Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Working Hard, or Hardly Working?

This morning I realized that I have been working for almost 15 years now. FIFTEEN YEARS OF CONTRIBUTING TO THE CAPITALIST MACHINE!! I got my first full time babysitting job the summer I turned 13 and never looked back. When I turned 15 I got a job working at Arby’s in the mall. Now THAT was a fun job—the smell of roast beef in the morning...mixing the cheddar cheese sauce...scraping an inch thick layer of french fry grease off my face when I got home. Then when I turned 16, I got a job working for a tee shirt shop on campus. I spent half of my pathetic high school years cutting out Greek letters to sew on sorority and fraternity shirts. After a few weeks I could tell you what sorority a girl was in simply by looking at her hair and handbag. (This is why I went to Georgetown--no frats or sororities)

Next came bartending and ass kissing in Hollywood. And of course now I'm a cube dwelling number cruncher. No wonder I’m so burned out. Another five years and I’ll be ready for the rocking chair. And yet, I really don’t have much to show for all those years of hard work. I’m still in debt up to my armpits and don’t have a title with a “vice” or "senior" in it yet.

I know I shouldn't let that get to me-- especially since I have always cared more about helping others than suceeding in business. But it gets to me anyway. I can't help but think that I should be doing something much more important and lucrative than I am now. I hold myself to an impossibly high standard.

After some quiet introspection and a few hundred glasses of wine, I think I’ve figured out why. At first I thought it was because that’s what everyone expected of me. I was that annoying kid who was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in school. I was Attorney General of Girls’ State and a delegate to Girls’ Nation. I was involved in student government. I was pretty much the embodiment of Reese Witherspoon’s character in “Election” except that I smoked weed and drank Boone's on the weekends. So naturally, everyone expected me to end up as a lawyer or politician or CEO or something like that. But as it turns out, I really don’t like working for the man and money isn’t really very important to me. This combination doesn’t really bode well for success in typical business environments. So why should I care? Why do I have this nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "you know so and so is a lawyer now"? Especially since I pretty much gave a big “fuck you” to everyone else’s expectations of me a long time ago. I’ve realized it goes much deeper than other people's expectations or even my own expectations. I think it boils down to a childhood insecurity.

My parents never had money and I was always embarrassed because of it. I always felt like a second class citizen. We were on the free lunch program in elementary school. We had to move in with my grandmother for a while. My mom had to work fast food jobs at night a time or two to make ends meet. We never really had the money for designer clothes. But I did a damn good job of pretending like we did. I hung out with all of the right people, but I still never quite fit in. There was always something missing. I could pretend all I wanted, but everyone knew. Rich people tend to have a sixth sense for sniffing out poor people. My boyfriend's parents didn't approve of me. They even called me "white trash." I spent a lot of time being embarrassed in school.

I guess I always expected to get my revenge on all those mean rich people by becoming fabulously wealthy and successful. I would show them. I may not have been from a wealthy family, but one day I would be because I was smart. Intelligence was the only card in my hand, so I had best use it to my advantage. I always vowed that one day I’d be wealthier than they ever were and then they'd all be sorry. (Why I thought they would even care, I don't know) So much for that idea. I know that sounds kind of sad and pathetic.

The funny thing is, my parents could have made money if they wanted to. They were both very smart people. But they committed themselves to trying to make a difference in the world instead. And somehow, they passed that "do gooder" gene on to me and I haven't been able to shake it yet in favor of pure materialistic desire. (damn them and their altruistic ways) But you know what? I suppose I'm better for it. I'm better because I'm not afraid of being poor. I've been poor and happy at the same time. It's not so bad. And because I'm not afraid of being poor I can take a risks. I can take off to California on a whim or quit my job to become a writer. After all, the best revenge is living well, right? Now if I could just convince myself of that.....