Sunday, October 09, 2011

I am the 53%

I studied in school and got called a nerd. I took harder courses in math and science, and my GPA suffered for it, but I got some tools I would need. I milked cows and split wood and cooked food from scratch for my family when I was a kid.

My first job in high school was weeding the gravel bed of a septic tank overflow. I followed that by cleaning cabins, mowing grass, and washing dishes. I rode my bicycle 7.5 miles to and from work.

I went to college with the help of grants and a small scholarship, but paid for it mostly by working through it and taking out loans which I paid off, since I made sure I didn't get in over my head. My parents were financially unable to help me. I shelved books, slopped food, sold records, and lived in dormitories until I got my first degree, after which I lived in a drafty garage. I bought my first car at 23 for $500. It was almost as old as I was.

I worked at a student job in user support for a couple of years, showed up on time and did an excellent job, teaching myself things I was not taught in school. I  was hired as a full-time employee, where I was rewarded with a low salary but got health insurance benefits. I continued to prove my worth with my employer, eventually managing the team that ran the Univerisity's email servers, getting rewarded more and more as I developed and proved my worth to my employer.

 I met a good, honest woman, a single mom with two kids, just scraping by and took them on as my family when I got my first full-time job making about $20K. We lived in inexpensive housing, eventually buying a house that cost about a third of what my contemporaries were paying for theirs. I've never bought a new car. I minimized the risks I took and paid off the credit card which had gotten up to a nail biting $6,000 while we took on our new house. I still have a couple but I pay them off every month.

 The job I have has a pension plan, but I put away a few hundred a month in addition so that I might be able to enjoy my retirement a little more and I realize that Social Security may go bankrupt by the time I retire  -- rather than spending it on new cars, expensive phones and data plans, though I do spend a little on things to enjoy today as well.

I give to charity, I give to my family, pay my taxes, I work hard, I pay my bills, I plan for the future, and I make conservative choices. I live responsibly. I am the 53%.


Jason in SD said...

I remember the alarm going off at 7 and panicking because with the light coming through the window, I couldn't tell if it was 7am or 7pm so I didn't know which of my 3 jobs I needed to get ready for.

I remember being told by the guy offering me a job that anybody who would show up for a second day after spending eight hours trying to find a buried pipe with a digging bar was somebody he wanted working for him full-time.

I remember swallowing my pride and accepting my parents' offer to move back home so that I could finish my degree.

I remember having to bite my tongue for a semester as the bitter woman who taught a required "cultural contact" class insulted my heritage and my values on a daily basis.

I remember, very recently, having to take a 50% pay cut after a layoff in order to maintain an unbroken work history.

I give generously to those I consider worthy of charity--and yes, I do get to choose what that means--because I remember what it was like to need help. I am the 53%.

philmon said...

We need to start a movement :-)

Cylar said...

I didn't have the hard life you guys apparently did as youngsters, as my family was better-off, and both able and willing to help me through college. I won't kid you - I had it pretty easy as a young man and I don't pretend it as a hardscrabble existence. All my parents really expected me to do was get decent grades, finish school, and not be a leech. That much I've pulled off.

I held a number of jobs back then - in school - which helped pay my bills. My first real job was at age 18, delivering pizzas. Before that I mowed laws from age 11 on.

I finished college. And today I've got a decent job, I own my home, pay my bills, and manage my own affairs. I take care of my family and the little woman does what she can, financially and otherwise.

I don't expect anything from the government. While I've drawn unemployment insurance between jobs, each time I got bored before long and felt a bit like a parasite, so I doubled-down and found some work.

I give modestly to my church and have recently joined a volunteer ministry there, which helps people move their households when they don't have the resources to do it themselves.

The one thing you will never see me doing, however, is camping out someplace, calling for an overthrow of the social order, claiming I'm "owed" a dime by corporations or the government, decrying "greed" (whatever that is) or telling myself that I "owed" a job, health care, a living, or any other benefits & rewards of productive people. I would sooner go back to working fast food like I was doing at age 18, than sit around and complain.

I *guess* I'm part of the 53%.

philmon said...

Yup, Cylarz. It's not the hardship itself. Its our reaction to it. It's the fact that we took responsibility for our own lives and expect that we are owed nothing.

Like I mentioned on the post where someone said that 53'ers were narccissts. Completely missed the point. We're not bragging about what we've overcome. We're just sayin'

Quitcher bitchin'. Suck it up, like the rest of us.