What Growing Up Privileged Felt Like
They say the things you are afraid to write about are the ones you must write about. So, here’s my little spiel about my experiences growing up as a privileged rich kid among people living in a third-world country
A “spiel” by definition is a “long story that is regarded with scepticism or contempt by the readers.”
I understand. I grew up comfortably and didn’t have to undergo the difficulties of less affluent people, had access to more resources, and lived a more luxurious life. None of that is lost on me.
But life was far from ideal.
If I could use a word to encapsulate what my experiences were growing up, it would be “guilt”.
Let’s call it “Rich Kid Guilt”, that unshakeable feeling you get when you realize you have it easy and you didn’t do anything to deserve it.
I grew up in a small town in the Philippines. My family made its fortune in the hardware business. Grandfather was a pioneer and helped build the city. Our name wasn’t just a name. It carried a lot.
Wherever I’d go, it’s guaranteed someone would know.
We lived in this compound formed of three houses with a lot so big you could build a small community in it. Whenever I had friends over, I’d hear them talk about it the next day.
In hindsight, coming over to a large estate with maid service, a ball court, and heaps of food would be something worth talking about.
Lunchtime at school was when I felt Rich Kid Guilt the hardest.
We’d have our nannies bring lunch with not one but two kinds of “ulam” (Tagalog for the main dish you eat with your rice). Whereas most kids in the cafeteria barely had one. Some opened a bag of chips and used that is their ulam while others had a single piece of hotdog, the miniature one. And not the regular-sized hotdog but the mini-sized one. Some had no ulam at all. They only had rice.
Every year we’d be giving away clothes or unwanted stuff. I’d dispose of items I didn’t even know I had while the people receiving them were so happy. Each time, my mother lectured us about how lucky we are, and she would know growing up in the rural areas with barely any possessions.
We didn’t even have to look far to see the privilege we had.
My father’s side was just as well-off if not better but most of my mother’s side struggled a bit more. My mother would get into spats with them because they perceived her as being oblivious to her privilege. She’d constantly get in their business and give unsolicited advice.
I get it. My mother probably feels the same guilt I do and feels it her responsibility to give back and to help others, but it comes across as patronizing. My parents may be well-off, but they had their own problems. But we rarely had people to talk to because it came across as “rich people problems.”
Living with Privilege
Currently, I’m not well-off or even average. I’m a bit better than the “struggling artist” or I’d like to think so. Looking back, I understand how nice I had it. But because I grew up privileged, I never developed the work ethic and drive poorer kids had.
Necessity is the mother of motivation.
There’s also a saying that family wealth only lasts three generations.
An immigrant moves to a new country with nothing but the clothes on his back and works his ass off to accumulate a fortune. The children work hard enough to maintain this fortune. And the grandchildren, well, they kind of go somewhere to do their own thing. That’s how it is for us.
Wealth was never a thing for me. It was never a life goal. I always feel out of place when most people I know are talking about how broke they are and how they want to be wealthy.
I won’t judge them because I couldn’t possibly understand how it feels to grow up with nothing.
Going back to the Philippines is when Rich Kid Guilt hits.
We have it great in Canada. I believe this country is the closest thing to a utopia. It’s not perfect. There are growing pains. The economic disparity keeps growing. But compared to the Philippines, this is an ideal situation.
I can’t go back to the Philippines. If I do, it’s for a vacation or to help make a difference.
Checking my privilege was the first step.