I have no recollection of anything being handed to me, at any point in my life. Even in childhood, my parents were extremely frugal with money and rarely had disposable income. From an early age, I figured out that if I wanted something, I had to save and earn to attain it.
As a result I started babysitting at age 11 and covered paper routes to earn money. If I wanted clothes, I had to buy them. My parents purchased the essentials, of course, which basically included socks and underwear, but anything else? I was on my own. I am of the pre-internet generation, and looking back, I would have done very well if I had the opportunities of the Internet available today.
I started working at Wendy’s nearly the day I turned 16, and put 2+ years in. I worked as many hours as I could. Did my schoolwork suffer? Of course. Making money was more important and I loathed high school. I did graduate, but with a GPA that hovered in the realm of 2.0. I had a lot of money, but a lot of that went to vehicular and music-related expenses.
My parents even borrowed money from me, to paint a more accurate picture. They always paid me back. My father got paid once a month, so their budgeting was always tight near the end of each month.
When I graduated high school, I was told that there was no money saved for my education and that I would have to figure it out on my own. Sorry. I wanted to start college the very summer after high school, so I scraped to pay my way through a couple of years of community college.
I feel that I gained a particular level of appreciation for things that weren’t handed to me. I got a 4.0 in my community college years and I strongly believe it was because I had to pay for it. It was my choice, my responsibility, and the last thing I needed was to fuck it up and have to pay for a class again.
That summer after high school. I was also kicked out of my bedroom in my parent’s house. I was the oldest of then 4 (my parents had another after I moved out) and we lived in a 3-bedroom house. My siblings were getting older and needed the space, so there I went. I found a roommate near school and moved into an apartment at 18.
I wasn’t close to my parents the years after I moved out and I barely spoke to them. I was sore that I was just kicked to the curb with no help for college. Now, at 42, I get it. They didn’t have the money at the time and it would have been a financial burden for them to do so. It’s not like I was a model high school student. I resumed contact with my parents around the time I got pregnant with my daughter, when I was 21.
The fact that my parents took loans out to pay for college for a couple of my younger siblings is another story. Am I sore? I was. Now, I am not. One turned out not to appreciate it at all and it begs the question, would I have appreciated it if my parents financed a full ride to college? I am not sure. I feel that if they financed it, they would have had control over my life, of which I would have been resistant.
I struggled on my own for a very long time and have had to start over more than once. Failed relationships, job losses, low income, you name it. I experienced it all. It was never easy, but I was always determined and motivated to get my life on track.
Let’s just say that took about 20 years (and counting. Who am I kidding?)
On that note, I don’t think the struggle ever ends, it simply evolves. Things I have struggled with in recent years are struggles I couldn’t fathom 10 years ago. Where can I find a decent home I can afford? Will I ever find a secure relationship? Will I ever stop getting laid off? The answer to this was more informed decisions, based on my past experience. I don’t currently experience any real struggles currently (outside of “which kayak do I want”), of which I am grateful.
In the past 2-3 years, I realized it was my city that was bringing me down. Denver got too expensive, too fast. I was finding myself in a perpetual game of trying to catch up and stay afloat, regardless of the increase in my salary. I could never catch up. The solution to my problem was to move, to a city with a stronger job market, more affordable housing and surrounded by outdoor activities I could get to without hours of traffic (and actually partake in).
I have learned that hard way that struggling is never going to get me ahead financially. I learned that gain only comes from living below my means, rather than trying to stay in a place where there was nowhere to live within my means. I would have had to stretch my budget to live somewhere rather meager, if I chose to stay in my home city.
I finally wanted a decent credit score, which suffered in my decades of struggle. I finally wanted savings, which has always been out of my reach. I had to find a solution, and that was finding a way to live below my means, even if that meant relocating, which I did.
All the struggle resulted in lessons, lessons which have moved me forward. At the speed of tar, but forward nonetheless.
I thoroughly appreciate everything I have now and don’t take them for granted. If I was handed the down payment to my home at a young age, would I have appreciated it as much? If I didn’t put in the heartache, tears and endless hours of work to make homeownership possible, I don’t believe I would harbor the appreciation I have.
I have worked tirelessly to keep myself in a good financial place and have made major life changes to get myself there. I live in a reality that everything can be taken away in an instant, so I keep a strong side-hustle alive to keep my savings and emergency funds strong. Because I have experienced great financial loss, because I have lost everything I have had (more than once), I have learned not to leave my security to chance. It is important to me that I have something to leave to my children, or that I never experience the inability to purchase groceries or fuel ever again.
If I did have to experience that again though, it wouldn’t be my first rodeo. I would just do what was necessary to pull out of that hole, as quickly as possible.
When I see children or young adults today get handed everything they want or need, I harbor genuine concern for their future and security. I believe every young person should experience some level of struggle and borderline poverty. It builds appreciation, resourcefulness and the life skills necessary to pull oneself back up, again and again.