My family was not as poor as some families, but we never seemed to have any extra money, and there were times when we felt pinched. My parents fought about it a lot. Someone would be late paying a bill or forget to send a check. Someone else would argue about buying clothes for the kids. Everyone worked hard, and everyone worried about money. Due to college affordability issues, I’m putting myself through college with a combination of loans and financial aid, and I am trying to work hard but hopefully find something I like to do so that my hard work does not make me bitter and worried, even if money is still hard to come by.
I am close to my family because I feel comfortable being myself around them. We understand each other in that special ways all families do, speaking in code, sharing the same memories. I know I am a lot like my parents because of the things I do, and some of how I see the world was shaped by how they described it to me. They remind me of the kid I was and keep me connected to our shared history, even as I focus on creating my new identity. I remember doing things with my family like Seamus Heaney remembers working in the garden with his father and grandfather in “Digging.” Heaney gives some details that are vivid, describing his father’s “coarse boot” and the “cool hardness” of potatoes from the dirt. I remember similar details, such as the smell of my dad’s work gloves, and how that leathery sour smell stained my fingers after I’d given them to him. I’m glad to have that memory, but I also do not want to have to do the same kind of construction work my father did. He likes his work and is kind of like the grandfather in the poem, who works hard, stopping only for a moment to drink some milk and then go back to work. I want to be more like the writer, “digging” with something other than the tools my father uses.
Likewise, there are things about the work my parents do that I know I could not do. Besides the obvious reasons, I would not do construction work because I don’t like the work. It’s hot and physical and seems to move slowly. Everything takes forever to happen, and people argue. I see a lot of the work is just managing people to do their job, and it seems aggravating. In the poem, the narrator remembers “cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap / Of soggy peat” (Heaney). They’re unpleasant memories and part of the reason why the narrator rejects the work of a potato farmer to be a writer. I’m not sure I am rejecting what my father does, but I’m not expected to be a construction worker, so it doesn’t seem quite the same. However, I think some of those unpleasant memories I have as a child caused me to pull away from wanting to follow in what my father did. If my parents were famous actors or owned some major company, I might be expected to do that, and then the choice would be hard. But I don’t know what my opportunities are, so I am not sure what my path should be. Luckily, I do have some time to learn and think about my situation.
Neither of my parents finished college, so I see going to school as being a new tradition for myself. I understand that the world for me and my peers today is much tougher than it was for my parents in terms of getting a job, and even a college education is not the help it once was. Still, I think that becoming more educated will open my mind to see the world in a fresh way. I’m also reminded of Maile Meloy’s short story, “Half in Love,” and the dilemma the character at the end faces about having opportunities to leave but not knowing what to make of them. When I think about what life will be like after I graduate, I have an idealistic picture of getting a job and working hard but also having opportunities that are comfortable and make sense. I know that life will be more complicated and real, and I’ll probably be conflicted. The character in “Half in Love” thinks, “But none of these things seem real; what's real is the payments on your car and your mom's crazy horses, the feel of the ranch road you can drive blindfolded and the smell of the hay” (Meloy). We do the things we do because it’s routine and familiar, and even if it’s uncomfortable, it’s comfortable in the fact that it doesn’t change. My dad’s gloves always smell the same, and that thing about him that does not change is comforting when thinking about the scary realities of not finding a job, not being able to pay my rent and being evicted, having to pay back loans and buy food. I worry that my worries will look too much like my parents’ worries, and their difficulties in life and in being happy will become my difficulties. That’s a part of my heritage I wish to change.
My parents are not unusual—I know that 65% of couples argue about money (Kaufman). But I think that they feel limited by their opportunities and from a lack of education. I am hopeful that my education gives me new opportunities and a new heritage. My life is not as dramatic as the character in “Half in Love.” I don’t have someone showing me Tarot cards telling me to go or run away. I want to go to college in order to have opportunities that allow me to do things my parents didn’t do. I want to have more happiness in my life when it comes to worrying about money. I just sometimes worry that I’ll fall into patterns that are familiar because they will be more reassuring than the unknown.
Heaney, Seamus. “Digging.” Poetry Foundation. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.
Kaufman, Sarah. “Manila.com Data Shows 65 Percent of Couples Argue About Money.” The Manilla Folder. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.
Meloy, Maile. “Ranch Girl.” Mostly Fiction Book Reviews. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.