign. 

Unknowingly I started to live a double life.  My school persona when I pretended to mask my sense of destitution and gladly accepted offers to visit friend’s houses (I never invited them to mine) and a home life where the everyday affairs of living became less and less acceptable.  I judged myself through my classmate’s eyes and so turned my judgement on the rest of my family.  I looked inside and found a lack. 

When age sixteen came around and my classmates started to receive new cars as birthday presents (!) I began to perceive the illusions of this fragile culture.  I inhabited a land of make-believe and had stumbled into this fairy tale because I wanted to stay close to a good friend.  I noticed that my real friends did not care that I had no car or that my house wasn’t a mansion.  I learned that there were others in my ranks who also came from families without loads of disposable income.  I found a niche that allowed me to become more comfortable with myself.  Money (or lack thereof) did not control my happiness. 

My perception of richness and poverty had changed when I entered private school and so shifted again as I realized that human beings are the same the world over.  We all have our doubts and question our beliefs.  We conform to new environments and learn ways to adapt and survive.  When the space comes and the insight pierces through we can discover what brings peace to our being.  We forgive ourselves for past wrongs and look for clarity in future endeavors.  We are humans being.

Others are considering issues of wealth and poverty here.

NaNo continues and I need to get back to it! WC=238
Picture of Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park, NY.


13 Responses to “Issues of wealth”

  1. ther Says:

    I so get what you mean. When we were young, we all thought money meant everything. But we know better now. =)

  2. Matthew Says:

    Thanks for stopping by ther, I heartily agree!

  3. Tumblewords Says:

    Such a simple lesson that takes years and years to learn. Grin.
    Nice reflective post! Good luck with Nanowrimo – I haven’t penned a word yet but will get with it tonight, for sure??

  4. Betty C. Says:

    I love this post and it reminds me of my own experience going to one of the nation’s top universities after going to a normal, middle-class high school. I’ll never forget when a fellow student told me: “I really wouldn’t like to be poor like you are.” Never, ever had it crossed my mind before that I could be considered poor!

    Great job…I’m not doing this SS subject but have been writing some other stuff this weekend.

  5. paisley Says:

    to me the saddest part of all of this.. is the part that parents are inspired to put their children in this situation under the pretense of giving them more than they ever had… funny isn’t it how it serves more as a detraction,, than an enhancement????

    higher education?????

  6. sister AE Says:

    I am glad to read that you found your own footing. Too many people let others dictate how they should be, even when they are grown up.

  7. jo Says:

    A very well written piece.

  8. I’m glad you learned to see through the veneer of monied wealth. I think there is so much pressure on parents these days to give their children more and more stuff just so they feel they’re not ‘poor’. Society is really losing perspective

  9. Very good and well written piece, Matthew, and I so get what you write about. I remember it well, it’s the shame there are still those who cling to material greed and like to think we are not all equal or the same.

    Hope NaNo is going well!

  10. Becca Says:

    A valuable lesson, and you’re lucky you learned it at a relatively young age.

    Good luck with NaNo…I’m doing it as well 🙂

  11. Very well written. 😀

  12. awareness Says:

    I struggle with the same lesson, and it seems to rear it’s head still from time to time. I live in a province which is considered a “have not” province. Salaries are lower, job opportunities are not as extensive and poverty is real for many people who live here. This is completely unlike my hometown and the lives my family and friends from my youth lead. So, when we return to visit, it’s a very strange scenario……

    I am comfortable and very happy where I live….wouldn’t change it for the world and certainly wouldn’t return to that way of being and thinking. But, it does make for awkward moments……..especially when I somehow find myself in the middle of a conversation on the latest unneeded purchases of knickknacks and paraphenalia…….or the importance of buying the latest and biggest sized TV……etc, etc…..because I don’t care about those things and they do.

  13. UL Says:

    This is so true, Matthew. Wise thinking for a youngster, there are several children out there who doesnt get it, and that’s sad…but money can have that effect on the human mind. Thanks for sharing.

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