>I wasn't even close to being po' when I grew up, but I didn't exactly sit in the lap of luxury either. I like to describe my family as Jewish white trash. My parents had respectable middle class career paths at some point in their lives; they just sort of never made it all the way to the finish line. They did, however, work hard and save money and buy a dumpy (but comfortable) house in a very wealthy suburban community of Chicago where other people paid enormous sums of property taxes to ensure that their kids got the best education possible while also claiming that the amount of money spent on kids doesn't really make a difference so that they didn't need to pay for underprivileged kids outside of the community to have a fair shot. I guess kids like me were all the charity they could handle.
In my suburban community, being smart and cultured was highly desirable. All the popular kids were smart, even the girls. I am undoubtedly scarred because I was kept out of the smart kid enrichment programs for years because, I am convinced, I was not wealthy. (Also I was not a good standardized test taker, but that is another story.) Worse, my friend the Sauce, who became my BFF when she moved onto my less-than-desirable block when we were in 4th grade, was labeled as "average" (slang in the community for "slow") because she is half Dominican. The Sauce is probably one of the smartest people I know, but that is also another story.
People in my school went on fabulous vacations to Rome and the Bahamas and wherever people with money take their families. When I was seven, I drove with my dad, mom, grandpa, bubbe, and sister for several days squeezed in a Cutlass Supreme (I think) to Toronto for a family friends' function. Along the way, we stopped to see other family friends in South Haven, MI. We also went a few times to some Jewish resorts that smelled like mold in South Haven. After saving up for years, my parents took us to visit our great aunt and uncle in Burbank, which of course meant we got to go to Disneyland. (This is the infamous trip where we got to take a picture with Dennis Franz, which is taped to the living room wall in my parents' house to this day.) When I was going into 8th grade, we drove down to Florida where we stopped at a motel that had blankets that I swore smelled like vomit and I noticed a condom dispenser for the first time in a dirty gas station bathroom in Georgia.
Hence, nothing in my life hinted at the life I'd be leading today. Instead, all of this caused me to develop a seething rage at the injustices of the world and a naïve but well-intentioned belief that I could do something about them. I planned to be a public interest lawyer and struggle to make ends meet while I tried to pay off my law school debts on my piddling salary. I never expected to travel, although I hoped very much to visit England one day. (I've always been a secret Anglophile.)
Then I went to NYU. I was invited to join a program for smart people that allowed us to travel over winter break. I went to Italy and Germany. It was very cool having a passport, although I thought I'd probably never need it again. I also met Husband at NYU, who had decided early on in life that he loved money and would someday be rich. Weirdly enough, we turned out to be perfect for each other and fell madly in love.
Husband pursued his dreams of riches. I dropped out of law school on my third day. Husband worked in finance. I got a Master's in Public Administration and Policy and had an unexpectedly well-paying career (for my age and my field, anyway) as a child care facilities development and finance guru.
I also began traveling, both for work and for pleasure. The girl who never thought that she would leave English-speaking parts of North America went to the Czech Republic (to visit a friend of Husband's outside of Prague) with an unintended stop in Amsterdam on the way (long story), London, Buenos Aires, Paris, Israel, Zurich, Florence, Rome, the Dominican Republic, several Caribbean Islands on a[n ill-advised] cruise, and most recently and amazingly, India. Domestically, for work this girl went to San Francisco (multiple times), LA, Sacramento, DC, Portland OR, Atlanta, and thrilling Columbia MD. For fun, I went to Boston, DC, Philly, Cleveland, Miami, San Jose CA, and glamorous Iowa City. It's been quite the whirlwind.
Never in a million years would I have thought that this would be my life. I am one lucky ass bitch.