Is Anyone Else Tired of Hearing “That Should Be Enough” When They Are Barely Getting By?
I am sick to death of hearing from baby boomers, the upper managers and top executives of our day, that to earn $54,000.00 per year is, ‘making good money’. Did you know that to make $50,000.00 per year in the 1950s is equivalent to more than $400,000.00 in today’s currency? If you have been living under a rock and your perspective has failed to update since Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” was the top song played on the radio, I am sure $54,000.00 still seems like damn good money to you. But let me put it to you this way: it is such poor money by today’s standards that I pinch pennies, scrimp and save, and still scrape through by just the skin of my teeth at the end of each month. I am sick to death of hearing people say, “well, that’s just how it is these days, everyone is struggling.” When are we going to get tired of struggling and start solving this problem for ourselves?
I did everything the adults in charge said I needed to do, too. I got good grades in high school, I learned a second language, I played a sport, I learned an instrument, and I volunteered my time so that I would look good on paper to prospective colleges. At my institutes of higher learning, I studied hard, I asked questions, I put myself out there, and I graduated with excellent marks and a perfect score on my thesis despite having a full-time job and a family to support. Now, I go above and beyond in my professional life without being asked, I have brought the department for which I am responsible to a standard which it never maintained before my tenure, and I am constantly looking for opportunities to lift myself up and become better in a way that will benefit those around me. So, what exactly am I doing wrong? What are any of us doing wrong that are just like me, working their tails off and getting nowhere? All my life I have believed that I was the problem, but I am starting to think it is not true.
My good grades, my community involvement, my college education, my willingness to get the job done well, my salary that might have been impressive thirty years ago, none of it is enough. It is not enough to pay off the student loans I took out because I was told I needed to go into debt to get anywhere in life. It is not enough to cover my mortgage and utilities and still have enough left over at the end of the month to eat anything other than leftover chicken and rice four nights out of the week. It is not enough to take my daughter to the doctor if something were to happen to her, nor is it enough to give her the kind of childhood I thought I would be able to since I did everything I was told I must do to have a bright future. Either I was lied to al those years as a child, just like so many of my friends, or the people who promised it would be worth it if I made those sacrifices have failed to deliver after the work has been done. Those in charge are the stingy, greedy, despicable ones, not the millennials like me who are still fighting the good fight without any handouts each day. Even the millennials who have given up, thrown in the towel, said “screw it” when faced with day after day of insurmountable obstacles are better than the people who told them it would be worth it if they did as they were told. The only difference between me and the burn outs at this point is that they have given up in favor of their own peace of mind, and I have never learned how to do that.
I won’t give up, and I won’t give in; I have no idea how to do that. But at this point I know enough to recognize that my college degree, my sixty-hour work week, and my commitment to working harder than anyone else should be enough to give me a comfortable life free from the crushing pressure of a basic cost of living that eats up more than sixty percent of my income. I am not sure what to do about it yet, and maybe there is nothing to be done for people my age, the first generation who is projected to fail in earning more than their parents did in the entire history of mankind. But hopefully this message will touch enough people that we all raise our voices in a collective cry of outrage and inspire us to band together to create a brighter future for the next generation, a future in which no one makes false promises, and legitimate hard work is recognized and rewarded accordingly.