I’ve been thinking about writing this post since I had a dream a couple weeks ago. In the dream, one of my good friends openly said I was poor in some conversation. It wasn’t to shame me, and I didn’t feel embarrassed with people knowing that. I just said, “Yeah, that’s about right,” and continued with the conversation. And upon waking I was struck by how different that is than reality. Friends wouldn’t usually just offer up that information so nonchalantly because they would worry about how it would make other people perceive me. Unless I was with a small group of very close friends, this would be an awkward moment, not a routine one.
But why? Why is there shame associated with being poor? So often, it’s not the fault of the person who is poor. Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re uneducated, lazy, or irresponsible. People may discriminate against you because of your gender, sexuality, race, appearance, or anything else, even when you’re completely qualified for the job. And the cycle of unemployment is vicious. So often, you’re expected to have experience before you can get a good job. But where on earth are you supposed to get that experience if everyone is looking for people with experience? Or maybe you’re poor because one of your family members has a chronic illness, and all of your extra money goes to their treatments instead of to luxuries that other people find so commonplace.
To be completely fair, I’m poor but not super poor. I’ve never worried about where I was going to live or how I was going to eat. But I’m poorer than most of my friends. I live in a townhouse instead of a big home. My family can barely keep two cars for longer than a year, so I haven’t thought about getting my own car. I never went to New York with the choir and drama departments in high school, and I have never seen a show on Broadway. I borrowed my friend’s dress for senior prom. I’m so used to looking at costs when I go out to eat that I almost always opt for a less expensive option even when someone else is paying for me. I even like to brag about how little I spend on clothing. And the only thing that kept me from needing to do work study this past year at college was the fact that I earned a $7000 scholarship.
And you know what? I’m happy about that. I didn’t write those things so that you would pity me. Sure, it would be nice to be able to care a little less about money, but it’s also good to care (then again, that’s coming from my lips; I’m sure my parents would like to care less). But this has been my life so far, and I’m okay with that. It’s made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t trade the past for anything.
So there, I’m not ashamed of being poor, though I don’t even know if the label truly applies to me. There are people much poor than me, and people much richer than me. Don’t be so quick to judge (judging quickly is a whole other problem we have in society, and it pervades literally EVERYTHING). There isn’t inherent shame in how much money you have, only in how you spend the money you have. And in the end, money doesn’t really matter. It’s not what gives life its true worth.
p.s. I tried hard to make sure that it doesn’t come across that I don’t like rich people, but if it does, I’M SORRY. I love you all, regardless of how much money you have.