I met a man from Columbia not so long ago. I’ll call him, Roberto. He’s retired living in Northern California. He managed to retire well on a acreage. That can be a solid acheivement for a 50 year old immigrant in an area where small houses go for about a million dollars.
Up until about seven years of age, he lived in Columbia. In Columbia, getting an education is not for everyone. It’s exclusive. In his words, you have to be in either the wealthy class or you have some sort of genius if you’re poor.
His aunt had applied for a green card to the United States and made her way to boston. She took a job as a maid and worked for a few years. After some time had passed and, I guess the green cards status was in full effect (I’m not familiar with how it works), she sent for her sister and her three children. The subject of this post was one of those children.
She also took a job as a maid and got her children in school. She focused on their education and they all knew how important it was. Back home in Columbia, there was no chance of an education like they were getting and they knew it.
Roberto said he always knew from a young age how important it was to get educated. He said he always remembered attention and focus on it. He told me about one teacher who had helped him with an application and a letter of recommendation to get him into Boston College, a private school. He talked of more deliberate acts that continually kept him on the path to a solid education. This path worked well for him. He’s wealthy and retired at 50.
Contrast that with my upbringing. I don’t fault my parents in anyway. I am doing just fine and I’m on track to retiring early if I choose. However, here’s the contrast. I grew up in Oklahoma City, OK. None of my friends that I grew up with ever even talked about College or grades. Even in my high school, the only discussion about college was about the girls we might find or the beer we’d certainly drink. There was no focus on education. I didn’t even have a clue as to what I might be interested in getting educated in. I didn’t know what my options were. The only reason I did well in high school was because I sought a girl who was into straight A’s. I wasn’t focused on the education. I was focused on her and what I needed to do to get and keep her interested in me. When I finished high school, there was not any direction from my elders on whether to attend college or not. The question I got was, “What are you going to do now?”
The environment was totally different. Where I grew up, people had whatever they needed and didn’t need to worry about what wouldn’t be available. Where Robert grew up, people didn’t have whatever they needed and needed to worry a lot about what might not be available. I had a stable country. Roberto did not. I’m sure there are other class factors here to contrast as well.
The important part is the environment. The environment dictates the thinking. What’s interesting to me is that my environment had everything so I didn’t feel a need to make anything happen. Roberto’s environment was the opposite so he did feel a need to make things happen. I’ve often heard that the children of hard working immigrants often do well. This is because they know the importance of an education and they see the hard work ethic purveyed by their parents. Mix the two and, Viola! Nice job, nice income, nice house…the whole environment gets setup with every thing that’s needed. I should state that the immigrant’s grandchildren, I’ve heard generalized, don’t do as well as the parents. They miss the hardship and the work ethic to know what’s important and thus squander themselves. Perhaps here is a parallel to my experience?