This is a convoluted topic because those who have it don’t know they do, never accept that they do. Those who don’t, can’t explain the people who do because it will suck out the heart and soul.
Being ashamed and embarrassed about where you come from is not something that someone wants to remember.
For 20 years of my life, I was ashamed of my past, where I was born, where I was brought up, being brought up by a single mother, and being ashamed of being poor. Still, it’s true when they say empty pockets teach you a million things in life and a smart man learns more from his enemies than a fool does from his friends. I could do everything I do today because there was always someone to tell me that it was not possible. I was an adolescent. So as childish and immature as I was, I always went to bed angry to plot my revenge, not in a harmful way, but in a way that pushed me where I was. It’s funny because anger, rage, the feeling of helplessness can drive a man off a cliff, but I never thought it could drive a man up a cliff by channeling it for the right causes. I was so young that I had no fear of failure. I was so young that I never thought about consequences.
Let me correct myself; I was so young that I did not know what consequences meant because there was no one to teach me. Nothing I’ve done has been premeditated. Everything was done by opportunity or by chance. And I am not sure whom to thank that I never went on the wrong side of the tracks even though I was born there.
There are two videos I would like to share which try to explain what privilege mean:
But privilege is just not about where you were born, what color of your skin is, how many parents you have, how your financial condition is, but it is also about how society perceives you as a human.
Let me share my own story with someone who studied with me in grad school.
- He never had to work in undergrad and had a good gpa. He got a scholarship as he started grad school. I did not start with a scholarship or financial aid. I relied on hackathons and online competitions, freelance and options trading to fund my college education.
- Both of his parent werent emotionally and financially sound. My mother had retired and I was burning through her savings.
- He was in it for the money. I was in it for my passion.
- He did not land an internship. I landed one.
- When I started college, I had $500 saved up. He had more than $5000. But he did not care about it because he knew his parents could help.
- I knew the situation I was in. It was the only thing I had.
- We both landed almost the same paying jobs after school. But I was more happy and I couldn’t understand why. Today I do.
Struggle is making ends meet with $500.
Privilege is knowing that someone will help you out if things go wrong.
So I say this, please don’t say you made it on your own even if you did not dig into your parent’s wallet.
When I started grad school, I told my mom that I could go to a low-cost school in Michigan. It will save us a lot of money, and we would be fine for a while with the money we had. But my mother assured me that she would bring up the amount somehow. She also borrowed some from her own sister. She gambled onto me, and it somehow worked out.
I get emotional writing about this, not because it’s hard, but because it reminds me that even if one thing hadn’t gone right, things would have been very different from what they are now. And that part of the past scares me.
I shared the videos with a roommate I had and his reply was, “How is it my problem that I was born rich? You want me to be sorry for that?“
We still have a long way to go as humans. 4 billion years of evolution isn’t enough.
Does it scare me that someone who had a head start to life has more chances of wearing the blue uniform?
I would be lying if I said I don’t. But that’s not the goal behind wearing the blue uniform. It’s about putting everything aside for that very moment because you are dedicating your life to something much greater than the differences we humans created within ourselves. And that very idea is the foundation of why we choose to become astronauts.