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.