I often find myself thinking about the differences in our places in life. I think about the disparity between classes, but not in a class warfare kind of way, more in a “How would I ever get there from here?” way. Then I think of those less fortunate than me, and I wonder how life is for them.
If I focus on how hard it would be for me to “improve my station” in life, I tend to get frustrated. Again, I don’t do badly, but I’m not rich, either. But in order for me to make let’s say, a million a year, I can’t even fathom how to get there from here. I’d have to quadruple my intake in money annually. I can’t do that working for another company, it’s just not possible. I might be able to have a fantastic year in sales, and blow out my quota one year and make that money. But the year after my quota would reflect the sales I did the previous year, plus some percentage of growth. At least 20% more. It’s just not possible to sustain it year over year working for someone else.
Then, I see people driving cars worth more than my house, and they’re younger than me by 10 years and I wonder what the hell they do to make that kind of money. It’s a depressing exercise that I try to avoid because it will limit my creativity and productivity that day. It will mire me in futility.
As Americans, we’re raised with the belief that we can be anything in life. That’s still true. The CEO of my company moved here from the Middle East with only enough money for 30 days. He’s been wonderfully successful, and he’s probably 10 years younger than me. So it can still be done. But I think it’s more difficult for the classes that have it good to move up. I lack the pure fire I see in people who have been raised much worse off than I have been. Countless stories of people rising out of poverty to become wildly successful are out there. And if you ask each one of those individuals, their biggest fear in life is to live in poverty again. I lack that kind of fire because my life isn’t bad. I make enough to support my family and have some left over. I have nice things that are beyond what is purely needed and necessary. But my nature is to want more. But I don’t want more stuff. I want the freedom that it looks like comes with what is called “F-U money.” I know that it’s probably all a fantasy, that with more comes more problems as well. But I’d sure be willing to give it a try someday.
This leads me down a path of analyzing the rest of the world and how other cultures handle class differences. I’m hardly a cultural expert, but I know that the history of a country tends to lead to mainstream culture. For instance, the system of serfs and lords throughout Europe greatly emphasized the differentiation of the classes that still holds true today in a lot of areas. The British are notoriously class conscious. The Spanish are as well. These are leftover days from nobility and monarchy, something we’ve never had directly influence us in America.
My point here is that it would be easier to accept your place in the world if you had been raised in a system of “know your place.” There’s not as much questioning why one is above the other when the dominant culture is one of “accept your place in the world.” Religions have largely supported these social systems as well. As a young man in a feudal-influenced society, you would have an even tougher time seeing your way above your station in life. I mean the king was supposedly appointed by God. As opposed to the American view of “you can be anything.” It’s a key to national character and something that fascinates me. It’s the intersection of history, culture, art, and government that makes us who we are nationally, and it’s like a big jigsaw puzzle in my mind.
The downside in America is there’s a subculture that doesn’t consider you “one of them” if you can’t trace your family wealth back generations. That’s just a lightly camouflaged version of European feudalism, in my opinion. But since all of our forefathers and founders were from Europe, it’s not shocking that we have some residual bullshit left over in our collective mindset.
I don’t, however, blame the “1%” for my failure. Because that’s what it is. I didn’t realize when I was young how important school was for my future. I thought it was all about working. And working hard is definitely a core part of being successful, but I lacked the skills to jump into some things that could have seen me use my creativity to solve real technical problems. Build a company on top of that solution, and make a bazillion dollars. That would have all started from me working hard all through my school years. I didn’t try hard until my last two years of college. And even there, I didn’t apply myself 110%. I only learned how to do that after I started working full time surrounded by people smarter than me. It was survival at that point.
I have very few regrets in my life, but not being more serious about my schooling and fundamental skills earlier in life is the biggest one I have. It’s what drives me to keep learning as an adult. Maybe someday I’ll catch up to who I could have been. Maybe. I also want to make sure it’s clear that while this is NOT the reason I write, I do see that it’s the only possible way I fundamentally change my position financially in life. If by some stroke, something I write resonates and sells millions, I’ll find myself in a different spot immediately. But to be honest, I don’t have much faith in that. I’m not a populist by any means. I’m actually the opposite. I’m the demographic companies test against. I can almost be sure that if I love something, it will fail due to lack of sales and interest. It’s happened to me most of my life, definitely in the last 20 years. TV shows, restaurants, products of various kinds, all gone and I happened to love them all. My tastes and predilections just don’t seem to be in the mainstream anymore, if they ever were. I’d think of this as another fact pointing to me being old, but it’s been like this for most of my life.
It also makes it very difficult for me to connect with the younger generation, but I suppose that happens to each generation. We all think we’re better than the new, younger generation, and we think we’re better than our parent’s generation. We lack the foresight to see that every generation feels the same way, and most likely always have. Cervantes even spoke of this in Don Quixote, so it’s hardly a new phenomenon.
But regardless, I know where I’ve fallen on the social spectrum. I’m milk toast comparatively. Too much money to be poetic and romantic, not enough to be “eccentric.” I’m vanilla on the scale. That’s the problem. I hate vanilla because it’s boring. It isn’t good and it isn’t bad. It’s just vanilla.
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