I grew up in Silicon Valley (in the Bay Area), and if you know anything about Silicon Valley then you know its a tech crazy affluent area. However, unlike most of my other friends, I was not as wealthy as them. I didn’t get a brand new car for my 16th birthday, I didn’t live in a big house in the hills, and I didn’t have designer clothes. For various reasons, I never felt like I truly fit in with the Silicon Valley lifestyle and I could never understand why my mom didn’t care that we didn’t keep up with everyone financially. When I told my mom I wanted Lululemon leggings, because most girls at my school had them, she looks at the price and asked me why I would ever spend $100 on a pair of pants. She didn’t realize that to me it felt like the 1st step to fitting in with the kids at my school. To say the least, I was ungrateful and resentful that our family wasn’t wealthy. My mom always told me about her family struggling to stay afloat in England and South Africa growing up, but for the longest time, it fell on deaf ears (sorry mom).
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I so desperately wanted to fit in with my friends that I spent so much time comparing what they had to what I had. Which was stupid considering I lived in one of the wealthiest cities in the country, however, I didn’t realize how privileged I was until I got to college. Since I grew up in a town where most of the population was in a certain tax bracket, I grew up in a bubble where I believed everyone had money. Sure I had traveled to Niger (one of the poorest nations in the world) to visit my family, but I wasn’t being raised there. I was being raised around people who vacationed in Europe over the summer, Hawaii for spring break, and whose parents bought them brand new range rovers for their birthdays. When I got to college and started making new friends I realized how different I was from many of them. A lot of them had no idea what Lululemon was (which shocked me) or what certain designer brands were, and probably thought I was the most stuck up person in our hall. But luckily for me, they got to know me and my background, they never made me feel bad for my upbringing, but instead taught me about theirs. One of my friends told me her art class didn’t have enough money for canvases so they’d paint on paper, and swimming during P.E. wasn’t an option because their school didn’t have a pool. This shocked me, my school had so many resources like a room full of Apple computers, iPad carts for the art department, and ostentatious budgets for school events. I knew that my school district was not the norm when it came to public schools, but I didn’t realize how privileged we were (and it wasn’t contained to wealth). Our classes were more intense and over 10 people in my graduating class got into Stanford.
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I always felt like I was less than people in my hometown, which is why college helped shape me into the person I am today. My friend’s different upbringings helped me see that I was very lucky to have the life that I did. While I might have been Silicon Valley “poor”, compared to the rest of the country my family was actually very well off. I was able to travel almost every year, I had great job opportunities, and school trips/clubs, I was lucky enough to travel and see the world (extreme poverty to extreme wealth) and could now see that I shouldn’t have compared myself to the people I grew up with because that was a rare level of wealth, but to see the privilege and opportunity I was afforded and appreciate that. My friends at college helped me realize that like their parents who worked hard, my single mother had come from a non-wealthy background in South Africa to make it in Silicon Valley. I feel horrible for how I was ungrateful for my mom’s hard work and sacrifice to raise me in a place where I had opportunities she never had, however, she inspires me to keep the motivation to achieve my dreams.