I am currently living between two worlds. In the one world I have my clients who do not have much money but receive numerous benefits from the government and the community in general. The other world has my family, friends, and work associates who are on the higher end financially. You don’t have to be a Social Worker to identify with this conundrum. As a matter of fact, I have had this discussion with my friends on numerous occasions before I was a Social Worker and know many people who can relate. Let me explain what it means to be caught between two worlds.
Side One – On one side I have my clients, or people I know in general who are living in poverty and/or on the lower socioeconomic spectrum. They mostly have lower incomes, either from employment or some type of government assistance. They receive a variety of supplemental benefits, such as food stamps, housing subsidies, childcare assistance, etc. In addition, during holiday time they receive an outpouring of packages, gift cards, and all kinds of toys, clothes, and items for their children.
Side Two – On the other side, are the people on the higher socioeconomic spectrum. They have higher incomes, and most are married which means a two income household. They are stable financially and have nice homes, cars, travel often, attend many events, and just overall live a higher class lifestyle. Most of them cannot understand the culture of poverty on the lower income side – having no valid license, driving without insurance, having children by multiple men, “baby daddy” drama, asking people for things, having no job, etc. They absolutely, positively, cannot relate AT ALL! I have literally seen some of them “clutch their pearls,” during discussions, not figuratively……literally! lol
In The Middle – So here I am in the middle of it all! I have things in common and can relate to both sides. I also have an understanding of both sides, even with the things that I don’t actually have in common. Although this is a strength of mine, today I am talking about the frustration of it. Let me explain.
I assist my clients with identifying resources. Applying for benefits, connecting them to groups who provide assistance, even giving them things myself. I am genuinely happy to see them get the help they need, but it is frustrating to help other people get so much, when you are in need yourself. No I am not in the same kind of need they are, but I often need help financially. But there is no help for me, I just have to figure it out.
On the other hand, or shall I say side, I have to hear about the house, the car, the latest fabulous trips, their husband’s business, and their career/business. Although I have a lot in common with them, I am not on the same level financially and so I often can’t do the same things they can.
One of the major differences is that I am single and my income IS the only income. I am doing everything on my own and it is very hard. I don’t have a husband to pay the bills, or even share them. I pay ALL my own bills. I take care of my daughter COMPLETELY on my own. Everything I have, I bought ON MY OWN, excluding gifts from family and friends of course.
In the human services, non-profit, or whatever you want to call it field, the income levels are lower than in a corporate environment. So even though I have a Master’s degree, I do not make the equivalent of someone else in a corporate or even government environment. I am still at the “building” stage of my career and not making a lot of money. I have always worked. And I have always excelled in my jobs, getting promotions and raises quickly. But with the challenges of my young adulthood, and the ups and downs of life, I have faced many setbacks, and therefore, I am not where I want to be financially. I am working very hard to get there and I am definitely on the right track, but sometimes it gets hard.
My income is too high for any type of help, and to be honest I don’t want government assistance anyway. Even when I was younger, made less and was getting some assistance I ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY HATED IT! That is not the kind of life that I want to live. I am a very independent person and I like providing for myself. But it is frustrating sometimes when you see other people getting help and you cannot get ANY help when you need it.
I shared this frustration recently with my Life Coach / Mentor, she gave me some good advice. She said this issue came down to comparing, and to stop comparing myself to others. She also said it is about perception, and how I choose to look at the situation. I have given this very same advice to others, including my own daughter. So it isn’t that I didn’t know that, but sometimes we have to be reminded. Sometimes we also need someone else to point things out to us that we may not see. She also asked why this was bothering me so much. I told her I believe it is because I am immersed in it daily. I literally go from helping a client get her food stamps cut back on, she her get approved for say $800 in food stamps, hear her complain about her worker and whatever else, then leave and go to the grocery store to figure out how to get 5 items for me and my daughter. Then I wake up the next day, stop at the gas station to fill up my tank with money I don’t have, and go to a meeting with a room full of women who talk about just coming back from whatever is the latest trip, the next $250 event they are attending, and drive off in their Mercedes. This is my daily life right now.
I have had some recent challenges, back to back. My mother just passed away 3 months ago. We didn’t have a good relationship. We made peace in the end, but it also brought up a life time of hurt and pain that I dealt with from our tumultuous relationship. It was hard watching her wither away the weeks before she passed from dementia. The next month I turned 40 and started my blog. A week later the relationship I had been in for a year and a half abruptly ended. My daughter also just finished middle school and it took a lot of time, energy, and money to get her through it. Her 8th grade trip, end of year activities, tuition and lunch, and sports all cost money. Thank God we met a very nice woman who provided math tutoring to her for free or that would have been another expense, one that in previous years I had to pay. I had to choose a high school, and find a variety of things for her to do this summer. With all of this occurring in my life in the past few months, I have been a little vulnerable. So, this experience of being caught between two worlds has been a slight irritant.
With all of this going on personally I still have a case load of women who are in CONSTANT CRISIS, so I am always helping them find jobs, helping them keep a job, getting then enrolled in school, then helping overcome barriers so they can stay in school, keeping their children in school, supporting them through legal issues and court cases, keeping them from losing their housing, keeping them from fighting and trying to get them out of “drama,” and of course finding them resources to help them pay their bills, get clothes, furnish their houses, and everything else they need.
I received a test, you know God always sends us a test for our lessons we are learning. Yesterday at the grocery store I went in with $20 to get a few groceries. There was the typical lady with a cart so full of groceries that she could hardly push it. She had several children with her that were loud and hanging off of her and the cart. I looked at her and her overflowing cart and thought “see this is what I am talking about.” Then immediately I realized, this is my test! I thought about my Mentor saying how many people would switch places with me and how blessed I am. Then I thought about another conversation with someone and all of the drama going on in their life and family. I paid for my items and while leaving I again saw this woman who was now in the checkout line. Her kids were all over the place and it was a chaotic scene. She didn’t look very happy, and her and the kids were pretty shabby. I went to my car, and drove home in silence. My daughter was asleep on the coach. I watched her for a few moments and thought about how she is such a good girl, how well she is doing in life, the great future she has ahead of her, and how proud I am of her. I put up my 6 items and went upstairs. I looked around and thought about my life. I have a relationship with God, I have peace (the greatest gift of all), I’m in my prime, healthy, have my own place, my own car, everything I need, and some of the things I want, a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree, a rewarding career, upward mobility and support at work, a new website and blog, a family full of people who are loving, decent, successful, and just overall good people, and friends that are very loving and supportive. The most important thing is that I have a beautiful, smart, talented, healthy, and loving daughter. I accept that I am caught in the middle of two worlds, and I am happy in the world that I am in. I am not where I want to be financially but I am doing well and on my way to accomplishing ALL of my goals and dreams.
Sometimes we all need a reminder to be thankful.