It is heartbreaking for me to be judged on a standard of privilege to which I don’t have access.
When I graduated high school, I was told I would not receive financial aid and my parents didn’t help. I didn’t have a lot of guidance at the time, so it seemed student loans were the only option. I didn’t want to bury myself in debt, so I worked instead. I deliberately developed a skill set that I believed would serve me well, wherever I went.
I never imagined that my intelligence, positive attitude, skill set and strong work ethic would not be enough to make a good life for me and mine. These days, I am transitioning to something better, and applying the work ethic I learned as a child to attaining my goals. I am making strong, long term plans for the financial future of myself and my children. But transitioning during mid-life as a single parent is harder than I ever imagined. It’s a long road ahead of me. Maintaining an attitude of hope and positivity takes every ounce of willpower that I have. And you know what? I’m lucky! I have privilege too: I have access to quality housing, I live in a relatively safe neighborhood, I don’t suffer from medical or mental health issues. I have the support of my community and friends. And still, it’s hard. It’s the hardest and most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I’ll be grinding away at this for many years to come.
To be judged for my perceived financial failure, outside of the context of my life, is a blow to my soul. It makes me want to lie down and give up. I feel your blame. I know you believe that my circumstances are a result of my poor choices and inadequacy. That I’m doing it wrong. I can hear it in your voice, I can see it in your eyes. You’re judging me as a failure as if it were some kind of choice I made. I feel hurt, and sad.
But mostly, I feel compassion for you, for that tiny little box that you live in. I hope the bottom doesn’t ever fall out for you the way it did for me. And if it ever does: I’ll be there with open arms, to catch you, to support you, and to help out as much as I am able.
Because that’s how I roll. I always have, and always will. And in the meantime, I’ll put on my happy face for you, because deep down, I think you need it more than I do.