Thursday, June 9, 2016

Making Your Own Success In the World



It is true; some people just seem to have charmed lives. They happen to have been born into families where money is abundant, educational opportunities are available without ending with a mountain of debt, connections are waiting to land the first, then next great job, and the cycle continues with their own kids. Their attitude may even be charmed, as they claim that anyone can live the American dream if they just work hard enough. Even in the same families, there seems to be the golden children, where life just sort of works out. They are in the right place, and right position to be the heir apparent, garnishing respect, and access to assets, while their more bland sibling just is in the shadows, happy for the occasion biscuit of praise, or to have a small helping of leftovers, the unworthy under achiever. 

I've been witnessing these scenarios for a long while for someone close to me. The inequity in which his parents portioned out respect and opportunity, is hugely responsible for golden boy brother's success, is blatantly obvious, yet my friend is unbothered by it. Fortunately, he is successful by his own definition, and does not feel the need to have his worth defined by the size of his house, and the number of digits on his paycheck. Still, experiencing the attitude of the sibling looking down his nose gets weary. The deprecating comments that are always at his brothers expense, but are all just in humor get old. This same person, the brother, is one of the most bigotted, if not racist, homophobic, hater of the poor, I've ever met. "The poor are poor  because they're lazy. Welfare queens are sluts that just keep breeding children for the welfare check. Immigrants should have just stayed in their own sorry ass country and quit expecting special treatment My ancestors did it and look at where I a now!." Fortunately, my friend see's little of him, and I even less.

In the season of graduations, we like to congratulate the young person with accolades of how the future is there for the taking. Reality though is that for many, reaching that high school graduation stage is the height of their academic success. They may be the first one in generations to finish high school, and college, well that is out of the question. There are teens in the foster care system that graduation brings a host of other fears. They become emancipated, no longer the responsibility of the state or county, and no one else had to take responsibility for them either. When I hear stories about people with successful lives that literally, had to work their way up through more adversity in a week than I experience in a year, I am amazed. 

I saw a news feature recently of a teen that couch surfed her senior year of high school because she had no home, while holding down a full time job. That's a successful person. I'm not impressed that my friends brother is buying a new half a million dollar home and selling his current home for twice what he paid for it. I know that he got into the house in the first place with no money down, below market value, purchased from his father (so didn't need to qualify for a mortgage), and fixed up with free labor from his father in law. That's not an American success story-that's generational wealth in action. I'm impressed by a former coworkers story of how her extended family of second generation refugees pooled their collective resources to buy a fixer upper and will earn every penny of value through shared sweat equity. That is real success.

6 comments:

  1. If you know any teens thinking they can't afford college (particularly emancipated fosters) implore with them to apply to college(s) and fill out the FAFSA. I know a girl who graduated with my daughter and only has to pay $3k to go to school because her parents screwed up their lives financially (He was a lawyer who was disbarred). Through grants and scholarships she gets tuition, room and board to a $25K a year school, for just $3K. She works 2 jobs in the summer to earn that and works a part-time waitress job thru the school year to pay for incidentals and fun. She is a firecracker!!!

    DeeCee

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    1. If I had more time in life right now to volunteer, I'd love to find a group that helps teens leaving the foster care system transition into new lives as adults. Being a foster parent is a special kind of person, and I know that I do not wan t that level of commitment, but when DD graduates and moves on to college, I certainly should be able to find time to support helping them find the points of access. I love stories of kids, and wish that there was a better system so all kids could be "kids like this" when circumstances they had no part in leaves them with the penalties.

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  2. Ugh - that man sounds like the kind of person I avoid at all costs. Unfortunately there seem to be more and more of them these days, as they define others by the job that they do, the salary they earn, the car that they drive and the house that they live in. I'm not quite sure where that leaves me, but I know that people underestimate this carless, jobless housewife at their peril!

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    1. Part of the reason I have very little interaction is because I think he avoids having conversations with me equally. I'd love to put him in a room with you Scarlett!Something triggered my almost anger last night about him, but in the light of day, his life has no bearing on my friends life, who just keeps doing have the does for his own family. It's the whole Trump mentality-I'm a winner, your all losers, and unfortunately too many of these thinkers are getting into decision making positions.

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  3. Many very valid points, and you hit on it in the last paragraph; I think a really important thing is defining your own success. No one will ever be rich enough. Hardly anyone will ever be successful enough, unless they grow to understand that life is for living not just for achieving. The guy you're talking about takes pride in "his" success because of what others have done for him. But his vision is veiled and if he ever stumbles upon truly difficult situations he's going to be helpless. Truly successful people are anything but helpless when the **it hits the fan.

    My dad was one of eight siblings. All but two, him and an older brother are wildly successful in society's eyes. The six went to great colleges, got very high paying jobs, bought incredibly expensive houses, ect; Growing up I never understood why my aunts and uncles and cousins were so "rich" and we were so "poor." I always thought that it would only be fair if they gave us some of their money. Truly, I would think as a child, "it's not fair that they have so much, such excess and we're struggling just to pay the bills. Why don't they have to share?"

    Oddly enough, it wasn't until I decided to start paying off our debt ourselves as an adult that had been married and on my own for 5+ years that I realized how silly my thought process had been in my youth.

    Like you very well pointed out, our paths in life are all so very different. Our starting points, the doors that open before us, where we're born and who are parents are, what school we start out in, everything is so wildly different. The choices we make all along the way are critical. And yet all that really matters is whether or not we're true to ourselves, live our lives fully (there's not a penny that should influence that), and are good to others. All the money in the world is meaningless if we valiantly walk the path that's been set before us. Defining your own success in the world is what I think matters.

    Great post Sam.

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    1. I wrote it as much to help temper the green eyes monster in me. Even though I feel like success is personal, who doesn't see flash and kind of wish it was them? However, I feel even ore solid about this after getting news that a coworker passed away-had a cold/cough that wouldn't go away in January, in late February it was said to be pneumonia, and by March diagnosed with 4th stage lung cancer. She's my age. I'm devastated for her 22 year old son who just graduated college. Success if about relationships, and treating people respectfully, and being part of a bigger picture in the world, at least to me.No one knows how much time we have on earth, and I don't want to be remembered for having a great big house-I want to be remembered for a great big heart.

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