What do you tell yourself and anyone who may not be born to the 1% class or the 9.9% class?
Think of our system as a game with rewards and penalties. Figure out how you can play to “win” a “decent life.”
THINGS WE CAN CONTROL
ONE: HAVING A CHILD TOO SOON
Don’t be a young, uneducated single parent. Learn about sex and contraception if your school and parents don’t teach you. Know how to use contraception, and use it. This knowledge & practice may make the difference between life-long poverty and “a decent life.”
Know your options for accidental pregnancy. Young fertile women: go back to old times if you have to, GO UNDERGROUND, REBEL. It is a different world now with the Internet, books and pills via online order. Women from the beginning of time have helped each other. You can avoid unplanned pregnancy.
When I read about unwed girls who are eighteen and have three children, and they are crying about not being handed a “decent life,” good luck. You needed to be smarter. Would you change places with your first, second and third baby? Our society may try to support the babies but see below (mean times in the USA…)
Be the best parent you can be, because, Stewart notes, “the single best predictor of [a good life] … is the performance of his or her parents.”
Get an education that gets you a living wage. At a minimum, a technical certificate through a community college. Do you want to spend your life in poverty? Don’t give yourself a mountain to climb. Not everybody likes school. But minimum-wage jobs will not support a family, and without benefits, the minute you hit back luck, you’re out (of the running for “a decent life”).
If you did not vote, or you voted for the people in authority now, watch how your safety nets are being cut: health care, child care, minimum wage, food stamps, unemployment, subsidized housing, pensions. Schooling for your child. The ability to earn a living wage AND take care of a family. There is one tiny POWER that you have: you can vote for people who believe in helping people, and who will try to reverse the trend toward growing the under-class and leaving the 90% to fend for themselves.
FOUR: MARRY WISELY
Sure, fall in love. Young and old. But you do not have to marry somebody right away, to start building a relationship that is the foundation for a marriage. Postpone children until you have confirmed that you have a partner who will help you, not ruin and break you. Marriage is a financial contract. You give control over your life to another person and maybe their family. If your judgment is off, or you were wrong or misinformed, bail out.
Again, women from the beginning of time have had networks that helped other women get out of a bad situation. We have never had so much information available on signs of danger, advice about domestic violence, Help Lines, shelters for women and children. Women before us, and in some cultures, are consigned to be victims in a bad marriage for the rest of their lives. Exercise your choice and ask people to help you.
THINGS WE CANNOT CONTROL (YOU NEED LUCK)
Some of us inherited mental illness and it might kick in around your early 20’s. Inherently, you are not rational and capable of coping. You have to be lucky in having parents and other adults figure out what is happening, and get you good care, and bail you out. You might have an accident before you are covered well by insurance, or fall ill. Catastrophic bills, inability to work. Nobody plans for this.
Your circumstances, or a serious illness, can lead you or your family member down the path to addiction. There is public-funded rehab, but that’s the kind of service that is being cut. There may be detox and jail. Stewart notes the rise in “deaths of despair.”
BORN THE “WRONG KIND” IN YOUR WORLD
You may grow up and realize you are a member of a group that is disadvantaged, a thousand and one ways. You are female, gay, dark-skinned, a believer in a religion that has been stigmatized. Toxic things can happen to “your kind” on the street and in the workplace. You might try inoculation: learn about the toxic things, how to respond so you stay alive and mentally well, and how to thrive in spite of the adversity. Don’t be naïve. Try not to be killed, beaten, raped, fired. You are navigating a zone of hostility. But you can learn about MANY people of “your kind” that have made it to success and who will support you, and advise you, and heal you. (Yes, you can RESIST. See “try not to get killed,” and “VOTE” above.)
BLOCKS TO EDUCATION, JOBS
You can find yourself in an environment where education costs too much, there are no jobs right now (depression, recession), or people will simply not let you have them. (e.g., Unconscious or conscious discrimination) Immigrants in America have shown us that you can come in from outside and beat “the system.” You may have to have extraordinary grit, savvy, and luck. Take the hand that’s dealt, and play it.
The irony of our young people, more boys than girls, is that they learn complex online games that have esoteric, bizarre rules, with points and scores, and with surprise enemies and obstacles built into the game. That is what life is, except that there aren’t enough help tutorials to tell you everything you need to know up front. And losing really hurts. You discover some of the obstacles through experience, and sometimes you cannot recover. It can be “game over” regarding success, security, and comfort—happiness. Or, you have to muster really hard. You have extra mountains to climb, in this game.
As a holocaust survivor advised: “Try to make a life.” [-per Margot Friedman’s mother]