7.30.2008

Familial Economics

Sometimes it is hard being the youngest sibling of three when my two older sibs are both highly educated, extremely successful and driven individuals who are also married to highly educated, extremely successful and driven individuals. The combination of those marriages results in incomes and freedoms that I can only imagine and hear about second or third hand. As in, trips to visit family in Florida, a week long break in Belize, taking a year off and traveling the world with the family.

All of this is sometimes really hard to read about and not feel the twinges of jealousy. Mind you, I know my brother and sister busted their asses to get where they are and deserve every accolade for achieving as much as they have.

And I know that I could have gotten there as well if not for a few character traits that might be considered faults or obstacles or impediments to success. But I hate excusifying, I think its cheap and lame to look back and excuse away opportunities untaken and unexploited.

The most difficult thing about being me with my family right now is reading my brother's new blog about his year off and the travels that he and his family are undertaking and enjoying. Its fantastic in the abstract, trips to the Bahamas to plan it out (which would be a highlight vacation on its own for us), staying in a real castle that costs more per night than my entire month's mortgage, summer camp in upstate New York, a side business trip to Turkey. It all sounds so very, very far from what my reality is and will continue to be.

My reality is looking at a job in the school district that pays me less per year than others in my family make in a month (and that's probably being kind to my salary). My reality is struggling to pay our bills each month, wondering what corner will be cut this time around, figuring out how to keep food on the table, electricity flowing and out phones turned on.

Yes, I know where I am is the result of choices I've made and where they are is the result of (better) choices they have made. But it mitigates the reality of the situation not in the least.

Extended beyond my immediate family things get even more difficult. One side of my family is really rather wealthy and I basically stick my fingers in my ears and go "Lalalalalala" whenever talk of the villa in the south of France comes up or the month long trip to Iceland or the new house my cousin bought with a nice big theatre room in it.

And I know that one of the unfortunate effects of the pretty gross economic disparity is that I don't really go that far out of my way to see my family that much. Not only can I not really afford to economically but I can't really afford to emotionally. There's only so much happy face making I can swing when I have to listen to how fan-fucking-tastic other people's lives are.

I don't begrudge anyone the success they've achieved. At least I try not to but it is hard to not feel like the pauper in the room whenever I am around my family. Because I am.

I do try to not let the disparity in my life and the lives of my siblings and their families affect me too much. I try not to look at my world and wish for things to be different. I try not to look at our monthly bills and wish there were enough to pay them all and have some left over. I try to find some silver linings where I can and I try to convert the envy I have for those "better lives" into motivation to improve the lot of my family, to create additional income streams and claw our way upward.

I love my brother, love my sister, love my brother and sister-in-laws and adore my nephews and niece. I really and truly do. But sometimes it can be easier to be ignorant of the benefits of having big income and just not knowing.

Yes, I do know that it is a clear sign that my life is out of balance if I'm looking at other lives and comparing them to my own. But knowing and not doing are two different things. I try to focus on the things I do have in my life and quite a number of them really are beyond awesome and I do count myself to be truly blessed (by whom is up for debate) to have a beautiful wife, two healthy and incredibly awesome little boys and a house I can, mostly, call my own.

But sometimes the grass on the other side of the fence is so green it just dazzles me and I can't help but stare and wish I could get a taste of it.
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