You guys, I have a job.
I know most of you all (if not all of you all) know that. After all, over a hundred people liked my status about it on facebook, and probably even more saw it (which blew me away, by the way). However, despite all of the public acknowledgement and what not, I am still in denial. After months of going onto Idealist and scrolling through it for jobs (my new year’s resolution), I no longer have to do it. I no longer have to stress about cover letters, keep a running list of places I have applied to and places that have rejected me, and try to make myself sound like I fit into a structure I don’t really fit into. It’s so strange how quickly this whole job thing worked itself out. At Swarthmore, I’ve gotten used to nothing coming easily, so to have a job that fits me so well come so easily to me feels strange. I feel like I don’t deserve it.
With that being said, I will not be making much money next year. In fact, I will be making a neat sum of $17,000 (plus getting a comprehensive benefits plan. Yay, healthcare!). While I hope to tutor or barista or do something on the side to make ends meet, I don’t think I’ll be making much more than that. However, I think this is really good for me. I don’t know about anyone else, but sometimes I feel like I don’t take Jesus’ words about materialism and wealth in the various gospels (primarily Matthew and Luke) seriously enough. I think I sometimes treat them like they are some nice idea, but would never work practically. I think I sometimes think that Jesus didn’t really care about my best interests or understand how the world practically works. Sure, he could live off of nothing. He was God’s own son. He had God to back him up in a time of need. He was God. (Wow, the trinity is confusing…)
As I start my career and start on a path of essentially making money full time, rather than living off of my parents’ generosity, I want to be really intentional about how I do that. I want to be intentional about what wealth does and what wealth does not do. Wealth does indeed provide financial safety. It provides opportunity. It provides necessary goods. It allows for generosity. It can be used to support others. It gives us social standing and helps us to craft certain identities and personas. However, what wealth does not do, or at least is not necessary for, is creating community and relationship. Wealth can be a means of generosity and hospitality, but it is not the only means for such. Wealth is not the only way to support people. Wealth does not, or at least should not, define who we are.
I want to push back on this idea that because I am college educated and because I went to an “elite school” and worked hard, I deserve to have tons of money. I want to push back on this idea that certain groups of people deserve money more than other people. Yes, we all need money. We all need food and housing and healthcare and what have you, and money is the primary way to obtain those things, and yes, college graduates have lots and lots of loans, so taking a high salary may be a necessity, not a luxury, for many of them. However, too often we go from thinking money is something we need to something we deserve. None of deserve money more than anyone else does. I just want to throw that out there. There is absolutely no reason, inherently, why someone on Wall Street deserves to have more money than someone working at Wal-Mart. There is no reason why a college president deserves to have more money than an adjunct professor. We have created social systems, merit systems, that make it seem like they deserve more, but, at the end of the day, we are all human. We all have the same needs (in theory, of course. Certain people obviously have health costs and other personal needs that other mights not have, not to even mention children and other dependents.) We all require 1500 to 2500 balanced calories a day, a place to sleep, water to drink, ways to get from point A to point B, ways to stay connected, etc. I think we sometimes confuse status symbols and the goods that bring us certain social standings and lifestyles with actual, real needs. We live in social systems that turn wants into needs.
Next year, as I start my career, I want to be really intentional about what my true needs are. Yes, I’ll need to buy food. Yes, I’ll need to have a way to get to work. Yes, I’ll need a place to live. Yes, I’ll need some more professional clothes that can handle the heat. And somehow I need to get my stuff from point A in Pennsylvania to point B in Minnesota to Point C in Texas (I am so, so thankful for my dad). However, I do not need to buy my clothes at Banana Republic (or even buy tons of them). I do not need to have a new car (or, if I’m completely honest, a car at all). I do not need to shop at Whole Foods or buy tons of snack food. And I definitely do not need to live (or cook) alone (I think one of the things I am most excited about is finding housemates to live with next year).
When I do become a lead teacher and get a pay raise, I hope to keep this $17,000 mentality. I hope to remember that I do not deserve money more than anyone else, that my needs are not greater than anyone else’s. I did not earn my salary, that just happens to be the salary the social system has assigned to that particular role. I do not want to turn my wants into needs, and to grow comfortable living in a way that does not acknowledge the harsh realities that others live in. I want to take Jesus’ words about wealth and materialism (which I probably should have cited somewhere in here, but honestly, there are so many of them… he spoke about money more than anything else, at least in Matthew and Luke) seriously throughout my life and not just pass them off as being part of the radicalness of single youth. I want to always be critical about the ways that I spend and use my money.
I want to always acknowledge, no matter how much money I make, that the system is corrupt and unequal.
No one deserves money more than anyone else.