Just because you were born into poverty doesn’t mean you’re destined to die in poverty

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LIght at the end of the tunnel

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Just because you were born into poverty doesn’t mean you’re destined to die in poverty. You have to do whatever you can to get as far away from it as possible. You have to make new friends, meet new people, fight, claw, sometimes crawl. I’ll be the first to admit how difficult it is to stay motivated on the journey. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I do it every day.

A friend of mine wrote a great blog post recently, a review of R.C. Sherriff’s 1931 novel, The Fortnight in September. I haven’t read the book yet, but that’s not the point. In her review she says:

What makes the Stevens a happy family is their foresight and self-knowledge. They understand that life is mostly drudgery (making lists, cleaning, planning) but they are more than capable of carving something meaningful out of the drab stone of their lives, and they do this by creating family memories which they can treasure for years to come.

I’ve been thinking about this comment, and how to create memories to treasure when you don’t have a family to rely on. When you come from a family of idiots, jerks, losers, drug addicts, inmates, alcoholics, and the like, you don’t go on family vacations. You don’t have the luxury of taking time off work, or the money to spend on a flight to somewhere nice and a resort at which to stay when you get there. Your time is spent wholly within the drudgery without any feasible escape. Herein lies the problem. How do you break the cycle? How do you escape? How do you carve something meaningful out what you DO have?

I turn 40 years old this year (2021) and I’m just learning that gratitude isn’t something that must be paid to someone else. I have almost no one in my life to thank for the progress I’ve made to date, save a select few people who helped me briefly along the way. A place to stay for a while or a meal from time to time. I didn’t take it for granted, and I have shown them gratitude. What I’m referring to, more specifically, is being grateful to yourself. You deserve great things, and if you’re on the path toward achieving them, remember to thank yourself. It’s not easy, and I’ll tell you now that regardless of how far you go, you’ll always want to go further. That’s why it’s so important for you to stay the course and keep track of your accomplishments. No one will do it for you, and if you come from the upbringing that I’ve come from, no one will acknowledge your achievements.

Being grateful for what you have is the first step, but not the last. It only keeps your head on straight so you don’t go too far down the rabbit hole thinking of all the things you’re missing. Once you learn how to thank yourself and be grateful toward yourself, you can create your escape plan. Mine is almost 20 years in the making, but I’m still grinding away…grinding forward. Don’t expect this to happen quickly. Some folks get lucky, and it makes me jealous as hell, but it’s not the way most people get anywhere.

I started my plan after a short time on the streets. Nothing makes you consider your life choices like homelessness. My plan was simple:

  1. Go to college (This is hardly necessary anymore. Trade schools are more than sufficient to put you on a good path)
  2. Work
  3. Pay off debt
  4. Save
  5. Retire

Haha, that’s everyone’s plan, right? Well, it’s f’ing hard when you’re broke (and broken). Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, and get after it. Here’s what you have to do:

  1. NEVER give up
  2. NEVER give up
  3. Continue to NEVER give up
  4. Be consistent
  5. Be nice
  6. Do good things. Do one thing each day to help someone else, and one thing to help yourself.
  7. NEVER give up

I understand that it sounds redundant. The truth is that it is redundant. My friend said it best, life is mostly drudgery. There’s just another perspective from the other side of the fence. The side that she doesn’t come from. It’s not that she doesn’t understand. She’s one of the few people in this world that DOES understand, but understanding is not the same as experiencing. It’s still drudgery in making lists, cleaning, and planning. But rather than making lists of the places you’d like to visit, cleaning your minivan, and planning vacations, it’s making lists of achievable goals, cleaning your (teeth, ass, carpet?), and planning how you’ll retire with some money in the bank…enough with which to live comfortably in your (hopefully) golden years.

What’s interesting to me is that I’ve worked my way up from a meager salary, pile of student loan debt, medical debt, and no one to fall back on in an emergency (dead parents, very little immediate family who I wouldn’t ask for anything, etc.), to a working “professional” in the IT field making more money than I ever imagined, with an emergency fund, no debt except for a small mortgage, and I still feel immense pressure to press on. I won’t ever be able to simply relax since I’m so far behind compared to those who were born into financial neutrality or positivity. What choice is there, though? Press on or don’t. The choice is yours.

Please don’t give up. If you need some motivation, reach out to me. I’m happy to talk with you about anything and everything!

The MAN Himself

Author of Modern Guitar Method. Also, please listen to my new album. I think it's the best jazz album of 2021 and It's available everywhere!