I could spend some time talking about how hard my life has been. I could go into great detail about each of my hardships and trials. I could sit back on my couch and play the one-upmanship game in how I am a better, stronger person than any other because my struggles were worse than another because my family was more impoverished/a minority/abusive/marginalized/this/that/or other than any other family in the neighborhood.
Or, I could apologize for my upper-middle class upbringing. I could hide my whiteness behind my Spanish heritage and be ashamed for my father’s income which allowed me to attend excellent schools and universities without student loans. I could try to balance out the implication of wealth by saying I did work as a receptionist in order to pay for rent — even though I lived with my sister — and I only drove a 1981 Datsun 210. I could be embarrassed by all of this. But I’m not. Why should I be?
In the last couple of weeks I have been called privileged, dangerous, ugly, thoughtless, out of touch, delusional, and also rich. These people don’t know anything about me or my life. Nor do I intend to spend time to filling them in. There is no reason to do so. I am no apologist for how I live my life. Or for how I have lived my life. Paradoxically, I have also been called inspiring, lovely, charitable, kind, and the one that that caught me the most off guard (summarized) “you make me feel as if I’m not alone”. I accept these at face value also. I certainly don’t act one way with one group and not the other. What you see is what you get.
How a person is raised or how a person has lived his or her life is really not a true reflection on who that person is. The past only shapes us, it does not determine who we become. Who we become is ultimately our choice and not something that is our destiny. And yet, for some reason, people enjoy walking past front porches, glancing at the doors or hanging baskets and determining who lives behind the exteriors without ever stepping up to ring the bell.
And would it even matter? In the end who we open the door to and invite inside is all our own choice, not anyone else’s. We may decide to have tea and polite company with a few in the front visiting room, while have others for lunch in our kitchen. Still, a select few might be able to see us in our pajamas in our bedrooms when we mourn a loss or sit with us quietly while in a deep depression. To any passerby, the house might look perfect while the home is less than.
It is unfair and disingenuous to compare our lives to others. It is another form of pride that drives us to enjoy the feeling that comes with saying our struggle was worse than someone else’s, and therefore we deserve something more than. The concepts of More Than and Less Than, and even Equal Than, should be corralled to the math worksheets. Instead, we should celebrate the idea of Together With.
I am not embarrassed by how I grew up. I do not feel guilty for the wealth I had nor will I show off the struggles I have had by listing them for approval. But I am also more than my past. So spare me any of your judgments and I will spare mine. Trust me when I say I am not any of the things I have been recently called and maybe I’m all of them at once.
Any maybe someday you’ll get past my front door.