Dreaming of a more Honest World

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.

I'm really good at acting like I'm rich....

I’m really good at acting like I’m rich….

Epylle Spydre

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.

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I love my sister. Actually I adore her. And I could go on and on about how much I love her, but that’s not really relevant to my blog. What is relevant to my blog is this picture (along with all of her other numerous pictures that I’ve used as inspiration): 

Image

What I love about this picture is that it shows how artistic it is. Not only is it a great photo with awesome composition and a cool angle and all that jazz, but it also shows her love of color. We had an ugly bookshelf, and she decided to get this teal paint and sand and paint the bookshelf. It was a lot of hard, smelly work; I know because I helped her with it. I have already said I’m not an artist, but my sister is. And that’s awesome, even if the job prospects aren’t that high. 

But I hate how little we, as a society, recognize certain achievements. On Friday, I was having a conversation with some friends of mine. We’re theatre/choir kids, and we were really excited about the fall play that was going up that night. And we were a little upset that we were having a ten minute pep rally to get hyped up for the last football game of the season (which most people were sure we were going to lose anyway) but that there was barely anything about the play. People had only three opportunities to see this fabulous play, and the school decided to talk about the last home game of the season. Yes, I know that the “true spirited student” would be able to go to the football game on Friday and see the show the next day. But the reason this annoyed us is because it’s not an isolated incident.

After pretty much every varsity sports game, all of the information is relayed to us through the morning announcements. And I get that the sports teams have people, and that it’s great to recognize them. I have some good friends on those teams, and it’s nice to celebrate in their accomplishments with them. But tell me, why did next to no one hear about the girl who did really well at the International Space Olympics in Russia? No biggie, right? Because we totally have students go to Russia all the time (note the facetious tone here). But no. Because we live in a society that prizes brawn and beauty over brains and creativity.

In our discussion, another big thing was creativity and sexuality, especially for guys. Guys are expected to be big and muscular, filling the protecting roles that society has handed them for so long. Guys aren’t supposed to be artistic. That’s for women. Women are the ones who are supposed to make things (including themselves) look pretty; men are just supposed to run fast or put things together (another friend of mine wrote a post on her experience as an engineer and the gender roles associated with that). Maybe that was acceptable in the stone ages, but we have moved past that. Or at least, we’ve tried. And it’s a shame that just because a guy loves to sing and act, or draw, or play the flute, that he might be deemed as not masculine enough. Don’t even get me started on male ballet dancers (they need just as much strength as any athlete, not to mention ten times more flexibility and expression on top of that). It really is a shame.

Guys are supposed to be strong. Girls are supposed to be pretty. We probably want at least one smart person so that we don’t go back to the stone ages or kill each other. And life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if we didn’t have music or art or drama. You know. It might be just a little nice (there’s that facetiousness again).

And I come back to my sister. I really appreciate her. And I understand that she may not go into a career that’s specifically artistic (which, as I said before, is totally understandable), but I appreciate that she does what she loves. Just last night, she said, “Maybe since the play is over, I can do more artsy stuff. Or I can sleep.” And there may not be a lot of obvious opposition, but the majority of the world certainly doesn’t give her as much appreciation and encouragement as she deserves. That’s really what it comes down to. There will always be that small pocket of people that completely support your intellectual or artsy side. And aside from the gender roles that society tries to force on us, there aren’t many who go out intentionally trying to bring us down. But we still live in that society that glorifies the transient physical side of ourselves instead of the deeper parts of our being that are just longing to escape into the world and make a real impact.

But my sister still has her teal bookshelf, daily evidence of a part of her life that she loves and isn’t afraid to indulge, even if it means getting less sleep and motivation from society that leaves much to be desired.

We All Need Our Teal Bookshelves