Lean into your own life

I have not read Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In, but I feel like maybe the two of us should exchange copies of our books, because from what I hear, they are quite similar.

Oh my GAWD I’m totally shitting ya here, people. Well, sort of. Not really. UGH. Maybe. Honestly, I don’t know because I haven’t read her book.

I guess I’ll know once I get my mitts on a copy, which I really think Sheryl should send me, autographed with a personal message, of course, as she works for Facebook and I think she might appreciate how much I support the place where she’s getting buttah for her bread if you know what I’m saying.

HINT-HINT, SHERYL!

Anyhooo……

In 1986, I was going nowhere fast and didn’t have plans to go anywhere slow either. My parents wanted me to go to college. I wanted to go to beauty school, get shit faced, smoke as much weed as possible and hang out with my friends. Over the course of two years, many battles over my decision were fought, each side experiencing what we considered victories. In the end, my mom and dad won and I agreed to a year of college.

My parents both went to college and this was a big deal, especially considering they were both children of uneducated, poor immigrant families. My father graduated college and my mother chose not to finish, just a year shy of graduating because she wanted to start a family. That was in 1963. Her decision was celebrated. Expectations were different for women back then. Did anyone celebrate my decision not to go to college? Not. So. Much.

So a year of college turned into two and then three and four and I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. But I want to tell you about something I learned, IN COLLEGE, which blew my mind. Are you ready?

Two words: Social Stratification.

My sociology professor split the class up into three groups for a learning exercise – upper class, middle class and lower class. We were told to write up our own back-story and character - a creative little ditty about who were and what our lives were like and all that good stuff. I was chosen for the lower class group. What did I know about being lower class? I grew up solidly middle class, however I have always had a wicked imagination. I went to town with my character. I was a single mother, raised by a single mother, trying to survive and recover from drug addiction (Oh my GAWD the theatrics).

Once we all had our characters fleshed out, which took a few class sessions where we also spent a good amount of time learning about race, gender, social class, history, economics, politics, etc. our professor started the exercise.

Each of us was given ten thousand dollars. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! HOLY SHIT! The single mother in me was singing and dancing and celebrating the windfall – for about five minutes. Deeply in debt and in need of so many things for my growing brood of illegitimate children, my 10 K went away faster than my baby daddies did when they found out I was knocked up (I told you my story was thick with drama)!

The upper class people invested their money, put it in savings, gave their cleaning staff bigger Christmas bonuses, got facials and massages, bought more cocaine and went on vacations. The middle class people paid off debt, college loans, medical bills and went to Disney or camping at the Yogi Bear campground in Kentucky and maybe got new water heaters or tires for their cars. The poor folk – the lower class group – we sobbed into our cup of soup as the money disappeared in a day.

Two more words: EYE OPENING.

And so I shall read Sheryl’s book, but it might be awhile before I do. I have a good reason for not buying it right now. I do! You see, I’m sure the waiting list at the library is long and even though I’m middle class, per se, I am deep enough in debt that buying books is somewhat of a luxury that I enjoy after paying not only regular bills, but also slowly digging out of debt - debt that was acquired in part due to shit luck, but also by choice.

I CHOSE TO STAY HOME WITH MY CHILDREN.

I had a good education and work experience. What I didn’t have in 2004 when I made the choice to stay home with my newborn daughter and pre-school son, was vision or any sort of clarity with regard to my life circumstances. I suppose a good metaphor for our situation at the time was that we were constantly putting out fires. One went out just as another was flaring up! Young, barely middle class and faced with debt, caring a special needs child and little access to financial and other types of support, it seemed like the best option at the time was to crawl through the thick smoke as we tried to find a way to safety.

Fast-forward to today – April 3rd, 2013. We are still putting out little fires, but the smoke has cleared. Ms. Sandburg wrote a book that looks to me like it’s probably a good read, and if I’m understanding what I’ve read about her groovy book, is that it’s is an attempt to shine a light on the complexity of not just the plight of women, but the struggle in our society to create a future that provides more balance for humanity in general.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

But change takes time – sometimes a long time. Sometimes things just don’t ever change, or if they do, they don’t quite change enough and the responsibility for that lies in the reality that there are literally billions of variables affecting the potential for change, no matter who or what we are trying to change.

My colleague, Wendy, wrote this brilliant piece about how difficult it is for her to find a role model that really represents her, to find a professional women who speaks to her reality. I HEAR THAT SISTA! So here’s where the variables come in. Are you ready to have your mind blown again motherfuckers?

ARE YOU?

People like me, characters, as my friend Sheila calls us, (and me in this post) well, we just don’t pay attention to so much of the dialogue, discussion, discourse and goddamn dogma, because we are really just too busy making sure the house doesn’t burn down, metaphorically speaking. But it’s not that we (me) don’t care. We (me) do! But I can only speak for myself when I say that I don’t need someone to speak for me, to represent me, to be the face or voice that helps me be seen and heard. I guess that’s why I’m not buying her book right now. It’s want vs. need. I want it, but I don’t need it. I know where I’m at and what I think. But I can see where others might struggle with this. I really can!

I’m on team everybody, and frankly, I’m just glad I can pay the water bill this month. I got a few fires to put out before I can buy the book that could eventually become kindling for the flame that I set to keep my kids warm. But really, who knows, right? Good thing I’m patient enough to participate in the process of change.

Change for all of us.

And since Sheryl and her pals probably won't buy my book. will you? Please?

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