There is a distinct difference between being privileged and being entitled, but the town I’m from, few people know it. Whenever I tell people where I’m from, I either get one of three different responses.
The first is: “Where is that,” and I tell them a North suburb of Chicago. The conversation ends, and we go about our day.
The second response is: “Ok, cool, I know where that is. My cousin has a friend from around there,” to which we both look at each other’s mutual friends on Facebook and realize, miraculously, that Jewish Geography has once again come into play.
The last response I get when I tell people where I am from is: “Oh, that town,” to which I either tell them not everyone from there is the same, and they are making an uninformed mistake, or I shrug my shoulders and don’t even bother responding.
I am from a mid-sized, North suburb of Chicago called Highland Park, population about 35,000. Highland Park is the sort of town where almost everyone knows everyone else, and a lot of the time, that means everyone knows everyone else’s personal business, too. There are a lot of great public schools, nice cars and big fancy houses — many of which look over the ever so beautiful Lake Michigan. You tend to see lots of kids walking around town after school looking to buy a snack with the crisp twenty-dollar bill their mom gave them when she dropped them off at school. Lots of times you will see kids open their lunch boxes and read their nice hand-written note from their mother telling them to have a great day. Kids in the public-school system are provided a laptop that they can call their own after they use it for educational purposes and graduate, of course. Oh, and far too often, you will see a high school student roll into the parking lot in a brand-new Jeep. I am no exception to many of these things but, that does not mean I am entitled; that means I am privileged.
In the dictionary, the word privileged is defined as “having special rights, advantages, or immunities,” and the word entitled is defined as “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” These two very similar feeling words do not, in fact, have similar definitions. The idea that one feels as though they are better than someone else for no reason is something that is taught: entitlement. Whereas, being dealt a good hand due to luck: privilege. What comes to most people’s minds when I tell them where I am from is that I am, along with the rest of my town, just another entitled, self-centered person.
Why is it that we are so quick to judge others without even knowing them at all? How is it that in 2019, people get looked up and down and that is enough information for others to decide their worth? Maybe, if we decided to really truly get to know people before we made accusations about their character, we could break the social construct of stereotypes. Yes, I am from a town where many people are entitled, but no, that does not automatically make me entitled. I am appreciative of the material things that I have, like nice clothes and a car, but I am also very grateful for things that you can’t put a price tag on — like my family, friends and health. Being aware that I am lucky to have these things, material or not, does not mean I believe I deserve them more than anyone else. However, it does mean that I am, in more ways than one, privileged.
It is very difficult for young people, especially young people who grew up middle or upper class, to fully understand how fortunate they are. When you grow up having everything you might ever need or want, it is difficult to understand that not everyone grew up that way. I am very fortunate to come from a family where the importance of appreciating what you have was taught from a very young age. I know the value of a dollar and try my best not to take my incredible life for granted.
I am not going to sit here and tell you that you are wrong for thinking people from my town are entitled because many are. But, I do challenge you to decide whether you were quick to judge me because you yourself are entitled or because you just so happened to be privileged.
If you start seeing the ways to embrace single life, you’ll be equally as happy as your friends, except with more money, opportunities to move out of your comfort zone and a regained sense of empowerment.