Here is my second blog post for this week. A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first Open Mic, and I watched one of my really good friends, Bre, perform. Bre is a blogger as well, and you can read her work on here blog here! Bre writes and does poetry as well. A couple of weeks ago, she performed spoken word poetry for the first job and did an amazing job. I was so proud of her! But this blog post was actually inspired by a conversation we had before going to the event. Bre and I were talking about how frustrating it is to encounter people who have no idea how privileged they are. Because of who I am now, I related to the frustration. But I also related to the problem itself, based on how I remember being a couple of years ago. In this post, I share my story.
I remember that when I was in high school, I knew I was going to go to college far before I even applied. It was always imminent, and there was never really a choice in the matter because going to university and finding what I was meant to do with my life was what I spent seconds, minutes, hours, days and years preparing for. The path that I chose wasn’t something I ever questioned, I just followed it because I thought it was the right thing to do.
I remember when I was in high school, I thought that it was strange that not everyone wanted to go to university. I remember feeling sorry for the people that didn’t get into the schools that they wanted to go to. I remember feeling like I was at a higher level. I also remember hearing about a girl from my high school, who strolled onto a community campus wearing a hoodie from a prominent university in Washington state, and tweeting that she wore it to show students at the community college that she “wasn’t one of them”. I remember being mad about it then, and recognizing how messed up that was. But I also remember feeling sorry for the community college students instead of showing understanding to what it feels like to have someone demonstrate contempt for your life choices.
I remember the day before I moved into my college dorm, I had gotten anxious over a package I was expecting in the mail. I’d read the not-so-great reviews on the company I ordered from too late, so I was worried I’d been scammed and my money had been stolen from money. But no worry gave me the right to yell at the lady working at the post office over the phone because she would not help me find my package; sure, losing your money is bad, but its definetely not the worst thing that could have happened.
I remember a lot of things that I did a few years ago, many of which I’m not proud of. I’ve never believed that people change, but I do believe that people grow. And looking back at how I was three years ago, I certainly had lot of growing to do. I know that all three of these memories I’ve shared make me sound like I was a terrible person. Maybe I did act like a terrible person, but that’s not what my main problem was: the main issue I was facing was that I’d never been asked to check my privilege.
Before I went to college, I’d never had a problem getting good grades. I’d never had a problem with money- I had everything that I’d ever asked for. I had my parents support in applying to college and seeking a higher education, I had friends, I was able to keep in touch with my family, I didn’t have any outstanding health problems, and for the most part, I was happy.
I think it was during my second quarter at university when I first started having trouble with anxiety. Luckily, that was also the first time I was asked to check my privilege. Looking back, checking my privilege was one of the best things that happened in terms of allowing me to figure out how to cope with my anxiety.
I realized that I had a lot to be grateful for. Not everyone knows that they are going to attend college. Not everyone has a family to be close to, or even friends that they can depend on. Many people worry about their grades, and their financial situation. I never have had to worry about any of that, really. I have all the support in the world yet somehow I was able to find plenty of things to complain about while I was growing up.
The first time I ever experienced someone looking down on my life choices was when I started telling people I was going to major in psychology. Some people assumed I was going to go to medical school, to which I responded that, no, I wasn’t. Their faces became confused and then they stopped asking me questions about my life choices. Some other people scoffed and told me that there was no money there, as if that was the only reason you might choose to work in a certain field. Other people jokingly asked if I was going to “read people’s minds”. Even though I played it off in the moment, it definetely hurt to have other people show me the same condescending attitude that I remember having when I was growing up.
Here’s the deal: sometimes life kicks you in the butt, but sometimes it also punches you in the face with some much needed perspective. I think that having to check my privilege was definetely the latter. You can find a lot of things to complain about if you look at life like its a black and white picture. Like there is only one right and only one wrong, and if you don’t realize that the person sitting next to you on the bus could be seeing things completely differently. While you are complaining about not being able to afford the newest, hottest phone, the person next to you could be starving and cannot afford food. They have bigger things to worry about then not being able to afford a phone. They might not be able to afford to live. The more you refuse to see the world outside your small bubble, the more susceptible you are to being disappointed when you start to see the ridges where you thought there were straight edges.
The moral of my story is don’t live your life sheltered in the clouds. Recognize that having privilege changes the way you live, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are just a person, like every other person you know. People don’t want or need pity; they need understanding. Live it on the earth, in the rain and dirt and mud. There is no way that you can come crashing down if you are already on the ground.
I will never complain about the amount of privilege that I have. But I would argue that, if I had never been made to acknowledge my privilege, I might still have called and yelled at the lady at the post office because my package was lost and I hadn’t been responsible enough to check who I ordered from before I ordered something online. I might still be feeling sorry for community college students even though they, like me, are just doing what is best for them to be the best they can be in this life. I might never have realized that I have no right to look down on people, because I still have a long way up to travel. If I had never recognized my privilege, I would truly be on the losing end of the race of life.
So, for your own sake,