On Privilege

Privilege is a tough subject to talk about. It is frustrating to notice someone else’s privilege when you don’t share the same privilege. At the same time, you almost certainly take your own privilege for granted. It’s engrained in your thinking, your culture, your way of life.

I am an educated white male from New England. I cannot understate how privileged I am just from that sentence right there. I am incredibly lucky. It is probably much easier for me to lead a successful life than most of the people in the world just considering my privilege alone. That being said, I don’t spend enough time and energy thinking about how privileged I am. I live my day-to-day life paying nearly no attention to my unbelievably fortunate circumstance. I take it for granted.

I am so privileged, in fact, that I hardly ever find myself frustrated at other’s privilege. I have enough of it that I don’t even consider the lives of people who are more-privileged than I am — I feel as though it wouldn’t be fair to those who are less fortunate than me. They are who deserve my attention.

Last weekend I had an experience that made me much more sympathetic towards those who are less privileged than me. These feelings came forward after having a vehement argument with someone whom I care deeply about — a person whom I am very close to, and who is significantly more privileged than I am.

Yes, I am an educated white male from New England, but I also grew up in a four-sibling household with a single mother that relied on welfare to survive. She, on the other hand, comes from a family of immeasurable economic means. My family is small (no extended family), disjointed, and usually absent from each other’s lives while her family is enormous, incredibly loyal, and supportive. Her “safety net” is so wide that she may never feel an absence of security while I had to busk on the streets with my guitar in Europe twice a week last spring in order to feed myself while I was studying abroad.

Because of our different familial and financial situations and our senses of security as a result of the two, we value certain aspects of our life differently — especially as we consider our post-graduation lives.

Admittedly, I have been a bit of a ‘stiff’ this year because of my efforts to find a career that hopefully affords me the opportunity to live comfortably well into the future. Moreover, she is focused on her studies in order to prepare for a graduate education and values the quality time spent unwinding with friends at the end of a week chock-full of coursework.

I am stiff while she unwinds.

There is a disparity in our privilege and it is frustrating. To be clear — she is doing absolutely nothing wrong with her life. She works incredibly hard. She is driven, ambitious, and curious about everything under the sun. I admire her unending passion for her interests, and the effort she takes to learn more about them. She is growing as I grow.

But I am stiff while she unwinds.

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