Family, Money & Education
The number one thing I learned growing up was to never trust anyone but family.
Family are the people who shape you and help shape the decisions you make for your future. But as the years have progressed, I’ve found that these are the ones who have the most power to cut you to the bone.
“There’s so much abundance in nature. ” My millionaire Uncle Julian said looking around at the orange trees in the orchard garden.
I was standing with them on the property he had just bought with my Aunt Cora. Their third home. All of them worth over a million dollars and custom designed with inlaid tiles, pretty carpet and marble counter tops. They were the most beautiful houses I had ever seen. Like the kind you see in Architectural Digest or some other magazine you could drool over, and filled with books and cool art. Aunt Cora’s home had everything I had ever wanted to buy in a gallery, on Etsy or Anthropologie. Fridges were stocked with yummy organic food and nobody ever went without fresh milk.
Uncle Julian was happy in nature, I could tell. He was breathing in the fresh California air and looking around as if he couldn’t believe how fortunate he was either. I never saw my uncle smiling and easy going like this when I had worked at their company. He was only like this when he was on a farm picking something or digging in the earth. Nature helped him, like he understood something about it.
In 1984, my Aunt Cora and Uncle Julian started a business out of their home, worked hard and made their fortune in the technology industry. People came to him with ideas for business plans and deals. My uncle had gone to college at MIT and made a kick ass life for himself with what he had. He didn’t come from a family with money, but his mom had made sure that all of her kids went to good schools.
When people tell you not to get an education or go to college, what they’re really telling you is that you don’t deserve to be successful or a business owner. They’re telling you that you should be happy with the caste you were born into and suck it up like everyone else.
People who tell you to get a job and not an education are the same people who can’t use their or there in a sentence properly and don’t care. They don’t care about words on paper. They care about numbers on paper.
I was with Aunt Cora when she was out here looking at houses. When I saw this house, I knew was for them. It was a big rambling house that would fit everyone in our huge family and felt warm and comfortable. But, it had been decorated in the late seventies when burgundy and Quaaludes were popular. They were about to renovate and gut the thing and lay down some serious cash with architects, designers, tiles and cool ideas.
As we walked around the grounds of the newest property, I thought about the $20 left to my name and the $40 on gas that I spent driving up here from Los Angeles to see them. I had these questions that nobody in my family would answer; How come some people are rich and others are poor? People from the same family tribe? How come rich people get richer and richer and I am always struggling and just barely getting by? What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I even afford to buy food and they have three houses? Maybe it was envy, but for me it was an inherent sense of failure on my part. I had dropped the ball somewhere. My family told me that I needed to work harder and get up earlier. The harder you work, the more money you make.
My mom had been in and out of jail for most of my life, but when I was seventeen, my mom went to Federal prison while me and my three sisters were left to fend for ourselves. As their parents encouraged them, I watched all of my cousins go on to college at big private Catholic Universities; Loyola, USD & Trinity. Names that you go you a good job when you graduated. My aunts and uncles had made sure their kids were educated and taken care of.
Since Mom was going to be in Federal prison for the next six years , I got a job waitressing at Red Lobster and studied acting at Stella Adler. Performing and writing was the only thing that I knew how to do; not math, it terrified me. My sisters and I had gone to a lot of schools growing up, about three a year, so performing and learning how to adapt was a survival skill, not a hobby. Sometimes we’d move in the middle of the night, one step ahead of the cops or whoever else was after my mom. Performing on stage made me feel real and writing made my ideas real because they were now on paper. They now existed because I created it, which meant I had existed too.
All I remembered about the many different schools was how miserable the people who worked for the State were and how the smell of the hallways in every school across America was the same. So were the cliques. I didn’t want to go to school anymore, it was another prison for me. They kept telling me to conform and asking me where I grew up.
As I walked around the expensive real estate, I thought about the Salvadorian men who worked washing dishes at the restaurants where I had worked since I was fourteen and how their hands would bloat up on Sunday nights, white and grey puffs of mush that weren’t really hands anymore. Hands were not to be spent soaked in water for twelve hours- nozzle spraying off the nasty food that the fat people at Red Lobster would eat.
I thought about how many years it would take washing dishes or waitressing at Red Lobster to buy a house like this.
People like to snuff and snort and say they worked hard, that’s why they’re rich. They harder you work, the richer you get, right? I’ve worked doubles since I was fourteen and have seen eight month pregnant women work doubles. They are not rich. They never got rich. And they worked really hard.
I thought about abundance and the nature of abundance in our society, and why it fell on some and not on others.