The Tradition of Struggle

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On my son’s 5th birthday, my mother told my friend and me, in front of our children, that we would “always be broke” because we were mothers. And this was, and always has been, my mother’s inheritance to me.

The Inheritance of No Inheritance

Generations of parents have projected their failures onto their children, all in the name of tradition –– this is what I experienced, so this has to be your experience, too –– and for generations, parents have been wrong. During a recent conversation with a friend, I was being chastised for not making my son “suffer” or “struggle.” My parenting was being brought into question because my son Ubers instead of taking the city bus, and because I drive him to work when my schedule allows. Instead, it was brashly suggested that I buy my son a “fixer-upper” vehicle that he would then be forced to restore and “fix.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

I wondered what makes certain people think their inheritance to their children has to be struggle, versus other demographics of people who give their children the inheritance of alma maters and family businesses, stocks and other investments, and general knowledge of how financial institutions and businesses operate.

Why do so many people of color believe struggle is their birthright and only inheritance?

The Inheritance of Knowledge

In our household, there is no purposeful struggle; life will provide enough of that, and I see no reason to add strife to our lives. Instead, I have given my son the inheritance of knowledge. I have taught him everything no one taught me as a kid –– how to file taxes, keep a credit score of over 750, budget and pay bills on time, run our family business, and focus on a trajectory of buying into an international franchise before he’s 30.

I have taught him how to cook and clean for himself and run a household the way I run ours. I have worked hard enough to afford us a privileged life, yet, a life that still requires more hard work, passion, and dedication to our crafts. I have never asked him to take a job that didn’t include his passion, and I never will. I never want my son to form the physiological habit of doing something he hates to make a living. I never want my son to sit on a nasty Los Angeles City bus and be comfortable with that. I want my son to have a high set of standards for his life, so that his goals are set just as high, and his ambition is always on overdrive.

And this is part of my inheritance to my child.

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The Importance of Standards

I want you to apply this theory to your life. I want you to not settle for anything short of your goals. I want you to be uncomfortable on the bus if what you want is a car. I want you to feel uncomfortable in a Honda if what you want is a Tesla. I want you to be uncomfortable in an apartment if what you want is a condo. I want you to be uncomfortable in a condo if what you want is a house.

I want you to know that struggle does not validate you.

I want you to know that it’s more than okay to think that certain things, people, and places are beneath you and your standards. You have permission to want and be more. You have permission to be “better than” and “too good.”

Only people who are intimidated by your standards will be insulted by them.

Most people won’t argue with you when you say you are too good to use crack, but the moment you say you are too good for the bus they travel on everyday, you’re stuck-up or “forgot where you came from.”

Don’t let people shame you into lowering your standards so that they feel more comfortable.

And if you have to ride the bus right now, and live in an apartment with roommates, and work a shitty job until you finish college, FINE! But you better be fucking uncomfortable, and you better have big goals and plans for the next level of your life. You better know that this isn’t it for you, this is not some sort of inheritance, just because someone close to you stayed at the starting line too long.

You can run the race, and you can win it!