In theory, I am comfortable.
I live in a middle-class suburb in a pretty white house with black shutters and a red door. I picked out that red door myself and waited anxiously for two weeks for someone to come and install it for me. It's perfect. The perfect shade of red.
My house is tall. It's surrounded by dozens of trees. There is a rosebush in front of my office window. I planted that rosebush.
I can pay every bill I get in the mail. I don't always love how much money I have left at the end of paying all the bills, but the bills are paid. I can buy groceries for my family. Not everything I want all the time (because I want red meat. Every day), but we eat well. Jason always has ice cream. I always have bacon.
I'm white. I was born in the United States. I have no idea what my ancestry is (and I honestly don't care. At all), but I was born here and that will suffice.
No one is challenging my marriage. Except my Mother-in-law (I'm kidding. She might not be doing that). I'm married to a straight, white man and everyone is a-okay with that. This is my second marriage, but that's okay. Everyone forgives that first error in judgement. I'm okay now. I'm acceptable.
I'm a mother and that's the best kind of woman to be, apparently. I have two kids, one who looks like me and one who doesn't. They are both white though, and smart and well-groomed and acceptable. We are all appropriate (unless no one else is looking and then we snark on everyone else). They live in the nice house with me. They go to college. They work. We are all making appropriate steps towards the American Dream.
So we're okay.
Except actually? The reason I have the house I have and the car I have is because I have absolutely worked my ass off. I grew up with "less than". I hesitate to say I grew up poor because there is "poor" and then there is true poverty. True poverty is holes in your shoes and no food for dinner, no heat in the Winter. I had those things. I didn't get a lot for Christmas some years and I certainly didn't get all the clothes I wanted and we didn't go on lavish vacations every year and things like that, but it was not true poverty. I had food and shoes and heat in the house. There was gas in the car to get us to where we needed to go. My dad worked. I think I was pretty average for the people in my area.
I have not forgotten that. I will not ever.
We didn't have as much when Jonathan and Megan were younger and I have not forgotten that either. It's been nearly ten years since I graduated college and as I write that check every month for the student loans that enabled this better life, I think about it (okay, technically it's not a check. Who writes a check anymore?). There are reasons I'm doing better now. Those reasons are not easy for everyone to come by.
No one crosses the street when they see me coming. In fact, most people are super nice and friendly to me. They don't fear I'll mug them. I'm not even fat anymore, so no one has anything to hate me unnecessarily for. I mean, they might hate me after they talk to me a little bit. That's okay. But no one looks at me and thinks, "She's scary. I don't like her. She's different."
I'm comfortable. I'm okay. I'm "safe".
You know, it's funny. I work my ass off to have all these things I have and there are other people who work just as hard as me and they don't have the things I have. This is not because I work harder than them. This is probably not because they made bad decisions or choices. It's because things just aren't equal, no matter how much we want them to be.
One time a very, very sweet friend of mine said completely innocently that she just could never understand why people had any credit card debt. She didn't mean it an ugly way, I know her well enough to know that she didn't. It stung me all the same, as I was paying off credit card debt as well as student loan debt and a mortgage.
I wanted to remind her that not everyone's parents pay for college and then grad school. Not everyone's parents pay for a wedding and then gift the bride and groom $10,000 towards the purchase of their first home. I wanted to remind her that some people have spouses who leave and a whole pile of medical debt to pay. That some people lose their jobs and have to still eat. I wanted to remind her that her family had valued certain things as she grew up and that was her life experience and even though other people had very different life experiences, it didn't mean they were bad or wrong. It just meant they were trying to find their way.
I didn't say anything. Again, she wasn't saying it to be mean. I know she wasn't. When we know better, we do better. I've seen this friend of mine change over the past ten years. I've seen her ideas and actions change. She knows better, now she does better.
As my precious friend Carla has said many times, I'm lucky I landed where I landed. I did not have every advantage, but my advantages far outweighed my disadvantages. I took many things for granted when I was younger, as we all do. I look at what I'm able to provide for my children now and although it is not everything I wish I could give them, I'm thankful and grateful for what I am able to do.
It's easy for me to say I worked my ass off to have these things I have. I hear this all the time from people. "I work for everything *I* have! All these people sponging off the government should get out and get a job!"
And yes. Good for you. Working is good. Everyone should work (in my opinion, and keep in mind I have three jobs, so...yeah). But are you really 100% responsible for your own success?
You might beat on your chest and say YES. Of course I am! No one does anything for ME! I do it all on my own.
Well, okay. I mean, for me personally? I could never say that. My parents let me live with them after I turned 18 so I could go to school. My good friend Dawn got me an interview at the company she worked at, which opened up huge employment opportunities for me. While there I met my friend Allison who has been looking out for me ever since. But I didn't need any of them, right?
No I would have just been fine on my own. Except, oops, I had to borrow money to go to school and the federal government was the one I borrowed it from. And I didn't have cash money to pay for my house so, oops again, I had to take out that pesky FHA loan in order to fulfill all my dreams.
But still! I did it myself! Except, no, actually I didn't have an evening babysitter and my parents picked up my children a few night a week and fed them dinner so I could go to classes.
It's so easy to sit in judgement of others, to look at their lives and scoff and say, "Well, I did it why can't they!" when your boneheaded butt doesn't realize that no, buying yourself a trailer house and dragging it onto your parents property so you don't pay lot rent is not "making it on your own", or your dad giving you a million dollars to start a company is not "being a self-made man" or your parents paying your way through college and setting you up with a good start in life is not "I did it all myself". It's just not. We all have to have help. Every single one of us.
Some people don't have that help available. They just don't.
So I ask you. How can we sit in judgement of those people?
Not everyone is like me. I get this. I know many people who don't look like me or worship like me or love like me. We all get along and like each other. You know why? We aren't dicks. We don't try to change each other. We accept each other as people and love each other for who we are. My world is big enough for everyone.
I want to live my life recognizing how lucky I am and appreciating it. I don't want to, nor will I, live my life excluding people who aren't as lucky.