I recently spoke with my mother, and as the conversation continued to drag on, she mentioned that she did not have enough money to get new shoes this year even though all of her other ones were falling apart. She also happened to mention that she does not wish for me to get her anything for Christmas; however, both of these thing really struck a chord with me. ait made me realize that, even though most college kids are broke, I am one of the many people in eastern Tennessee who grew up and currently have the status of being below the national poverty line.
My partner has grown up, and currently has has the status of 'well off middle class'. The type of middle class where there is always nice food on the table and two large TVs in the house: one for cable and one for video games. There are times when I am amazed at the frivolous spending my partner partakes in, and there are stories of our childhood that differ greatly because of the income of the houses we grew up in.
After the talk with my mother, I realized something else: having grown up in such a low income area and household has made me feel guilty when I spend more than $10 on anything that is not food or a necessity. And even when it may be a necessity, I will still feel guilty for spending over $10 on it. This is not something I tell to friends, for many of my friends are either long distance, or they have enough money to go out every so often for an expensive meal.
Poverty, in general, carries a lifetime guilt along with it. Once a person lives in poverty they are unable to shake that feeling of failure or guilt for being among the poor. There are times that the people who greatly succeed and have a rags to riches story are able to overcome that feeling; however, when you have lived this way your entire life, it is hard to feel like you are ever going to be more than just a poor bastard who will eventually live under the local overpass.
Personally, I hope to be able to say that I am going to be a rags to riches story, and if not that then a rags to well-enough-off adult after college. It is hard to shake off the guilt of poverty and the shame that I feel when I walk into a store to spend any kind of money, whether it is a thrift store or the Gap. And I know that no matter what my income may be in the future, I will always have the shame and guilt that come with being poor. It is something that affects many American households in the 21st century, and there is that shame that people may not admit to, but it will be there. Among the children especially, there will be the shame of poverty.