by Odilia Rivera Santos
I am from a solidly working-class high-on-the-deprivation background. Some people carry privilege and great advice about investments as a memory of their parenting. I carry a great knack for survival. Growing up in a violent ghetto in NYC taught me a lot about human potential, human limitations, post-traumatic stress disorder, and organizational psychology. When I speak about my background to a fellow writer who grew up in a suburban safe community, which I would call an air-conditioned nightmare to quote Henry Miller, the sheltered writer gets nervous and starts to congratulate me on my intelligence as if I were a gifted child in a new class room and this suburban writer were my teacher. The truth is that I feel growing up without privilege was a great privilege; the upper-class doesn't need to learn how the lower classes live, unless there is a system of colonization afoot in which case, you'd want to know where the weakest point lies in order to gain entry.
I don't envy those who grew up with wealth because survival has meant gaining the ability to reframe experience to transcend suffering and learn. And when you've gained a high level of proficiency in the field of survival, reframing and shifting perspective is like drinking a cool glass of water on a hot day: basic, simple, necessary and not worthy of analysis.