Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I'm a rich lady!
That's what one of my students told me recently.
I know I haven't been around here much lately. It's been a tough few months and I've been dispirited. I haven't been able to find the humor in just about anything, and that has curtailed my haiku writing--no great loss for this site, but it was an outlet that helped. Sometimes.
Now, though, I must rant.
I was walking down a hall at LD3C when I saw a former student of mine, Whining William, seated on a bench. Before I could say hello, he said, "Hey there, rich lady!"
I stopped in my tracks. "Hi William," I said. "What do you mean, 'rich lady?'"
"Well," he said, "you make more money than me."
"William," I said, "there's a reason for that," to which he replied, "Yeah, you've been given more opportunities than me in this life."
At this point, my blood pressure shot up--en route to a meeting with admin-types, so that wasn't good--and I opted for a gentler answer than what I was thinking.
"William," I said, "think about what you just said. Really think about it. Then talk to me about opportunities."
Whining William was a student of mine two full years ago in Basic Fundamentals of Hamster Communication, a prerequisite for many Hamster Communication courses. During the first half of the semester in my class, he did the barest minimum to pass and he resisted instruction every week. In the second half of the semester, he worked a little harder--but he grumbled about it constantly.
Whenever I saw him afterward, when I inquired about his progress in subsequent Hamster Communication courses, he complained bitterly about the amount of work he had to do and the allegedly terrible instruction he was receiving. I do not know whether he passed these classes or not.
During the semester in which he was my student, Whining William revealed much about himself and his personal history through the assignments he submitted. We are very nearly the same age. We are the same color and of roughly the same ethnicity. His father worked at a factory here. Mine worked at a factory in a similar industry in another state. Whining William is the product of suburban public education. So am I.
The difference between us in terms of opportunity is that I chose to attend college--and pay for it out of my own pocket--while Whining William went to work in the same factory where his father worked. I don't fault him for that. That was his choice.
Neither should he fault me for my choice, though. We had similar opportunities. Whining William isn't stupid, as far as I can tell, and could have chosen a white-collar path. I could have chosen a blue-collar path, as did many of my friends, a path that brought them immediate financial stability--something that took me over a decade to achieve.
Furthermore, it's not my fault that Whining William lost his job, nor is it my fault that Whining William is still enrolled at LD3C--nor will I apologize to Whining William or anyone else for a level of comfort that I've worked toward for many, many years. I'm not living large. I can't afford to take the kind of vacation that Whining William took at the end of the semester in which he was enrolled in my class (nor can I figure out how he did so). I am still paying some student loans. I am paying medical debt from when I was uninsured. After four years of full-time employment, I've just finally paid off the "bad" debt I amassed from when I was underemployed as an adjunct (a job that coincided with working at a local mall).
I have several degrees that I paid for with student loans, worked a decade without any benefits whatsoever--while barely eeking out a living--and now that I have a stable job with benefits, a job through which I'm trying to help others attain stable employment and live better lives, I am the now-to-be-despised rich.
Someone's propaganda machine is working.