Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Truth About Me

The hubs and I grew up in dramatically different lifestyles. Our parents' styles of raising us were similar (i.e. we were both sent to our rooms and told not to come out until there was a smile on our faces, how weird is that?), but the manner in which we grew up was oh-so-opposite. The hubs was a- skiing in Switzerland, summers in Paris, great neighborhood, and country club- kind of kid. Not a brat and very appreciative and cognizant of what he had, but he did have a fortunate upbringing. I, on the other hand, was a- tiny apartment, somewhat inner-city ghetto (and I know its totally not PC to say ghetto, but hey, I lived there, I can say it), went to school on scholarships, dad was a waiter for years and years, immigrant, and not too much money- kind of lifestyle. I was very happy growing up, and we definitely had fun and took day trips to places like Napa where we would picnic and drive around in lovely towns, but I never went to Switzerland or Bermuda or Aspen or any of those other amazing places that now make me salivate and drool all over myself.

Since the hubs has always been very grateful and unassuming about what he has, it has never been a problem. He has never made me feel like I had less, or as if he thinks his life was better than mine. Not better, just different. Both of us were happy kids, happy teens, happy almost grown-ups. Sometimes, though, I am struck by how different my (hopefully someday) future children's lives will be. My parents didn't own a house until I was a teenager, and even then we moved to Sacramento because housing was so much more affordable than in San Francisco. My kids will come into this world in a house their parents own, in a great neighborhood with great schools. They won't know the difference. They will be driven around in (fairly) new cars. I had clothes and toys from the Salvation Army, they will have new clothes and new toys. They have grandparents that winter in Florida, summer in the Berkshires. They will probably take trips, see shows, and do all of these things I didn't do until I was much older. They probably won't ever worry about money, they'll never see a cockroach in their house, never have neighbors that are from El Salvador next door, Guatemala down the hall, Mexico upstairs.

Don't think I am complaining about my upbringing, though, I couldn't have been happier. I had parents that doted on me all the time and since I was in an apartment building with tons of Spanish-speaking families, I had a ready made group of friends available at all times. I went to the best schools (on scholarships, but who cares?), I grew up speaking more than one language, we put together enough money to be able to visit family in Argentina regularly. I never thought I was disadvantaged.

After law school, though, I made a decision about money. I didn't want to worry about money anymore. I wanted to pay off my $100K+ school loans as soon as possible. I wanted to get a prestigious name on my resume at the beginning of my career. So I chose to go to a big law firm. It was a tremendously hard decision. My dream was to do human rights law. It was the reason I went to law school, what I focused on, what all my papers and courses were centered around. I question my decision sometimes, but I know it isn't forever, so I am able to be happy for now. I spend less time at home and more time at work, but I feel secure. The hubs can quit his job and go to school for the next two years and we can still be okay financially. We still live frugally, but I don't worry about paying my bills.

It is a trade-off, but for now, I think its worth it.

The irony is, I sometimes feel guilty. Sometimes I feel like an imposter. As if this isn't really my life. Or my job. Or my house. I feel torn between the person I used to be and the person I am now. I see my colleagues with designer purses, nice clothes, new cars, and I can't bring myself to spend that kind of money even though I sometimes want to. I can't help thinking that my parents will cringe if I buy a purse from Coach, even though I've wanted one for years. I still clip coupons because I feel like I should still save more, spend less, live frugally, even though I work here so that I don't have to do exactly that.

So that is how I live my life. On the one hand, I speak Spanish to my parents and the scent of an Argentine asado (barbecue) can bring tears to my eyes, and on the other I am a corporate lawyer at a big law firm living in a nice town, and I love both sides of this life. I wonder if my children will ever feel this conflict or ever worry that perhaps they don't fit in.

Maybe they'll never know that what their mother worries about most is that perhaps she fits in too well.


Chris said...

Excellent and thought provoking post.

It seems to me that both you and your husband get that money doesn't buy you happiness. I think that there are a lot of people who define themselves by their stuff.

Your children will never view money the way that you do; it just won't be their experience. They'll take for granted the things and experiences that money can buy them.

I don't clip coupons, buy clothes at walmart, or shop at thrift stores, though my hyusband would probably like it if I did ;-). But I also don't buy really expensive status symbols either, like a coach bag, as much as I like want one too, simply because it seems excessive. Although buying my 2 yr old daughter a $98 pair of French shoes doesn't seem excessive. I know, no logic.

We don't get to travel,as much as I would like to, the logistics of it with seven children is too much. But it was a concious decision to have a large family. AS an only child, I had all the stuff but really missed not having siblings.

Is this comment long enough yet, eghads I can ramble.

SpookyRach said...

I understand your reasoning for the decisions you made. I would have done much the same. I also hope you will go back to your dream of human rights law someday soon - it will be a great example to your children.

Enjoying your blog...