5. Good grief

“I grew up in a small town, and my parents were not rich, but they had me late in life and were both retired. They were living off of my dad’s pension. I had them both at home all day every day.

Dad focused all of his energy on parenting, which meant I had a problem solver at home all the time with nothing to do but solve problems for me. Whatever went wrong, he could usually make it go away. He told my Mom I shouldn’t have to get a job in high school because ‘He’s going to have a job every day for the rest of his life. Let him enjoy this, even if he doesn’t understand right now.’

So I spent my teenage years hanging out, playing video games, and working semi-hard at school.

Then I went to college not too far from home. Dad paid to put me up in the swanky dorm, and I would go home every weekend to get my clothes washed and such.

Then my dad died.

Within about two months’ time, I lost my dad and my mother informed me she was going to move back to where her family was from, then sold my childhood home and moved away.

I found out what rent costs.

I found out what food costs.

I found out what utilities cost.

I learned about the laundromat.

I got into a wreck (guy came over a blind hill in my lane), replaced the car my Dad bought me with a crappy ‘here’s what you can afford car.’

I had one or two good friends who stuck by me and helped teach me how the world works, and dealt with my issues related to grief. Good friends.”

6. Spoiled

“I grew up thinking we had money. Turns out we didn’t; my parents just spoiled me every time I threw a fit. When I was 16, I chose to do a biography assignment on my mom because I realized I knew little of her youth. My Mexican mother told me her best birthday gift was every three years she’d get new slippers since she tore through her one pair from growing. Also, that her annual gift was fabric to make her own dress. (I had recently begged for a homecoming gown that was $250 so that made me feel crappy), and that she didn’t see a movie until she was 17 years old, which hurt me the most since cinema had shaped my life up to that point. The thought of being deprived such a lovely escapism was hard to hear. She also never had an education and didn’t read until her late 30s. Learning about how my mother grew up was life changing to me. We weren’t rich, but I was spoiled rotten. I’m not sure if it was because my parents knew what it was like to have nothing. She grew up in a rural farm without electricity, and when she moved to America for the first time at 23, she asked her soon to be husband what the white machine in the kitchen was and he said ‘a dishwasher!’ To which she replied, ‘I knew white women were lazy!’

This inspired me to never ask for money or beg again. Starting that month, I saved three months of wages to buy my first camera at 16. I now make way more than I thought possible with my camera, and I don’t think without her struggles and hearing about her struggles, I would ever get close.

And believe me, I’ve tried to pay it forward to her. The woman does not want gifts. So I try to create experiences with her instead. We go on road trips, mommy/daughter dates, have daily gym workouts, and I’m planning a big 60th birthday party for her next year.”

7. Sweeping

“I grew up in Indonesia, a third-world country where you’d definitely have maids if you had any money. I grew up thinking it was common to have multiple maids.

Moved to Singapore, a first-world country where people still have maids, but it’s more of an upper-middle-class and above thing. Got assigned to sweep the floors by the teachers, and that was my first time holding a broom.

Swept it back and forth like in cartoons, and everyone was looking at me going, ‘Er, what are you doing?’

Turns out, I was creating a dust cloud around me. You have to sweep in one direction and gather all the dust into the dustpan.

Mind blown.”

8. Parental lottery

“I grew up in a midwestern town, middle-class neighborhood, private school. I never needed anything but my dad grew up poor and my parents wouldn’t give into any of my big ‘wants’ (Super Nintendo I never got).

My neighbor and best friend got everything he asked for. I loved hanging at his house because he had the best TV, the best food, the newest video games, 100 pairs of shoes and 1,000 hats.

After we moved away, I found out that his parents gave him anything he wanted because they were in a loveless marriage and constantly fought around him. They were buying love when my parents were showing me, love. I always wondered why he would prefer to stay at my house with a crappy TV and an outdated Nintendo with no games. Turns out he wanted to stay at our house because my parents didn’t fight, and would actually listen to him. My parents became surrogate parents for him, and to this day he calls them mom and dad; I’m happy to call him brother. If it weren’t for him, I would never have known how I won the parental lottery.”