When I knew I was privileged.
This is an anonymous submission to the ongoing series “When did you know?”, an examination of the intersection of labels and identity. Information on how to submit your piece to the series can be found on the Join Us page. To see all posts in this series, click here.
I knew when I was debating ordering out for dinner with my friends who lived in the house next to my apartment. They were $1,000 behind on rent, something dire when you’re in college making minimum wage, and were debating where to get the money from. One argued that they cut back severely on their food. He turned to me and asked how I managed to get by, after switching jobs several times through the summer. I answered, rather shamefully, that I had food and rent taken care of, I never had to worry about it.
“So why do you go to work?”
Why indeed. Through the past two years of college, I’ve slowly let my friends, most of whom are from rural Maine, in on how much different my life in the suburbs of Rhode Island have been. My family makes over a million dollars in a year and is well connected through my father’s business. I went to a private school. All of my undergraduate schooling is as good as paid for with my college fund. I was given a $1,200+ computer for my last birthday. I have been afforded opportunities that perhaps I didn’t quite deserve.
Compared to my friends struggling to make rent and feed themselves…I have the utmost privilege. I knew it then, and I feel like I’ve always known it. It inspires guilt for something I cannot help. I am lucky beyond measure and thankful for it. I am not hungry and I had a roof over my head that’s paid on time every single month.
So why do I go to work?
Privileged or not, I love working with my hands. I fix computers for the school, opening up cases and repairing hardware. I sell my services as a caterer. And I’ve done jobs I’ve hated because hard work is hard work and privilege is no substitute for experience and skill.