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For me the "Different" was the stigma of growing up "Poor" in America.  (You can fill-in your own blank there, as the case may be.)

Not as hard a road as some, yet still hardly a piece of cake.  (Hmmm ... cake.)

-- Psst! Look at that kid wearing second-hand clothes ... Can you imagine?

 -- Hey, Look at that guy with the sack lunch ... eager to take anyone else's left-overs.  Ugh what a pity.

 -- What!? You don't have a Phone!?  {a laptop, a car, a tutor, a vacation home?} ... What is wrong with your family?

Kids can be so brutal -- so brutally honest sometimes. Especially the well-to-do kids. But hey, that's just the way they were brought up. That's just the way they look at the world -- from their perch of plenty. That's just the way the cookie crumbles ... in America.

Maybe they can learn a thing or two, from my lowly status;  by the way I maintain my forward-looking outlook, despite my circumstances?  "Life is what we make of it," I used to routinely say ... to those who would directly express their pity for me.


Though I did my best to wear my "stigma" as a badge of honor, as a show of character, as a mark of distinction -- all that did little to quell the gnawing sense of doubt, like the constant specter of hunger never far off:

That somehow I did not quite measure up in "society's eyes." That somehow I was already deemed a Failure, before I had even gotten started.

But hey, "Who said Life (or society) was ever supposed to be Fair?"  ... I used to routinely hear ... from those suffering from a short supply of tact.


Well I was determined to "fit in" to society's expectations, so I set mind and my energies to improving 'my station' on life's stage ...

-- I got my first job at 16, feeding the horses and cleaning out their stalls.

 -- I got my second job at 17, and figured out I was pretty good at Office work.

 -- I got my first car at 18, although calling it "a car," was being generous. It got me to work.  I could retire my bicycle.

 -- I topped the honor roll term after term; and finished the High School obstacle-course as Valedictorian. With a Science Achievement award to boot.

 -- I got my first "full-ride" scholarship to a major University, in my Senior year.

 -- I had lots of friends by then, because I turned my {Difference} into an asset. And people are attracted to strength, and honesty, and yes even being "different" sometimes.


But then the College years started ...

I was back to being a Little Fish in just a Bigger Fish Pond -- one with even meaner Fish.

I was back to being a poor, work-study kid, from the small town -- with no academic credibility.

-- Hah, you were Valedictorian out of a class of 220 -- You call that an accomplishment!?  I should have been so lucky, my graduating class was well over 800.

 -- What do you mean you don't know Geometry, and you want to be a Math Major?  Who are you kidding?

 -- Hey Dude, don't you know that living in a 'Triple Room' in the Dorm -- instantly spells 'Loser'?  ... What is wrong with your family?

College Kids can be SO mean -- SO intentionally mean sometimes. Especially the well-to-do kids. But hey, that's just the way they were brought up. That's just the way they look at the world -- from their perch of privilege. That's just the way the cookie crumbles ... in America. For someone brought up poor, like me.

It's looks like, I still have my work spelled-out for me.

I had better roll-up my sleeves and get busy -- Afterall I've seen this show before.

And it's really up to me, to write my own "happy ending" ... into the story.  As per usual.

.
.
.

A number of decades later ...

"Life is what we make of it,"  I am still often known to say ...

Although the stigma of being "Poor" has long since gone, the feeling of "not being good enough" in society's eyes, still remains alive and well ... and kicking, like the hunger for actual justice, and fairness, and equality in Life, for Everyone.  No matter which side of the tracks, you might be from.

You see trying to live up society's expectations can be such a losing game sometimes, in the economically tilted-system ... which still favors one class over all the rest ... in this theoretical land of "plenty and opportunity" ... otherwise known as America.


We had better roll-up our sleeves and get busy -- Afterall we've all seen this show before. Those of us who grew up {different} that is.

And it's still really up to us, to write our own "happy endings" ... into all those different story-lines. As per usual, as the individual case may be.



Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 03:07 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was the fat kid. And often the "third wheel" in (6+ / 0-)

    group gatherings.

    But I worked and proved that I wasn't the guy who was picked last in gym.  I became a desired athletic teammate, fat as I was.

    I was a good musician and singer.  Being in the musicals and the orchestra around other weird people got me respect and tolerance, and sometimes friendship.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 03:24:24 PM PDT

    •  wow (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde, greengemini

      I get it,  zenbassoon.  

      I was usually "second to last," until I filled in some.


      Well at least now bullying in school is frowned upon.

      And the Bullies are subject to social stigmas, themselves.


      not like back in the day ... when Bullies ruled the roost.


      PS.  I hung out with the band back in Jr High, went on the road trips etc.  
      Even though I didn't play an instrument.  

      (Too expensive, they were, as per usual.)

      •  It makes me cringe to think about it, but (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        as picked on as I was, I was able to pick on other students who weren't as athletic as I was.  They were in much better shape--i.e. they were skinny and should have had some athletic ability--but they didn't.  I was able, at least temporarily in gym, to be a "jock".  And to act like one.

        And had someone pointed out the hypocrisy of what I was doing, I might have come back with something about "payback"--I've been picked on so long, it's someone else's turn.  You know, how the pecking order works.

        And the worst part was that I would sometimes feel bad about myself for doing it.

        It's taken me a long time for me to just be me.

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 04:21:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think you are overly optimistic. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        My daughter is a high school senior; there are still plenty--more than enough--bullies at her affluent school. And few teachers/administrators willing to call them on it.

        Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

        by peregrine kate on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 08:40:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You Were Some Kid, Zen (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, worldlotus

  •  My very, very wealthy aunt wrote to me when (9+ / 0-)

    I was a teen about the importance of education. She said that someone could rob you of your possessions, come into your home and take your color TV but no one could take your knowledge.

    I wrote back and said "We don't have a color TV."

    She complained to my mama that I was insolent.

    I told my mama that I spoke truth.

    I learned very young that the very wealthy do not have an
    ounce of perspective regarding those less fortunate.

    I was pissed off that she assumed that I did not know the value of education and that I had no hunger for knowledge. She was speaking to a girl who started to read at four years of age and who had read about four books a week all of her life but because we were not very, very wealthy, she just assumed that I was a sloth.  

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 03:29:29 PM PDT

  •  I was the next tallest fat kid, but never Santa. (6+ / 0-)

    Meh, what the heck.am still better looking.    ;-)

    Living the austerity dream.

    by jwinIL14 on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 03:29:40 PM PDT

  •  Take your pick: (8+ / 0-)

    Poor, working class, transgender (but hidden), intellectual

    Different can be a lot of things.

  •  I too was (am) 'different'. We weren't poor (7+ / 0-)

    enough for the 'free' school lunches, but poor enough for the 'reduced' fee lunches.  But, that's not where I was 'different'.  I was female.  I was northern in a very, very deep south region.  I was an enlistee's kid (not a military officer's kid).  I made honor roll EVERY semester in middle school and frequently in high school (taking Latin often killed a semester's chance).  I was in advanced math and science classes.  I was also good at drafting.  So, I got grief from the vo-tech side for the advanced math and science and grief from the college prep side for the vo-tech.  The vo-tech took 3 of 6 slots every day.  So, that I could do the drafting and college prep, I took 11th grade English and history during the summer between 10th and 11th grade and again before 12th - that didn't endear me to anyone.

    The first year or so after having moved to Biloxi, MS, Keesler AFB, I was that 'sick kid'.  Very shortly after moving there, I contracted Scarlett Fever and Rheumatic Fever, meaning that I was put into isolation for a couple of months and had restricted activities for nearly a year afterwards.

    I've always been the one that's 'different'.  I don't think like most people.  I don't have a serious interest in 'girly' stuff, especially after I turn 14.  I'm not into sports, nor played a musical instrument.  I read lots and lots.  I enjoy history now.  I'm alone most of the time now.

    •  I enjoy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nchristine, greengemini, worldlotus

      my solitude. And wish I could carry "a bubble" of it with me back into the Office,

      -- where everyone wants a piece of my time, a piece of my mind.

      Where the thoughtless downsizing "hiring freeze" -- make the competing "claims on" the "remaining resources" all the more brutal.


      Hope you've some measure of your health back now, nchristine,

      Without one's health, life becomes such a challenge, day after day. After day.

      We need health equality too as a country (in the form of a Public Option, and eventually Single Payer.)

      Providing Health Care, should not also require profit-raking middlemen to "ration" and siphon from, its dispersal.

      •  There's a difference between solitude and alone. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jamess

        I don't really have a need for a phone - very seldom do I get any calls to hang out, etc.  Part of it is my fault for not 'reaching out', but....

        Health wise... I'm sure I ended up with some joint damage from the 104/105 temp I had for a couple of weeks... otherwise I'm in reasonable health for my age.

  •  i was a book dweeb (7+ / 0-)

    and so bland- no figure, no personality, no fashion sense, and so shy. So many times I would try to melt in behind the furniture or big potted plants so that no one would see me.

    The thing that changed it was paramedic school, and the first job after- I had to teach to help us build up a volunteer system, and I was so nervous I'd come close to hyperventilating every night. I was the youngest person in the room, but I knew things that everybody else didn't, and it made all the difference in the world to my sense of self esteem. Damnedest thing.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 05:06:43 PM PDT

  •  Being a nerd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, worldlotus, BlueDragon

    Only I did not know what a nerd was. Basically, I was the not popular and nerdy girl who loved science and was the first ever female chemistry lab asst. in my school.  Strangely, most of my friends were very popular and were cheerleaders and in the homecoming court. Of course, I was not any of those things.  Now the big difference is political views.  I am very content with mine and really wonder why they have never grown up.

    "Growing up is for those who don't have the guts not to. Grow wise, grow loving, grow compassionate, but why grow up?" - Fiddlegirl

    by gulfgal98 on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 06:03:46 PM PDT

  •  You're right, there's a long history of stigma (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess, Papuska, nchristine

    being attached to anyone who's different. I always liked to think of it as a badge of honor, too, but in actuality it has been painful. Now, in my solid middle age, I look back on a lifetime of struggle and wonder how I made it this far anyway.
    We write our own stories in the end, yes, but we also shape the storylines of others in ways we cannot ever know.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Sun Jun 30, 2013 at 08:46:19 PM PDT

  •  Yep: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jamess
    And it's still really up to us, to write our own "happy endings" ... into all those different story-lines. As per usual, as the individual case may be.
    Somehow this needs to be conveyed early & often throughout a being's life.

    I was a military officer's kid-adopted from a foreign country.  And then the high security aero space medicine kid & the mayor's kid.

    Old school military mores with the special expectations & restrictions of that era's mindset-which governed every aspect of life.  What to wear, who to "fraternize" with, how to act, where to live, who to marry, how to breath, ad nauseaum.

    An exotic enough appearance, a precocious, hungry curious & rebellious mind & free spirit-all of it added up to me being "different" no matter where in the world I was.

    But especially so within the Stepford Wifes rarified society I grew up in.

    So I left it as soon & as fast as I could.

    And then didn't "fit in" because of my upbringing (leaves stamps apparently).

    Hilarious, to me.

    Poor, middle class, upper middle class, whatever comes after upper middle class.  Didn't matter-I was different.

    Something evolved along the journey though-I quit caring about being different or "fitting in".  

    Looking back, I was enriched by it all & still am.  All because I chose to make my own happy beginnings & middles by embracing who I am not who I should be by any particular society's dictates.

    My journey enabled me to learn about, absorb & have a better understanding of the many layers of society & humanity.  

    As a result, I can freely interact & live & be accepted along a broad spectrum of society. Heh, even if I am "different" or "exotic" or an "un-class".

    I tried to bring my children up with my worldview; to embrace their own individuality & potential despite the external.  They are in their early 40's now & doing the same with their own children.  Which gives me hope & a heart smile-for them & for this world.

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