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Family Ties

January 6, 2008

I do not come from a wealthy family. My parents do alright–a nurse and an electrician–but probably lean more towards working class than middle class. I’m from the Midwest, and a chunk of my relatives are from a small town (about 20,000 people) in a relatively unpopulated typical Midwestern state. We went back to visit for the hoidays this year, and apparently my dad had been talking about my new job with his relatives.

Aunt: So, the big move is coming up! You are going to be a California girl! Did they give you a large enough starting salary?
Me: Yeah, I think it should be enough. It is expensive there, but I’ll be okay.
Aunt: Oh yeah…. Well your dad was just saying that he didn’t think that they gave you enough. With the rent increase and all.
Me: :::awkward silence::: No, no… It should be enough. I mean, where I live now is really cheap, but I’ll be able to afford to live there.

In this blog, I have no problems stating how much I’m making. Yet this conversation with my aunt made me extremely uncomfortable for a couple reasons. First, it is someone I know in real life, and I’m not anonymous. I don’t particularly like sharing salary information with friends and family. However the biggest reason was the particular audience. My aunt is in her late thirties and is a substitute teacher. She has a 5 year old son which she raises, though the father is still somewhere in the picture. I don’t know how much money she might make in a given year, but I would venture it’s roughly 1/3 of my new salary. Maybe less.

When I got my first job, my dad shared the exact numbers with his family, probably only because he was so proud. After that, I asked him not to discuss my salary with his relatives, and I don’t think he gave exact numbers this time. He’s just a talker, and he’s proud of me. Besides, what she was saying is partially true. The salary increase just barely offsets the rent increase, and with taxes and other expenses, I’m probably coming out slightly behind. I don’t resent that. There is some price to pay for perfect weather and the great nature, being blocks from the ocean. There is a price to pay for not having to scrape ice off my windows and wear three layers of pants. But it isn’t as though I’ll be struggling.

I think each generation hopes that the next will be better off than them. At the same time, it might be difficult for them to see without some twinge of envy, even if they truly are proud.

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