Sometimes, there are things that make you stop and reflect on life. Often, it is a one-time event that gets you wondering about your small and insignificant place in the world. Other times, it might be a “massive big deal” type of thing that leads to reflection. In my experience, however, it is often a series of small things that add up to something bigger.
The past few weeks have been trying for me. It’s midterm time, and as much as I like to think I am doing okay at this grad school thing, all it takes is one exam (or two) to prove to me that maybe I should actually start trying a bit harder and stop trying to rely on my pre-existing smarts to get things accomplished. “It’s always served me well before,” I try to tell myself, before realizing that it served up a less than stellar 2.4 GPA the first go around at college.
I’ll get past this temporary hiccup in this semester, and I’m sure by the time next fall rolls around, I’ll be graduating with everyone else. It’s just frustrating sometimes is all, but then I actually stop and think about my life beyond school and realize that it really isn’t all that bad.
A thought occurred to me a few weeks ago when I was having a discussion with my sister while I was visiting her while she was in Chicago. She’s doing some exciting things with her life, and I am really proud of her many accomplishments. I have every faith that she will be able to accomplish everything she sets her mind to. But we were talking about school/work/life things and how it can sometimes suck when I kind of pointed out that in the grand scheme of things, we actually have done a lot with our lives regardless of what else may happen going forward.
As kids, we never really liked to admit it, but the fact of the matter is that we were poor. Not struggling for a place to live and food to eat poor, but definitely low middle class. My parents somehow made it work with 5-6 kids at home with one income, and not a robust income at that. It was only in 1994, when my dad got his letter carrier job and mom graduated college and became a nurse, that my parents had an income appropriate with their family size.
We never really wanted growing up. Yes, we begged for the latest toys and gadgets like any normal kids, but we rarely if ever had them. We were lucky enough as kids to be able to play sports and instruments, and also lucky that we could see our parents every night, as well as have our special weekends out and about with Dad. I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have many distinct memories of him placing our needs first a lot of the times, even if it just meant that we would have Arctic Circle and he would just clean up the food that we would shun for some reason.
I suppose that we were fortunate that my parents patronized a church that is well known for their charitable giving, especially within the local wards, but there is no way that none of us kids would have been expected to do anything more than what our parents had. Nevertheless, we were always pushed towards the more difficult classes in school, preparing us for college and beyond, even if we didn’t know it then.
The statistics were mostly against us, I’m sure. Kids of lower middle class families like ours aren’t expected to go to college. We aren’t supposed to be able to ascend to the middle- and upper-class of our society because the “deck is stacked against us.” But against all odds, we somehow managed. Four of us have at least a bachelor’s degree, with the other two getting technical certifications in their desired fields. For the most part, we’ve all seen some success as adults in our work, or at least will be reaching that point soon. Four of my siblings are on their way to matching the longevity of our parents’ near 50-year marriage, with the other two still with plenty of time to catch up. We have already beaten the odds in one way or another.
This post has been codifying for quite some time since that first conversation with Stef and I’m not sure if I have included everything that I wanted to. But that’s okay. It helps me to know sometimes that I could rest on my laurels and never accomplish one more thing in my life because I have already done more than society probably expected of me. Everything else from this point on is just icing on the cake.
Until next time…