What Saved Me?
Most kids from lesser educated backgrounds end up with less education themselves. Most kids growing up poor, end up poor. Most people being raised in a religious environment end up religious themselves. A lot of kids abused become abusers or victims even later in life.
Just to be clear. I was not abused as a child. But my parents both were. Both were from abusive homes with poor money skills and three personal bankruptcy including loss of their childhood home (house) between their parents. They were emotionally scared, but they did not beat me.
Yesterday, while I was driving home from work, it hit me… What actually saved me? What saved me from becoming a poor working class woman.
I have two answers. But even with these answers I am surprised by how I was able to be successful with all odds against me.
The first answer is — My parents are uniquely intelligent, but grew up in a time right after the second World War where higher education and university was just not relevant for people of the lower class. It was just not part of the conversation. My father went to school for 8 years, my mother for 10. Luckily for me, I inherited that intelligence. This intelligence allowed me to get good grades without putting in any effort. This was good, because for the longest time I did not learn how to put in effort, how to study, and how to drive performance. If I had to put in any effort, I simply would have not ended up where I am now. Case in point, I never put in any effort to learn playing guitar, after 3 years of lessons I was still insanely horrible at it… I just did not understand the concept of studying. After all l am the only kid out of my home town who went to college even though the rest of her family did not. And I am by far the only one, who made it into college with parents being purely working class with lower incomes.
The second answer sounds more like a symptom of being working class, but for me made all the difference. My mom always worked, because we needed the money. I always thought she liked working. After all she was not very warm and emotional, often extremely straightforward and pragmatic, and generally favored a good book on a couch or a good long run over entertaining the kids. Thus, I was in shock that when I had kids of my own, she started criticizing my choice to work, because she felt that the right thing to do would be to raise kids as a full time occupation. I felt betrayed. However, I am glad that I did not know that before, because it might have influenced my life differently had I known that my mom silently preferred staying home over working. Although, I still think she just would have preferred to have more time to read — She enjoyed history, learning languages, and reading about other countries. Since we never had money, we never really were int he position to afford a vacation.
So, here I was growing up. Luckily with a little bit more intelligence than average and then with a role model in my mom that highlighted that women can work and may pursue interests. As a child even until now I always felt like fighting. Fighting against other kids, because they had more and never understood why my parents were not available to drive me around or buy me the new brand sweater… Fighting against prejudices in my family who thought that everyone pursuing a higher education is nothing but an arrogant asshole with no understanding of reality… and fighting against the constant nagging of my own inner doubt — Do I deserve all this? Why am I so lucky?
I am thankful for what I have and the choices I made. Never taking things for granted, putting in the effort after I finally learned that with more effort you can achieve more. Thinking back to my childhood — We did not have a phone for the first 7 years of my life as we could not afford one. I wore hand me down clothes from my friend; luckily, I was a lot shorter than everyone else — I am now surprised at how easy things were for me. And then sighing, because emotionally it was hard. I was different than most in the circle I grew up in and needed to overcome the difference at every corner along the way. Noone to guide me through the higher educational path, noone to teach my how to be outspoken and professional in a business setting, noone to teach me how to hide emotions in conversations and become a reliable and confident business woman. I had to figure all out by myself and I made many mistakes along the way.
I think choice matters. Every single choice you make paves the way for someone else. If I can do it, so can somebody else. My biggest desire is to inspire other girls to pursue a path that might be different than what the rest of the family is doing. I want to inspire others to actually work hard, study hard, and thus achieve more. This is my little contribution to society. Take whatever skills you have and make the best out of it.
Do not take the easy way out…