Monday night at my favorite Chinatown dive bar I sat across the table from my best ladyfriend clasping hands as we talked about secrets, choices, and the realities of being alone in this world. Not in the way that we both don’t have plenty of friends who are our families, and love us, but in the way that if we need a familial affiliation for legal or financial reasons or otherwise, that’s not there. As we say, Its Just Us.
I made the choice to work in a field that is dominated by lots of people with great educations but who often come from at least supportive middle–class families. Yes, they’re often also white. Even if our politics are on the same page it doesn’t bridge certain gaps in experience that keep me on the other side looking in, many of which have way more to do with familial structures and luck than anything else. Making the choice, on my part, to do this work isn’t saving any lives, and it doesn’t make me noble to make less money than I would if I had made some different choices. In fact, most of the time it makes me feel like a fucking awful failure* that I was fortunate enough to get a top-tier education but that I don’t make a lot of money or have an advanced degree that is associated with my profession. I keep that shit to myself (uh aside from right now?) and keep going. Move forward, and work on what I want to work on, because that’s all I know how to do. You don’t have a choice, you keep going.
So Monday night we sit there, so very much the same, but with a few different choices behind us, and some of the same ones ahead of us. We grew up in the same place in jerz, we’re both brown, she went off to Cornell and I went off to JHU. She works in finance because she says she made the choice to never be poor again. I made the career choice I did because I guess I wanted to at the time. It had been Just Me for awhile. But back in the day, I was a doctor’s kid, in an immigrant new-money community, I didn’t have poverty to look back on when I made my choice. When her one parent passed away, and we were still in our early 20s, she flew them both to India and paid for the funeral. And then the subsequent one. I could never do that. I am in awe of her. Now she’s either going to go to b-school or not, but she’s quitting finance because she hates every waking moment. I’m trying to make my life everything I want it to be. You don’t have a choice, you keep going. We can both do anything we want with our lives, and most of the time it’s ok, and then sometimes it will cause a flag or concern. It came up, because I’ve been a little nervous about my move here in BK and what if a super-sweet place I want asks me for a guarantor, even though I have a full-time job? My mom is dead and I don’t talk to my father, and even if I did, his debt is so huge that his credit wouldn’t help anyone co-sign on anything. It’s just me in the world, in the eyes of the law and money. It’s Just Us.
That makes us powerful and entirely free agents, but it can be a little weird.
*In that most anyone from where I’m from would kill to have had the opportunities I’ve had, and would surely have become a doctor, or at least made sure to do something where they could TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. I am worse than any shiftless American kid, because I know what I could have been, had all the chance to do the ‘right’ path, and I didn’t make that choice.