My recent blog about traveling on a budget had me reflecting on how privilege has played a role in my life and in my capacity to travel - even when my parents offered me no financial support whatsoever or when I didn't ask for it. Privilege is not just a matter of money. It's also socially accepted ideas of beauty, of status, of skin, of power. It's the way others perceive you, and in return, how they treat you. But it's also a matter of belief: believing you deserve to be treated a certain way, or believing that you deserve to achieve something material. In some cases, this belief can translate into reality. And when you are privileged, one thing you have plenty of is believing that you deserve certain things.
I spent the larger portion of my life trying to hide from the fact that I was privileged - feeling ashamed of being different, feeling like I should give money (my parents' money) away to others, making embarrassing mistakes like buying friends drinks at the bar "just because" or in other cases, just simply trying to hide or deny it. However, there were certain aspects of being a "privileged kid" that I just couldn't change and it is time to admit it: I'm a privileged kid.
There are mindsets ingrained in a privileged kid, a kind of privileged programming designed to keep the offspring of the well-off climbing the capital ladder. As someone who wants to fight systems of inequality and ingrained biases and stereotypes, I want to share some of those mindsets as I come to notice them (and I invite you to share with me too) in the hopes that you can combat your own programming (whatever it may be) and use this to help you to entitle yourself to try thinking differently.
The first of these that came up is the fact that for me, I see the world through a lens of possibilities, not limits. Now, I think this is also something inherently connected to me and my fantastical way of thinking, as I have more than enough trauma and social programming, which would love to put me "back in my place," but I think it also comes from being surrounded by privileged and in many ways, fanatical, people.
Though there are those who think that I don't deserve a voice because I am a woman, I had the privilege of a strong female role model in the home. My mother heard the same things for 30 years while climbing the corporate ladder and eventually, she made it to the top. I, being young, missed the large part of the struggle (except on an emotional level) and got to reap the rewards of her success. As much as I suffered when I was young for all the pressure that ricocheted onto me, today I am grateful for the way that she gave me a personal, at-home, example of a woman who would not be intimated by men. If you know me personally, then you know that this has no doubt had an effect on my strong alpha female personality.
My father started young with the "You can be anything that you want to be - I think you might even be our first female President" mantra. This never excited me - and there was no one more disappointed when I finally learned the term 'anarchist' at Reed in 2006 - but I can't deny that the first part of that phrase played a large role in me believing whole-heartedly in the fact that I should pursue my dreams, no matter the cost.
Of course, it's complicated. In order to achieve my dreams, I needed to rebel against the ones that my parents had already written up for me. I lived on the streets. I disappeared, changed my name, and no joke, I nearly died. During these years, I felt depressed, suicidal - I could only see society for its limits. I could only see what I didn't want to become (and what I felt I had no choice but to become) and that made me want to die.
However, it was at this time that being a white American, which is in its own way a form of privilege, kicked in. Random strangers of all shapes, sizes, and colors began believing in me, helping me, showing me their way of living that was different - off the beaten path, and interesting. My eyes opened to the fact that in fact yes, in America, we are doctors who drive old school buses around providing free clinics. We are squatters living in abandoned buildings and hosting community dinners, we are backwoods "rednecks" who aren't racist jerks, we are families taking care of each other and despite all the misinformed, desperate people looking for hope in Fox News, we've got a lot of amazing people pioneering things like civil rights and gender studies and music exchanges and recovery from drug addiction.
We've got capitalists, but we've got researchers too. We've got a lot of problems, but we also have a lot of solutions and at least as of Nov 6, 2018, we still have the right to vote in a more democratic election than in other places, though certainly not the best.
I say this all to say that there's a lot of power in perspective. There's a lot to be gained from seeing the possibilities instead of the limits - in believing that your vote will change something - because if 1 million, 2 million, 3 million, or more of us begin to believe, then this dream becomes a reality.
Every one of my experiences, even the bad ones, have led me to believe that the more I feed the flower of hope, the flower of options, the flower that says 'yes,' the more it blossoms and I receive, while conversely, the more I feed the flower of limits, the flower of closed doors, the flower of 'no,' the more it wilts - and so do I.
So today, what do you want? What is limiting you from achieving this want/dream? How many of those limits are real and how many are based in fear? What are your solutions? your possibilities? What do you need to do to make your dreams real?
Coming up next time, I will give some specific examples of limits in my life and how using a privileged perspective allowed me to see through the limits and into the possibilities.