Today’s Revelations quote of the day comes via Mimi Force, for whom the term “recessionista” does not apply.
“She was so used to paying exorbitant prices for everything in her life, she sometimes complained when she discovered something was cheaper than she’d expected. “What do they think, that I’m poor?” she sniffed. “That I can’t afford FIJI water?”
Oh, that Mimi!
But seriously, I was reading today in the Times, and when I talk of the Times, you know I only talk of the New York Times, the only “Times” that counts. As flawed as it is, it’s still the Times, love her or leave her. Anyway, today in the Times there was a story about teenagers feeling the pain of the economic crisis, and how most of you guys have never heard your parents say “no” before, and how since Mom and Dad are belt-tightening, you guys are all freaked out that you are poor.
You are not poor.
My family has been the victim of many economic crises—the one in the 80s felled the Philippine economy and my dad’s investment bank (he owned it) and sent us scrambling to American shores to be new immigrants, the one in the 90s saw my Mom hocking her diamonds and emeralds for cash to pay for our Ivy League tuitions (she later got the jewels back, thank god, so we can still inherit them), the one in the 2000s after 9/11 and the dot-com bust was the year Mike and I were laid-off six times between the two of us, and it seemed we were unemployed every other month.
And yes, when the first crisis hit, and I suddenly went from spoiled brat to a scholarship student working at my family’s Sears employees cafeteria, I was numb. And I thought I was po’.
But you see my chickens, like you, I was not po’. Not if you have a family, and friends, and love. I know it’s corny but it’s true.
Besides, being po’ is a bonding experience. One day you will be proud of having survived being po’. If you have everything you’ve ever wanted in life, how can you ever joke around with your friends about having to wear the WRONG jeans (the ones without that ever-important Guess question-mark) or how funny it was that when your dad used to rattle up to your snooty private school in the Dodge Ram Van, you died a little inside, and your Dad would make a joke of halting to a screech by the curb, throwing open the car door, and yelling at you and your sister to get in for your “getaway” before anyone could see you didn’t drive a Mercedes or BMW like everyone else. Ask anyone I know: I have the BEST stories of growing up. If anything, you grow up to be more interesting, more aware about the realities of life, sharper about the brutal ways of the world.
There is a bright side to economic disaster, it might not be that fun, but it’s good to learn the value of work, even the most TEDIOUS jobs in the world can teach you something. I’ve been working since I was fourteen. In high school during the school year I worked as an after-school aide at the day-care at my snooty private school, taking care of pampered little monsters like I used to be, and then during the summer I worked at my parents’ cafeterias in the back of the Sears and JC Penney stores. (To this day I still feel a nostalgic fondness for Sears and JC Penney—those salespeople who were our customers were very, very kind to us.) Then in college I worked in every library position at Columbia because I kept getting fired—I used to work “The Stacks” which meant I had to dig out the books people requested from the underground stacks, take this creaky elevator like, fifty floors down in Butler, in the dark, all by myself. I finally couldn’t stand it anymore—it was SERIOUSLY frightening and DUSTY, and I passive-aggressively didn’t show up so I finally got fired. Finally I settled upon data entry at the Art History library, logging hours just typing in book cards into the computer (they were digitalizing the system).
I’ve worked as a temp where all I had to do was “process” invoices, which meant a huge amount of stapling. It was deadening, boring, minimum-wage (like all the other jobs I mentioned). It would take FOREVER, like a whole SUMMER, just to make enough money to buy one Benetton blazer.
And you know what that taught me?? That I NEVER wanted to be STUCK in that kind of position—that there was “work” to be had out there, but it was BORING and LOW-PAYING and if I didn’t get my act together and get my education in gear, I might be stuck there forever.
Of course, I didn’t believe that would ever be a possibility, but it scared me enough to really try to succeed.
And everything I’ve mentioned above became material for my books: my family’s story for Fresh off the Boat, the Repository of History in Blue Bloods is straight from my experience working the Stacks, and the spoiled brats found new life in The Au Pairs. See what I mean by interesting?
So. Be glad to have this experience. It will teach you things you will most definitely not appreciate today (if you told me at fourteen that I would look back fondly on wearing K-Mart at some point in my life, I would have slapped you upside the head) but you will appreciate it one day, and for the rest of your life.