So recently I have been getting lot of weird looks, comments and profiling when asked where I am from. Typically It's right after I explain that I am a part of a sorority. (No, Daddy does not pay for it. M1 Support Services pays for it after I clock in 30 hours a week). It’s not really a big shocker to me anymore considering I’m the product of inadequate K-12 educational programs, high crime rate living, a low income family and an avid member of the (poor)ception club.
It’s like being a part of Fight Club – rule number one don’t talk about (poor)ception club. Now, if you ask anyone from Mesquite, we’ll all shake our heads and say “Mesquite ain’t that bad. We got a mall.” Yes, we do have a mall and no, we’re not as bad as some other areas. On the other hand, when rating your hometown would you want to score it as “not as bad as Pleasant Grove”? Not really, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was raised in Mesquite for 17 years until I left for Denton to attend the unspeakable – college. For a while I struggled to be OK with growing up the way I did. All of my new college friends had polar opposite views, values and perceptions as I did. Was this because I didn’t come from money or have a traditional household? Was it because I wasn’t raised with everything I ever wanted or needed? I never understood until the end of my sophomore year. I remember there were times where our power went out for a week or two and we had to use candles when the sun went down. Or when we had to borrow my grandmother’s shower every so often because the water bill went unpaid. Bouncing around to 15 houses within 15 years because, well…rent.
Of course, you know you grew up poor when bakes beans and hot dogs were the only part of your food chain. My mother worked her little tail off for decades to do what she could and feed four mouths. I will always admire that woman for enduring what she did. It WAS enough for us, mom. I’d like to think you made all the right decisions as a parent. Except not giving Cody up for adoption, you went wrong there. No, I’m not writing this so you’ll pity me. I’m writing this to let other people who were raised like me know it’s perfectly OK to grow up poor. Here is why:
1. You could potentially have a stronger family bond.
Remember when I told you we would spend a week or so with no electricity? Well, "what do you want to watch?" got old pretty quick. Those were the times when my family bonded the most. We would become experts at games like charades and king's corner. Don't get me wrong, it was still incredibly stressful. But to this day, if someone ever needs something, we pull together and make it happen. Cody is still a terrible sport at Taboo though.
2. You truly learn to appreciate the small things.
Every Christmas, we would have maybe one to three small inexpensive gifts under the tree, sometimes we wouldn't have any. Regardless of what was under that artificial Splendor Spruce, my sister and I always woke up first, made Mom and Dad a pot of coffee, jumped on Cody to wake up, and made our way to the living room in our jammies to see what santa had done that night. When I was 12, my mom explained that she was santa and worked hard to make us believe Santa was in the house Christmas Eve. Every year each of us would receive these beautiful letters written in glittery cursive on fancy paper. There would be ash footsteps coming from the fireplace or front door and bread crumbs on the roof from the reindeer. We treasured those memories more than any tangible gift. Thank you, Mom.
3. It builds character.
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My biggest shocker coming to school is the amount of people who still rely on their parents. IT'S TOTALLY COOL THAT YOUR DAD CHANGES YOUR TIRE and pays your rent...and other expenses...and gives you an allowance. However, growing up in the Alexander tribe, you learned basic skills at a young age. We all could cook a meal from scratch, clean, fold and iron our laundry, sewed our own blankets and yes - scheduled our own doctor appointments, at a very young age. Momma didn't raise no fool. Which is an advantage in my eyes because it was much easier going out on my own in college than most people.
4. You definitely value hard work.
I started my first job when I was 15. Since then I have never been without a job for more than a few months. Asking my parents for $20 to see the release of "Step Brothers" in 2008 wasn't the easiest option unless dad had worked overtime that week. Ill admit it, I get a little bit of help from that good ole' financial aid to pay for the fancy sheet of paper I'll be receiving in May 2017 but, I also put in a solid 30 hours a week at my job to pay for a roof over my head and some food for my needy tummy and puppy. Hard work has also taught me how to appreciate the value of money. For now I am nothing but a bargain shopper and proud! $34.79 jacket at Target? Wait for that sale to hit, girl.
5. Greater motivation to become better.
When you're handed everything you've ever asked for it's hard to be motivated to do and buy things on your own when you know you could probably just ask for it. When you're handed nothing, it's easy to work for what you want. Where I come from, college is definitely not expected from most of us. A handful of people I graduated with made their way to a four-year university, some even on sports scholarships (now that's hard work). No, I am not belittling you because you didn't go to college; you do you. Im just saying that when you come from nothing you want to become something and damn-it I will!
6. You give the nothing you have to someone who needs it more.
One of my co-workers grew up in the grove (one of the "not as bad" areas). She is the most caring person you will ever meet. We both sit at our desk for hours and become over whelmed with the amount of student debt, credit card debt and bills with have to pay every single week. I know her finances, she knows mine. We're like finance buddies. Then came a day where I told her I was hungry but didn't have any money or food in my fridge. This girl brings me the rest of her leftovers and splits it with me. SHE HAD NOTHING and gave me half. Metaphorically and literally, if you may. From that day on I will always respect her.
7. You constantly want to pay it forward.
To the lady who has a buggy full of groceries, a baby on her hip, a card that was just declined, and the look of shame on your face - I've been there girl. I got you. Can we split those pizza rolls though? Jk.
8. You never expect anything.
So this is extra special when bae surprises you with a gift - typically food, in my case (thanks, Drew). I never expect anything to be handed to me, never will. But when I do get a gift, note, hug, etc. I'll most likely be more appreciative than Lucy Lou who is driving daddy's beamer.
Need I remind you that growing up well-off or even more fortunate than others does not make you the enemy or snobby. These are just the qualities I have found in myself and others with the same background as me. However, if you're the reader who looks down on the less fortunate, ghetto, hood, poor or what have you, sometimes they are the greatest people you will ever meet. Think about that the next time you laugh when I say I'm from Mesquite.