KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES

It’s slightly after midnight.

I’m sitting at a sturdy kitchen table in a relatively new house in a relatively affluent suburb. As we speak, I’m tapping relatively advanced words into a relatively advanced web-based blogging platform on a relatively new laptop.

I don’t know what the outside air feels like, because I’m cozily tucked away from it, thanks to the relatively new roof above my head. I’d guess that it’s beautiful outside because of the relatively nice climate that I live in now that it’s nearly spring.

I’m warm, and fed, and clothed in relatively new business casual-style clothing. There’s a relatively new Michael Kors watch on my left wrist and there are relatively new silver bead earrings from Tiffany & Co. pierced through my ears.

By this description, you’d guess that I’m relatively affluent. And that would be a relatively accurate guess. I live in a safe neighborhood in a good state in what most would consider one of the best countries in the world. I was raised by two hard-working parents—more on that later—who afforded me every possible opportunity I wanted to pursue. With the exception of one biggie—more on that later.

I am educated far past most but less than some. And so I am affluent (on the surface).

Let’s address the more on that later’s. College was one thing that my hard-working parents never had the opportunity for. And college was the one opportunity that my hard-working parents couldn’t actually afford to give me, even though on the surface it seemed they could. Not attending wasn’t an option. Because it was unattainable to them, its importance and status was elevated—far beyond its actual merit—for me. So this nerdling researched, and hunted, and visited, and pro/conned until her heart was content.

There was a private college that caught my eye. Of course, right? It felt like home. It felt as though it was the hub of every possible opportunity I could ever want and I could have all of them if I just went there. My parents agreed. My high school guidance counselor agreed. The college itself agreed. Heck, even the banking institutions agreed. And so I went.

Chase and Sallie Mae became my best friends because FAFSA was my worst enemy. Like an ox, I piled years worth of tuition upon my debt-free, credit-virgin shoulders. I had a blissful experience—deferment is a beautiful thing—until reality set in. End grace.

That reality brings us back here, to the current scenario of just past midnight at the kitchen table in my parents’ relatively new house in our relatively affluent suburb where I will live for the next God knows how many years because I can’t afford to live on my own. Before we go any further, you should know that I feel like an ass. So it’s okay with me if you think I sound like one.

I was raised to be a strong, independent woman. I was raised to value education and hard work. I was raised to be successful, to be more affluent than my relatively affluent parents. So now, I want things I can’t have. I want the things I was raised to want.

But I made a choice at 17-years-young that took away what I value above all else: freedom. And it is that choice, and that subsequent lack of freedom and independence, that led me to strike up a conversation bemoaning my privilege to a man (my father) who still to this day, most likely, wants what I had. What I got. What I now regret.

So I feel like an ass. Because I regret going to college. Because I can’t be on my own. Because I need help from people (namely my parents). Because I struggle to experience more than what is currently around me because I can’t travel or afford much of anything that isn’t a necessity. Because I’m jealous of my peers whose parents set aside money for their college educations. Because no matter how hard or how many hours I work, I’m still financially behind. Because people have it worse off than me and I’m sitting here bemoaning my privilege. Because I sound insensitive, out-of-touch, and unconscionably bratty even though I’m not. Because last week I snapped at my mother for inferring that starting young adult life out at zero and alone was worse than starting out surrounded by loved ones and educated but thousands of dollars in the red. Because I have moments like this. Because people justify moments like this. Because young Allison didn’t have a more solid understanding of interest rates. Because bitter, jaded, financially strapped and stifled, clipped wings Allison just wants to be more legitimately on her own two feet already. Because I should be. Because I’m 26 and a half years old. Because…because…because.

And so my father—my hard-working father who is incredibly proud of me because he, as a parent, is validated through my successes despite not having the same opportunities as me because my relatively affluent life is relatively better off than his relatively humble one was—upon hearing me say those unconscionably bratty words that felt gross coming out of my mouth stood up from his relatively new chair across our sturdy kitchen table in our relatively new house in our relatively affluent suburban neighborhood and said, “Goodnight Allison.”

And it sunk my heart.

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