I’m a different person, when did that happen?
This will probably be a rambling mess, and not that interesting to many people since it’s basically a small autobiography of someone you don’t know. So, now that you’ve been forewarned let’s explore me changing into a different person.
I was a materialistic capitalist for as long as I could remember, and it started at a very young age. My parents thought it was cute that at five years old, I ordered a shrimp cocktail to begin meals when they were available (they didn’t think it was cute for long!). I wanted everything, and I mean everything. I wanted component stereo systems that cost thousands as a young kid, I wanted the best skates, more because they cost more than what they could do for my skating. The $40 hockey sticks, because, well because they cost more they had to be better than the $8 wood ones right?
I think I was around 12 when I decided that a Porsche 911 was the car I intended to own as an adult. Wall Street came out in 1987 when I was 20. I loved that film (to be fair I still do), I must have watched it 2 dozen times throughout my life. I idolized the same life style as Bud Fox, I even tried very hard to learn about stocks by reading the stock pages, reading about the companies and tracking certain ones, trying to pick winners. Fast cars, expensive restaurants, $5,000 suits, my God what could be better than that? A loft apartment, preferably with a freight elevator so I could park my Porsche in my living room for all to admire while we ate catered shrimp cocktail (again to be fair I still love good food).
If you’re still reading you’re probably wondering what kind of life I had as a child. What made him like that? The answer to that last question is I have no idea. My Father is, and was, a hard working man. A man’s man. Dad was a football player in high school, he played hockey and broomball (I think that’s a decidedly Canadian game). He worked in a steel mill, drank beer with his buddies and fished. Loved fishing, still does. So the similarities with Bud Fox begin. Dad was a hard worker in a not glamorous job, but a job that served us well, supported our family, gave us the things that made us truly happy and he did it well. Mom… my Mother, how to describe her? A rebel mixed with a hippy I think. Liz Taylor glamour and Janis Joplin ideals. My Mom is not materialistic, things never made her happy and she did her very best to instil that in my brother and I. That brings me to my brother, the kid that aspired to be a construction worker when he was little. No mansions and sports cars, no five star restaurants, just working with his hands in the sunshine. He was also a natural athlete, one of those kids that every sport just comes so easy to, one of those kids that you love to hate. I could literally write on ad nauseam about my family, I have parents that loved me and did everything they could, including going without themselves, to give me what I wanted. A brother that I wouldn’t trade for the world and an extended family that is just beyond awesome. The point here is I didn’t become the person I was because of them, so I’ll leave that part as is.
So at this point it’s obvious right? I was a kid with rich tastes born to a decidedly middle class family. Not so much, you see I did have everything I wanted (well I never did get that component stereo until I bought my own). I got the $300 goalie pads I desperately wanted for Christmas (I was a terrible goalie, but so badly wanted to be a good one). I got the expensive skates, I cannot remember one thing other than the stereo that I ever asked for that I didn’t get, and honestly the stereo was stupidly expensive pie in the sky stuff that I knew I wasn’t getting.
I kept these dreams for a long time, I think I was in my 30’s and still looking for my big break, my piece of the pie, to be part of that 1% I so admired. I honestly believed welfare was for lazy people that didn’t want to work and I begrudged them the money I paid in taxes to support them. I honestly believed that cutting corporate taxes was good for the economy, those people worked hard to get there and if I worked hard I could get there too!
This is incredibly embarrassing, and to my defence this was a long time ago, but I read the Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and ate it up. This was the lifestyle I aspired to, this was IT! I read it with the hopes that it would shine some light on how to get there.
That is who I was. I don’t really regret it, I never hurt anyone and never climbed the ladder on anyone else’s back. But at the end of the day I am not that person any more, and don’t really understand how I ever was. I wasn’t raised that way, I wasn’t pushed to strive for more, hell I had an idyllic childhood, I wasn’t pushed or forced to do anything but the best I could do.
I’m 48 years old now, the big 5–0 in about a year and a half, I am very happily married to my soul mate, we live in a rented house that’s a struggle to afford sometimes and drive a 12 year old car that’s on it’s last legs and I couldn’t be happier. I am the proud father of a son, three daughters (two in university, one in college, please don’t get me started on the cost of post secondary), the proud step father of another son and two more beautiful daughters and I am almost the polar opposite of the person I was for the vast majority of my life.
I don’t look down on welfare recipients any more, in fact I do what I can to champion for better lives for them. I believe in higher upper class and corporate taxes, I like bike lanes (I’m not a cyclist) and walking paths. I think food banks, affordable housing and protection for our homeless are very important. I used to be a very staunch conservative, now? Now I’m pretty sure I am a socialist. I want business to pay a living wage to everyone, that burger flipper deserves a good life too, and not the living wage as described lately, which is just enough to survive, but a real living wage, a wage that allows people to live, really LIVE. I want better health care, and green energy and cars (thank you Porsche, McLaren, Ferrari and especially Tesla for ensuring that doesn’t mean we all have to drive a Prius). I want women to make the same as the man doing the same job. I want gay couples to be able to pledge their love to their partner in marriage. I want trans people to be allowed to be recognized as the gender they are and to be happy too. I want refugees to have a safe haven in my country, city and community.
I want people to enjoy their lives, all people, and I’ve come to the conclusion that people that thrive on the backs of others disgust me. People that force others to work for what equates to slave wages, forcing them to be part time because full time costs more are vile. They aren’t something to strive to be, they didn’t put in tons of sweat to get where they are and I’ll be damned if I will spend one more moment of my life defending their “right” to not pay their fair share.
I am sick beyond belief of society blaming the poor for our struggles. Welfare recipients don’t even take a fraction out of our economy than the large corporations, churches and banks do. But we all want to blame them, why? Because we all want to be part of the upper class and if we blame them (the real problem) for our woes then that feeling is wrong isn’t it? If we blame them now, what if we become them later?
At some point in the last 20 years I changed and I honestly don’t know when it happened. Somewhere along the line I came to the realization that people are what matters, not wealth, not fancy cars and expensive houses but people. All people, from welfare recipients to burger flippers. We all deserve to be happy don’t we?
I’m proud of who I am. I’m not rich, I still have never owned that Porsche (although admittedly I’d still very much like to, but not for the same reasons), I’m not “important” but I am happy. I like to think I’ve become the person that my parents worked very hard to raise.
This rambling narrative wasn’t to blow my own horn about how awesome I am (although I am pretty awesome!) but more just to point out that there’s more to life than material things and even if you strive for those material things there is still room to be compassionate to others, especially those with less. You can’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, but you can try to be understanding of their path, and not begrudge them the basic desire to just be happy. Even if they are living off your tax dollars, because I promise you that banker driving the $200k Mercedes, takes more from you than the single Mom with 3 kids trying to get by on next to nothing every month.
I am a different person than I was, I don’t know when it happened, but I’m happy it did.