My strongest childhood memories of awareness of the role of wealth in my family are recollections of my parents fighting over money, and remembered feelings of my own envy over the things that my friends took for granted. Everything we ever spent a dime on—including healthcare, business operation, and activity costs—was counted, recounted, and intensely debated in circles over. Things advertised on TV to kids—from certain toys to lunchables—as being as easy as 'just asking your parents', I begged for, and was often shut down on the admonishment that I would know when I was older, and it was my own money, what the value of a dollar meant. The next opportunity that would change our circumstances was always being drummed up; having back up plans for back up plans was a lesson oft repeated, and not one that I've shed in an even more struggle full adulthood, where sometimes things fall through despite plans A-ZZ. This isn't to say that I was deprived as a child, however; I never went hungry, and I always had a lot of activities, experiences, and at least a few things that I know other children across the world would themselves be envious of. But, it is to say that we definitely struggled.
Stability and consistency never lasted more than a few short years before a new equilibrium had to be struck, again, in my childhood, but in the earliest years with my parents that I can recall, it felt like we were rich. During this time, my dad owned a luxury transportation business in Newburgh, New York with a handful of limousines (both stretch and regular sized) driven by both my parents and hired event-chauffeurs, two Cadillacs, two carriages with four horses to pull the carriages. These horses were named by my dad after his limousines—a fact that gives some idea of the place that markers of material success meant to my dad, who grew up struggling, often at the lower ends of just-making-it working class, in his own childhood and on and off in adulthood. Our decent one-story house sat at the top of a hill surrounded by woods. My mom and I would feed nearby deer apples, and I would forage for bugs (and once a frog, and once a bird with a broken wing-harsh lesson there) as additional outdoor pets to our two small indoor/outdoor puppies, Sandy and Buster. The hill seemed impossibly high when climbing it as a child during the winters when it was too slick to get the giant cars up the driveway—but seemed decidedly less arduous of a trek when I visited the address as an adult. (I maintain that they changed the landscaping.)
As I was so young, my memory of our wealth in New York is limited to this recalled feeling and old pictures of us posing with pretty cars, porcelain dolls I was prohibited from taking out of their packages, clothes from my aunt’s consignment shop, and my earliest memories of horses. Riding around the town in limos that were sometimes rented out to be in movies was the main feeling of being rich, though most of my childhood memories are from after we lost everything.
When I was around 7 years old, financial issues caused the business to go under and the bank to reclaim our house. This prompted a subsequent necessary move from Newburgh, New York to Marietta, Georgia. We kept three of our limos following our move to Georgia for about a year, leading to an epic third grade birthday party of bringing my class to a local dirt-cheap buffet pizza restaurant and then through the drive through of McDonalds in a limo that fit us all—and then unloading to go play inside while the limo temporarily went to sit at the house and return for us all, not being able to fit in the parking lot. Our neighbors reported us and the city fined us for having them on our property, and upkeep rent elsewhere was more than we could afford, prompting my parents to sell the last ones off within a year after our move, however. In hindsight, the fact that my dad worked a night shift at Juvenile Hall in New York was a telltale sign that the ship was struggling to stay afloat. Most of my memories are from this -after. This Georgian suburb met us with low income tax and warm weather, but in this -after, my parents still struggled to make ends-meet in ways that led to struggles to live fulfilling lives—a meeting of goals often seemingly damned for the more idealistic and less wealthy members of the world.
In Marietta, my mom started Jackey’s At-Home Daycare for neighborhood toddlers, young kids, and occasional siblings to babies taken in, or neighborhood kids close to my age. I helped her out as a ‘mother’s helper’ after school and during long summer days of work feeding, changing diapers for, watching, playing with, and teaching 8 to 18 babies and children between six weeks and four years old how to walk, talk, color, cut, glue, and write. Some especially packed years, she had some help—her friend who moved in with us when I was in maybe late elementary or early middle school, sharing our computer/guest room for two years with her son, or another friend she had who was a chiropractor when I was in elementary school who later moved out of state, each chipping in a couple of days per week. Most of the time it was just us, with a gaggle of kids running our living room and side/fenced in play area outside our pool, with myself and the few occasional older kids helping to divide and conquer and chaperone. We had very set schedules for food prep/feeding and naps, and cribs scattered throughout our house—8 toddler beds shoved into our dining room, and on-off additional cribs in our spare room, my parents bedroom, and much to my introverted dismay, my bedroom at times, too.
During this time, my mom did creative things with food—lots of pasta, pancakes, chicken, more-affordably-plentiful-fruits (watermelon, cantaloupe, green melon), steamed vegetables, and inexpensive home cooked meals that could be made at once and stored with extras. My mom also got creative at buffet restaurants, a cheap but filling outing made more lasting by bringing plastic bags tucked in her giant purse which food brought back to the table could be quietly tucked into for safe storage as leftovers for later. We were definitely the people sneaking dollar store candy into the dollar movie theater, likewise (But really, who doesn't do this?) I was thus never hungry, but we definitely had a rule against TV dinners and more than a very rare special occasion food order that left me ironically jealous of my friends who had more expensive frozen meals, lunchables, regular pizza-call orders, and more creative and quick menu options advertised on commercials as being accessible and ready for everyone. That being said, my dad's restaurant and later sub shop did open up more possibilities for variety during the years they were in operation, and I realize in retrospect how being able to eat three meals a day isn't something everyone had. After some experience with hunger as an adult, I give thanks and indulge a bit on a varied grocery list—mostly home cooked though, with limited frozen additions in recent years—sent to me by a friend's mom who makes sure I'm not hungry today/significantly dents my grocery bill with nondairy pizzas that I then pile my own chosen veggies onto, again, with recognition of this as privilege. (and much gratefulness- thank you to my friend's mom—you know who you are!)
Aside from this primary occupation, my mom and I also hand-painted clothes—t-shirts and sweatshirts especially—with designs traced from books and printouts, ironed on, and then enhanced with color fabric paints. These were used for sale, trade, and thank-you’s to my teachers in school and outside activities. The designs ranged from cartoons (Betty Boop, Donald Duck) to popular shows /movies (Power Rangers, X-Men) to local events (Atlanta Olympics) to largely, when for sale, coloring book images of animals such as butterflies, unicorns, and horses. This added to home-sewn dresses, clothes from my aunt's high-end consignment shop when I was little/in New York, and clothes from America's Thrift Store once we moved to Georgia. My wardrobe may have not always been seen as cool by kids who took their shopping trips to Abercrombie and Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger for granted, but it was always interesting—and, again, a privilege to have had a variety of clothes, even if they weren't mall-store-advertisement replicas. Also, on special occasions such as one middle school dance, or bigger concert—such as when my mom took me to Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, and Jewel, as opposed to free smaller hippie cover bands in Marietta Square held once a week/attended sporadically on summer weekends, we visited JC Penneys or Macy's and I was bought a cheap but sparkly, very-spice-girls-esque, dress at least three times (the dance, plus my two elementary school 'big concerts'-Spice Girls/Backstreet Boys, if you'll forgive my taste in music from when I was 8-10; Jewel was in early middle school when I was past the phase of wanting sparkly spice-dresses for a more casual concert).
Additionally in Georgia, we regularly attended the mall for survey-Saturdays, scouring the crowds for the marketing representative asking milling about customers if they’d like to earn some easy money—incentives ranging between $20-100 in exchange for company product trials and questionnaires on our consumption patterns. On an average week, the loot was low but helpful; my mom’s $20 covered our lunch and my $20 covered an hour of tae kwon doe (elementary school), horseback riding, swimming, or gymnastics (middle school). Excusing embarrassing skills and no love for gymnastics, and a lifeguard test failed five times, I loved being in the water and on the back of a horse fiercely, and I can’t express in words my appreciation for all my mom did to make sure this happened, driving us over an hour each direction to a horse farm in Waleska, striking a deal with my instructor Julie that I would help prep, hose down, and clean out the stalls for the horse I rode every lesson for a reduced rate, and providing encouragement and support that helped me emotionally get from walking to trotting, to cantering, to eventually galloping. She also handled the schedule, making sure my dad was there for orchestra performances, which he would show up with support in his own way, with either flowers or stuffed animals in hand.
Also, notably, it's hard to express my thankfulness for her working her ass off and getting creative to make sure the finances were there, and insisting during discussion with my dad over money and discussions with me over commitment to goals that, yes, it was necessary for me to be in these activities, even if I struggled with the physical skills for them/wasn't as good as my classmates. She made sure it all happened, from the gymnastics to horsebackriding to swimming lessons described above—recommended by doctors for my continued coordination improvement, to other activities throughout my childhood, including ballet/tap lessons, museum visits, off-Broadway/at least one on-Broadway theater nights when I was little/in New York; then, also in middle school, field trip funds for when our chorus performed, a violin for orchestra, a guitar for my own independent learning (with a little instruction from my cousin/uncle when visiting NY/when I first received it, plus a book and less than $20 intro software program my cousin passed to me), a typewriter to encourage my love of writing—and infinite patience for both my off-note instrument notes chirping as well as the distinctive key-clacking noise as I made my earliest attempts at story, poetry, news, and novel writing.
My mom always saw potential—for success, for transformation, for redemption. She saw this in me, my dad, my biological mom Brenda who she adopted me from, my uncle Frankie who was actually my parents' best friend, parents of the kids she took into her daycare, the thief that took her suitcase one day when we were leaving an airport ('wherever he may be'), and basically everyone she ever met. She loved people who were characters, with interesting personalities, and always found the good in everyone. Sometimes I was pushed too much for achievement and activity—commitment and workload between school, helping with the at-home-daycare, events I was brought along to (from synagogue to business stuff), and all the activities that she kept me in—so much so, that it made me intermittently unhappy—in that instilled anxiety, never good enough way—but in the long run, I'm much better off for having had someone who believed in potential for my life. She never gave up on anyone—and never let anyone give up on themselves.
This didn't mean that money didn't stifle aspirations at times. Around 6th grade, tired of chaos at home and school, l sent out inquiries on my dad's computer to a dozen boarding schools, receiving piles of flyers and brochures that I poured over in desire (a precursor to a similar investigation into colleges starting in late middle school.) These schools had classes and special programs that sounded so much more interesting than the ones my school offered, the on-site swimming pools and horsebackriding, the language immersion programs guaranteeing bilingual success, and freedom that I thought would shake off my first major depressive episode and the stress that brought it on. Despite dreams that I would one day attend a good school, and my mom's sincere belief at the time that my going to college would be my ticket out of a life of struggle that my parents had faced on and off throughout their lives together, I was repeatedly let down by being told that we didn't have the money for boarding school at that time—and since then, by the reality that college isn't the one thing that necessarily secures a meaningful and lucrative career, in a world that is devaluing education, turning colleges into businesses, and a country whose business model (and timetable) leaves out those who have needs for more flexible schedules or understanding of life unpredictability (as many likewise face—whether it be for health, family, or the duties of multiple job juggling.)
Stable housing is another significant life impact stressor that ties into memories of our relationship to ownership, property, finances, and opportunity. After an event where some city workers accidentally hit a power and/or gas line in our yard that caused our neighbor's house to burn completely on the inside and which fried our power wires inside of our house/all of our electronics /caused my mom to have to evacuate all the sleeping babies from her at-home daycare when she smelled something burning, and which left me shocked getting off the bus to find her waiting for parent-pick-up with the remaining kids on our lawn and fire trucks in our driveway, we spent over a year living in an extended stay hotel in Kennesaw. My mom and I were cloistered in one room with two queen sized bed, a TV, a small kitchen area, and a bathroom, and my dad was across the hall (at one point, up three floors—but then moved across the hall when it was available) in a similar room with one queen or king sized bed. This wasn't long after we'd just gotten our house back to ourselves, following my mom's friend and her son who lived in our guest room for two years moving out. We temporarily stopped most daycare activities, but still took in one family on the weekends—a mother of four kids (two older boys, one older girl, and a baby boy-the 'older' kids being in elementary school) who had screwed my mom over a few times, disappearing entirely, but who my mom always welcomed back when she showed up, owed cash in hand, desperately needing us to watch her kids so she could make her shift—an example of the ways the world pushed poor women into bad situations, in my mom's book, as she always found compassion for this young mom. Even as I found being stuck in a hotel room with my mom and, on the weekends, four kids, to be a bit stifling, I admired my mom for her indefatigable spirit and her empathetic nature.
Even long after her passing away, a kernel of this optimism and driven motivation to do better has found me in utter financial and emotional ruins, carrying me through despite despair feeling unending and episodes of deep depression unnerving me with mental echoes of unkind and unsupportive voices from people all-too-ready to jump on flaws in harsh ways, rather than see others potential despite struggles faced. This causes me to wonder what it would be like to live in a world based on assuring opportunity for individual potential to reach fulfillment, and for our potential to not be shaped by an assimilate-or-die-starving model. I wonder, too, if we're poised for this transformation to occur in our generation, with the capabilities to build work opportunities for all despite struggle, with our ability to restructure taxes to fund the lives of everyone not so fortunate with the amassed wealth a small minority have been mismanaging and abusing to the detriment of our planet and people, and to likewise turn our money away from building destruction for the poor/paradise for the rich to instead construct a world we can all flourish in.
Back to this recount, though, after the fall of the luxury transportation business and our move to Georgia, my dad, also indefatigable in his own way, bounced around different business ownership and worker pursuits—a few short-lived years owning Around the Clock Restaurant; then a few other years owning Fatboy’s Heroes (fast-casual restaurant) and J&R Cycle shop (motorcycle repair and sales.) He also spent at least a year or more working another night shift, this time stocking products from boxes to shelves at Publix. For a while, until the 2008 downturn and less successfully in years since, he additionally had his hand in some real estate—starting with investments in houses my mom made for my college fund, though they didn't end up being used that way. Following the crash, he worked jobs in restaurants back on the ground floor, including making ice cream for a local business that ended up owing (and not paying) him over $1000 in wages. He now owns a food cart business, Fatty’s of Atlanta, selling NY hot dogs and knishes at community events in North Georgia.
Around the Clock was not, after it’s first week, open 24 hours—given how costly that is without a crowd of loyal night owl customers. On weekends in Elementary School we’d visit my dad, and one of the waitresses would let me bus the table and collect the tips if someone stiffed her—giving me the change necessary for some classically lame, Nickelodeon influenced, bored debauchery of prank phone calls made from a payphone near the restrooms—this and delighting in free meal privileges of being the owner’s daughter broke up the monotony of adult conversations when I finished my book in tow too early or became restless in sitting. The restaurant drained more money than it made though, and despite a decent menu of worldwide cuisine, went out of business after a few short years of limited success. An apparently unlucky corner, many businesses have since sailed in and out of the building’s unit, none lasting long. This became kind of a joke we would recount every time we passed the intersection, one cloaking a fairly sad reality of difficulties of those who attempt to start local businesses—especially in communities with malls, Walmart, and always a place to get something either trendier or cheaper than what many small businesses can offer.
My dad’s next restaurant, Fatboy’s Heroes, was a sandwich shop that made to-go and delivery-orders of sub-style sandwiches (popularly called Heroes, in the Yankee land we hail from, which we tried to pass off as a unique treat to southern locals inquiring as to what exactly it was that we sold). My dad started this business out of our home, delivering sandwiches to Coca Cola and other local requests from a giant garage freezer, and then moved into a unique building situation, sitting alongside my dad’s other new business, a motorcycle repair and sales store—J&R Cycle shop—housed in the same building unit.
This involved an office converted into a kitchen area and a set of super dirty mechanics’ bathrooms sitting between the front food waiting room and the giant garage. Given our frequenting of the shop, my mom insisted they clean at least one of the super dirty mechanics’ bathrooms from both dirt and magazine pin-ups of scantily clad objectophilic ‘babes’ visibly trying to seduce the cars and cycles they were straddling to make a proper ‘ladies room’ she wouldn’t be afraid for me to use—an irony in light of her betty boop favoritism in creating cartoon painted sweatshirts, but not an unfair request in hindsight—and one that was met, with only minimal prodding on her part, though the rest of the shop still flashed pictures that my mom—my 'nudity-is-natural-but-objectification-is-men's-thing', somewhat old-fashioned in that cringey way of excusing men as 'boys being boys', somewhat feminist in many other ways, somewhat overall contradictory mother—told me to avert my gaze from.
The setup of these two shops was thus a bit of a clusterfuck of jumbled incongruities smashed together, but one admittedly rather reflective of post-modern, neo-liberal existence. In the front waiting room, a showcase of motorcycles and mopeds for sale were jammed alongside three or four arcade games, candy machines, and, on the front window, a local mystic /craftswoman’s intricate and beautiful dreamcatchers. Hungry customers waiting for their food to be handed over the fold down table installed on the doorway would stand in the cozy area, enjoying chatting and bullshitting over the divide while my dad weaved in and out of the ingredient fridge to layer and prepare their veggie and meat packed foot long heroes (or, in the south, ‘subs’).
Ramps sat on the right and back side of the building for riders to enter the giant gas-scented garage, stuffed with over a hundred motorcycles for sale and repair—a place I mostly only ever went into to deliver messages for front room visitors waiting on both food and their ride to be ready. I was promised a future moped that never materialized, but riding on the back of other motorcycles, playing arcade games, getting free sandwiches, being gifted discounted dream catchers, and not having to help with the workload (for once) made this the most fun business my parents had. Fatboy’s Heroes went out of business first though, and then my dad sold J&R cycle shop to his partner, Rob, who kept the title, despite my dad’s exit (J&R-John and Robert.)
Notably to this story, the early restaurant and later sub and cycle shops, plus my mom’s continuous packed daycare, shirt-design sales, and at one point, her friend and her friends son moving in with us in our spare room, still didn’t cover all of our living expenses, leading both my parents into even more business ventures and cost cutting. Besides my mom’s continuous side business of painted-on design clothes as well as a more short term foray into lingerie direct sales parties and my dad’s stocking shelves at Publix for over a year of time when he owned the dual sandwich/motorcycle business, my parents also got sucked into a separate pyramid scheme for a decent bit of time when I was in elementary school.
‘Technically not Amway, better stuff, not the same, of course we’re not a pyramid.’ I heard paraphrasements of this speech while accompanying my parents to meetings held in opulent homes with lush buffets, stuffing my face with what was to a kid really good grub, in between playing with other kids, and at least at one house, swimming in a giant, gorgeous, natural-water, waterfall pool that put our drab (but still privilege-evidenced) home pool to shame. I’m not sure if my parents realized they were a pyramid or if we were squeezed to the bottom and out of it—the way direct sales usually seems to eat many to elevate the few—but it was definitely an early lesson in capitalist ideologies of meritocracy spouted just to find the reality, meritocratic or not, to be exclusionary to those who didn’t make the cut.
Other get-rich-eventually schemes my parents engaged in to survive the throes of our capitalist system involved the faux notion of giving me certain popular toys—a gesture to show how spoiled I was, though I was not actually allowed to take said toys out of the box, remove the tags for them, or play with them, because one day they might be worth something. These toys included porcelain dolls when I was little, then beanie babies and furbies in my childhood—all of which I’m still a little sad and betrayed over that they didn’t pay for my college, after depriving me of much childhood fun. (HAH.)
(It’s okay, dear reader; in Georgia, I still had books I was allowed to devour constantly from thrift stores and used bookstores and libraries to keep me company, plus board games—and when I was younger/in New York, a plethora of stuffed animals, a kid sized piano, and a few Teddy Ruxpin characters that I was allowed to play with—in fairness to it not being as austere as it seems/to acknowledge some privilege to this, in a world where kids go hungry.)
Additional material privileges we had in Georgia included three televisions—though we only bought the one in our living room—two computers, and in 2000-2001, cell phones to use strictly after 9PM (when plan-included minutes started.) My TV was from my dad's brother found on the side of the road, broken, made a project of fixing up, and gave to me as a present before consulting my parents ( my mom was conflicted in not wanting me to have a separate TV but also being worried it would do something psychologically to me to have something already given taken away [though I did have the plug in wire taken away many times in punishment].) My parents received their large TV for their bedroom as a joint gift from both my dad's brothers as an anniversary or Christmas gift one year. My Dad had a computer in our guest room that had internet access; I had a MS-DOS old computer that I pretty much just played games and experimented with commands on.
Over 7 years, we also gained a few video game systems—first just a Nintendo, then a super-Nintendo when I was 9-ish, then a handheld Sega and another Sega product that (Sega genesis?) that took an early kind of CD at the time—but only the Nintendo was well stocked with (5) games, the other systems literally having just the (1-2) game (s) that the system purchase came with on a sale day, nothing extra (on super Nintendo, it was Aladdin and Donkey Kong. On my handheld Sega, it was sonic. On the big TV in my parents room it was Casper.) In elementary school I kind of thought that there weren't many other games in existence/it must cost a lot of money to put out games so they were rarely made—until I made friends who had . After we had an incident where our house-wires were fried, our insurance upgraded us and I got a better computer/one that also had normal AOL browser /dial-up internet access when I was 13. My (old, flip phone, just for talking) cell ownership in high school was short lived; I got in trouble for talking over limits/at the wrong times, and over one year had two phones stolen and one which fell out of my pocket and straight down a drain during a rainstorm, and thus didn't get another one until I was 17/graduated and working at a non-babysitting job.) I also have a really nice marble green, white, and black marble chessboard that one of my parents, possibly my dad, purchased for me at one point—and when I started college, my dad did update my computer with a new desktop, as well as find a thrift store desk for me. I know not everyone gets this. I feel like advertisements on commercials and in magazines when I was a kid were too much—shows of wealth being accessible, causing us to always continually want, causing us to feel bad when we can't access such, and leading to a loss of perspective to both our fortunes and unnecessary struggles in a very unequal world.
One thing that was always accessible, though rules over what I could access changed over time, was music, however—whether by car radio, portable radio brought outside during playtime (in our fenced in yard with playground area, childcare toys, and separate fenced in, in-ground swimming pool), by walkman, or later, by CDs. Books and music were my escape from chaos, polarized introvert-extrovert opportunities for expressions of joy, and obsessions driving me to new understandings of the world, always. The old question always asked to kids while learning about Helen Keller, whether you could stand it more to be deaf or blind—thus, really asking you if you'd rather sacrifice music or books—always seemed like the most paralyzing and awful choice you could ask someone to make.
Today, my dad still on and off runs his food cart business selling knishes, hot-dogs, and quick meals at festivals and events, especially those in Braselton and the North Georgia mountainous region. My stepmom works in the medical technology field, working long hours but choosing her days across five different part time positions across Georgia. They are also somewhat aided by my grandpa, who they have recently moved closer to make taking care of easier; he gets very little from social security and veterans assistance, though they are helping to manage his life savings as he ages.
My dad and stepmom live a more middle-class existence than I grew up with or have seen in adulthood. In this, they are fortunate, in the middle-class way that is seen as modest to the middle class (an updated but modest sized house in a neighborhood with older homes, vacations that mostly consist of cruises, and a mountain cabin in recent years—but, still, regular work to sustain it all). This type of living compares to low standards for the highest elites, even as it is dreamed about by those struggling to pay singular rent, utilities, car, and phone bills. I have in my adult life struggled to stay above water against low wages, high inflation compared across decades, times of unsteady and insufficient employment, staggering debt, and a job market full of more obstacles and less benefits statistically than were offered during the time when boomers were living out their early adulthoods—but that being said, we all live in the same world today—emphasis on the fact that there's an overload of work for everyone to sustain life.
This isn’t, therefore, to say that my parents are not hardworking—the opposite. Both my adoptive parents worked their asses off when I was a kid, with money always tight between doctor bills and business ventures with short shelf lives—and both my Dad and Stepmom still do today. There are additional stories that I’ve heard second-hand about my parents work before my time—amongst others, my Dad and Mom meeting at a bar they both worked at, then both working for Ford until the center they were at went out of business—for which my dad still receives a small pittance each month, a business model, that’s out of date but still, in rare cases, paying out decades after it’s even well out of fact. My dad has continued to do what he can to get money since then, in many ways detailed above, and my stepmom also has pulled many hard, long days in the medical assistance field—jetting across the state with the extra burden of travel between the jobs to do so.
Indeed, they were and are hardworking—but also descend from an era that compensated hard work more rewardingly. That being said, we’ve yet to see an era where it’s not hard for working class people to get by without extreme selling off of their life hours, health, and often juggling multiple positions to do such. Further, ‘an era’ doesn’t encapsulate everyone. My biological mother, born 17 years before me and at 49 years old currently is a part of generation X (born: 1965-1976/43-54 years old), and has a very different story than my adopted dad (67 years old), my stepmom (56 years old), and my adopted mom (would be 69 years old; passed away at 51 years old.) This story—and my own—to be told in upcoming posts.
Witnessing all of this leads to a tough disjunctive; I look at my parents—my adoptive mom particularly—who worked so hard in her life to survive despite having type 1 diabetes and other health issues, and I’m both inspired by her fortitude (necessary to see in my own life, as I’ve struggled to stay afloat), as well as worried that her early passing away at age 51 gives some credence to the phrase ‘working yourself into an early grave.’ It is an anecdotal account representative of a greater need for those who suffer, and those who are forced into situations where they have to choose between their work and their health to the point it literally stresses people to death. The idea that suffering builds character is true, but with limits lining up to the point where suffering destroys life. Also, what kind of character the particular suffering of poverty creates remains to be seen, as many property crimes and black markets for illicit goods (and trafficked poor people) can tell you.
Beyond this, my adoptive parents both had less of a linear career path than a sequence of attempted dreams that all required side jobs to sustain—a trend that actually does seem to be prevalent today. This provokes me to wonder how many of the ‘new’ trends affecting a wider range of struggling working-class individuals today have long been standard for a steadily struggling population, as well as what differences might be noted over time in narratives of work told by individuals from different generations, and thus growing up in different economic settings. This is part of the reason for the launch of this forum research project.