Tuesday, July 10 at 5:00 PM. The basement parking lot is eerily quiet, mostly empty except for a few cars and my light blue SUV, a short walk across the way. My steady steps echo off the walls, sending me into a soothing hypnotic trance. 👟👟👟 Random thoughts quickly flood my mind as the safe rectilinear path across stalls eliminates any need to be present and on high alert. “Hilton Osaka or Marriot?” “Did W finish the Game Theory problem set?” “How cool would it be to own a time machine?” Each unanswered question ushered me closer to my target, making the one minute walk feel like an eternity, a much welcomed reprieve from the hustle of the workday.
Almost automatically, the proximity of the SUV, a 2015 Mazda CX-9 – 2 tons+ of metal and features equivalent to $32,000 USD – snaps me back into reality. At that price tag, it is one of the most modest cars parked in the carpool permitted section of this high paying manufacturing company. Tesla Model anything are everywhere! I’m not sure why I recalled that number, or cared about the comparison, but the correlation my brain’s logic was processing hit me like a ton of bricks soon after:
💸🚘💸A $32k vehicle is considered modest?!! 💸 🚙 💸
What had been an impulsive purchase for me – acquired during my layoff as a means to get equity out of the previous model we owned to fund a rental property investment – is the equivalent of the annual salary of a worker being paid minimum wage in Seattle. Looking straight at car number six, of a total of three leases and three direct buys, it dawned on me that my husband and I had spent more money buying vehicles than most people in the USA would earn in a lifetime.
Heck, we’d been paying upwards of $20k USD a year in taxes to the IRS for as long as I could remember. The government could single handedly maintain a couple of families with our contributions. 💰💰
Moments like these remind me that privilege is a thing, not some made up reason to blame the haves for the have nots’ problems. Luck had EVERYTHING to do with it; being born at the right place, at the right time, to the right people, with the right mindset. Talent, effort, grit and resilience got me through my teen years and colleg. The love, courage and confidence of my clan made me a force to be reckoned with. The paid in full engineering degree – my mom’s self professed greatest duty to herself and to society – made it so much easier to find a high paying job and a low percentage APR credit card that enabled me to build a solid credit history that made it extremely very convenient to buy a car, a house and pay for a kickass wedding.
While other laid off people had to trade or surrender their vehicles to make ends meat, I was in the unique position to trade up and get cash at the same time, without a job aligned because I was a career woman. I had savings, an enviable severance package, and the wit and character to weather the storm. I could handle anything thrown my way with the aid of Plans A through Z. 😎
My ability to react so effectively to life’s vicissitudes had been possible because my mother, father and extended family gave their all to make sure I had an even better life than they had; that I chose a career and passions that would not only serve me but humanity, and came with excellent benefits. They saved, borrowed and invested to fund all of our adventures, my cousins and sister got their fair share too. Computers. Books. Internet. Travel. You name it, I had it! All this without having to work during the summers to save up for a downpayment on a car nor take on a part time job to pay for tuition. Financial solvency was never an issue. The safety net was deployed, ready for anything the universe threw at us. 💪
The good fortune of being born into a stable, highly educated, high earning middle class family was even more palpable when my mom got diagnosed with brain cancer. Her military service and retirement led to a cushy pension and stellar private retiree medical plan that covered every expense. Brain surgery. ER. MRIs. Hospital stays. At home care equipment. We didn’t get a single bill; there was no need for crowdfunding or second mortgages. HER savings and HER pension covered the expenses of the 24/7 at home care her condition required. Whatever she wanted or needed was purchased using her own cash.
The sacrifices made by this strong, independent, savvy woman prove that every parents’ goal should be to leave their kids better off than they were themselves. My grandparents did it for her; my mother did it for me. I will do it for those I’ll leave behind.
Even at death’s door she didn’t depend on anyone financially. My sister and I had all the resources we needed to help her through her journey and to help ourselves through it. Plane tickets. Christmas gifts. Meals. Spending money. Kind nurses. Handsome, capable doctors. (Her words, not mine. 😅) We didn’t have to worry about a thing, only about her. Call me selfish but it was an amazing feeling. Being able to focus on my family 100% because money wasn’t a problem. Mom had managed to save and invest without detriment to her own comfort and experiences, proof that living responsibly pays off. That it can lead to a journey full of love and adventure.
Reflecting on these experiences cements my desire of sharing my luck with others. My sincerest wish and hope for those sitting next to their cancer warriors, losing or wining the battle alike, is to have what I had: peace of mind. This is why I vote for candidates to government and leadership roles that execute on promises to provide healthcare for all and paid medical and life event leaves of absence. This is why I share and donate to almost every campaign I see online. Pet. Human. Doesn’t matter. No one should have to worry about losing their home or their financial security to pay for treatment and care; to lose their livelihood because they are holding their loved one’s hand through chemo and radiation treatments, or worse, as their light starts to dim and their eternal slumber nears.
Privilege stops being a privilege when we all have the same opportunity to benefit from it. We must consider that in some cases for the greater good our cherished institutions must shed old traditions, and archetypes that do not serve us anymore, to end privileges that serve to segregate people and negate them of a chance to actually beat the odds stacked against them. Poor people can’t just overcone poverty if they aren’t paid a living wage or educated. Women can’t avoid unwanted pregnancies without contraception. Cancer warriors can’t easily recover financially because of the bills, uncertainty and uninsurability caused by their diagnosis. Having a good quality of life for all is paramount for success and progress. Why is society so keen on vilifying the victims of the atrocities it fails to condemn?
Someone told me once I should be grateful for my health, and because of my unique position I scoffed and said: “Being healthy doesn’t imply you are equipped to succeed. Education does more to improve your life expectancy and earning potential than health alone.” We have to stop minimizing the complex social and economic issues of our generation by using old adages. Challenge your point of view. Analyze, compare and deduct. Just because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem or a solution to the ailments of the world. Thinking hard about the issues and exploring agreeable outcomes is the only way we will be able to course correct and expand the privilege pie for all to enjoy. For every man, woman and child to have a chance to fully develop and reach their true potential.
For more info on salaries and socio-economic strata, visit the link below, and/or Google wisely.