My biggest fear is one day I’ll wake up and won’t recognize the face looking back at me in the mirror. I worry I’ll get wrapped up in materialistic values and forget my humble beginnings.
Well-fed cornfields, dairy farms, and long country roads paint my earliest memories. The seclusion allowed freedom to shoot off model rockets with Dad and build bonfires in the backyard. Mom taught us how to build castles with books and how to use the floor vents to make sheet forts when the furnace kicked on.
Happiness never related to possessions, and it wasn’t until much later I realized my family’s resourcefulness wasn’t out of creativity but necessity. Growing up with less (and helping to carry my parent’s adult problems at a young age) made me grind for success.
A common phrase in my house growing up was “figure it out on your own,” so I put my nose to the grindstone and worked full-time while attending (and paying) my way through college. It took me almost eight years to finally get my Bachelor’s. I could only do so many college credits at a time because unlike most of my classmates, I also held the responsibility of living on my own with no financial backing.
This ambition to never quit and continue to strive for better is what landed me here, out of the restaurant industry with a job that pays well and has “regular” (off on holidays and a routine 9 to 5 schedule), located in sunny Orange County, California.
Now, when I wake up in the morning I have choices of what I want for breakfast and drive on a freeway that’s frequently littered with million dollar homes and exotic supercars, not a cornfield in sight.
Jlo speaks about this in her song, Jenny From The Block. “Don’t be fooled with the rock’s that I’ve got, I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block. Used to have a little now I have a lot. I’ll always know where I come from (the Bronx!).
Most of us haven’t gone from a private person to a public person making millions but we’ve all experienced some form of reckoning that’s forced us to reconcile with what once was compared to what is.
Living in Orange County I’ve seen what an excess of privilege does to a person. I fear eventually I’ll get used to this good life (affording Brie, aerial classes, and financial freedom my parents never had) and forget where I came from and the values that got me here.
Now, this might sound crazy because I’m not Jlo going from nothing to holy-shit-something…
…but for those of you who have dug themselves out of the deep pits to successfully changing your own stars, know what I’m talking about. This abrupt, yet painfully slow transition from past to present is internally conflicting. And man, can we talk about the guilt for a damn second?
There are some days I have a really hard time digesting how much money I spend now compared to ten years ago. A little rotten voice in the back of my head constantly questions is what I’m buying sensible and how I should be saving it instead.
The truth is I’m not spending money on frivolous items, it’s being invested in my physical and mental well being, which is a tough concept to digest. Also, how come it feels so strange to invest in me? Ugh, a blog post for another day.
So how do you make sure you don’t forget your roots?
There’s an old saying about acknowledging your path to success and the author from Bodhi Tree writes…
“There is no way to grow and strengthen if you are walking on flat ground. You have to climb. You have to fall and claw your way back up again, and when you emerge covered in dirt, sweat and smiles, it’s beautiful! It’s worth it. If you rub away the climb and the fall, you rub away the story itself.”
Basically? It’s practicing gratitude and honoring your struggle. Acknowledging a fear means you’re aware and won’t let ‘it’ happen because you’re not living with your head in a hole.
ps: I had an afterthought aha moment…what if staying true to your roots is just remembering your past, and bringing its best lessons and values with you everywhere you continue to go and grow? It’s not about reconciling, but an important piece of staying grounded.