Being “Rich” Then, and Being “Rich” Now
This coming weekend, my high school class will be holding our 40th reunion. Although I missed our 30th (I was busy getting married that weekend), I have attended the others, including a hastily put together 35th held at a local bar.
Because this is a big one, it is being held at a yacht club located in the same community in which I grew up. I was never a member of this yacht club – or any other yacht club – but I had friends who were.
I grew up smack dab in the middle of the kids who came from very rich families and those whose families were struggling. Although I remember admiring the beautiful homes and bountiful wardrobes of my better off friends, I don’t remember resenting them for what they had. Nor do I remember them treating me differently because of my lack of societal status. I’m sure I didn’t get invited to certain events, but either I didn’t know about them or I didn’t care.
I also had friends from families facing economic challenges, whether they were from struggling single-parent homes (which were much less common in the 70’s), or who had parents (usually just the father back then) that faced unemployment or underemployment. Just as with my better off friends, as long as we all liked each other and had similar interests, we were pretty agnostic about each other’s social and economic status.
I understand that this was just my experience. I’m sure others experienced hostility, bullying, or the pain of feeling like an outsider. Maybe because I was lucky enough to have good solid family unit that was neither rich nor poor, my memory of my high school years is, for the most part, positive, and my circle of friends fairly economically diverse.
My expectation is that the forty years since graduation will be a great equalizer. Certainly many of my financially well-off friends, whether because of their own hard work or the luck of their birth, will still be well off (and probably members of the yacht club). I think, though, that there will be a lot of surprises. As we get older (and, hopefully wiser), being rich, poor, or somewhere in between, may be less a description of the money we have in our bank accounts, and more a description of our health and happiness. Using this barometer, I hope we are all rich beyond the wildest dreams of our younger selves.