Wish I had more time for this instead of advertorials and SEO click bait
STONE: WAG OF THE FINGER, “WE ARE ALL UNGRATEFUL”
I didn’t come from the big city. I’m a simple girl from a simple place. Growing up, our summer vacation meant camping, running around barefoot, catching small, preferably slimy animals and throwing them at each other, while my dad, uncles, and grandma steamed lobsters and drank cheap beer. Every once in a while we would get on a plane and go to Disney World, stay at a cheap hotel, do the parks for a couple days, and then head home. Christmas meant a pile of the latest toys: Gak, Stretch Armstrong, a Lego set - and it was all fucking awesome. As far as I knew, I spent my childhood living like a king.
And then I got to college. I had seen wealth before – like the mansion of the family who owned the local grocery store chain. They had a movie theatre in their basement. In their basement, dude! But that was minor league shit compared to what I came to understand is real wealth. Real wealth means you can throw down your parents’ credit card at the bar and buy you and your friends rounds of Jager bombs for the rest of the night - every night. Real wealth means when you go on vacation, you have to decide at which resort in which Caribbean country you should spend your spring break. Real wealth means graduating from a private college debt-free. Real wealth means you’ll be working in midtown Manhattan and making six figures by the time you’re thirty. Real wealth means not just dressing to look nice, but dressing to look *rich*.
And I’ve wanted all of that. I’ve wanted the whole fucking load of it. I want to understand high fashion and how to discuss the relative merits of Givenche’s fall collection versus Burberry’s. I want to go to Kennebunkport and figure out how the hell a sailboat works. I want to be able to read the Times and talk about Paul Krugman’s latest op-ed as if it has any bearing at all on my everyday life. I want my own private island, and I want it right now, goddammit. I want to turn a 180 and run away from my redneck past as quickly as my rube legs will carry me.
It is, however, simply amazing how difficult it is to remember what’s important and what’s not important. As much as I would love a yacht off of which to throw dolla bills and champagne and upon which to pimp big, this probably isn’t going to happen for me. In fact, I’ll probably never be that rich, ever (unless I marry rich – please pass my number on to any eligible potential trophy husbands). I don’t want to be a lawyer, and I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to work in finance. I don’t want to go graduate school (at least not for many years), and I certainly don’t ever want to spend money on a private education again. And although I know I could be a good salesperson thanks to my good looks, long legs, and tenacity, I don’t have enough blind ambition and greed to give a shit about things like selling telecommunications software, pharmaceuticals, or life insurance.
Instead, I work for a non-profit adoption agency in the department that places Chinese orphans diagnosed with medical conditions with American families. We, as the placing agency, receive children’s files, and then offer the files for families to review, who then decide whether or not they want to adopt the child. A lot of families are looking for infants with minor conditions like a congenital hole in their heart or a cleft lip and palate, a lot of families adopt older children who lost their parents to disaster or disease, and some of these families, adopting two, even three children at the same time who have conditions like cataracts, megacolon, nevus, cerebral palsy, even HIV, are truly incredible – the kind of selfless people whom most people only meet once in a lifetime.
Today, a baby girl, who had already been matched with a family, died. She had been abandoned when she was about a week old. Someone had placed her on a chair in the waiting room of a hospital, and then just turned around and walked away. Whoever found her called the police, who brought her to a state-funded orphanage, where she was one of the lucky ones – she was cute and healthy enough to live in the main room of the orphanage. Some abandoned children arrive at the orphanage, and they go straight to the “dying room”, where children deemed “unadoptable” are neglected and eventually die. This girl was cute enough, though. She lived in a room with about twenty other children, where she shared her crib with another child. At feeding times, the nannies would come by with bottles, throw them in the cribs, wait about fifteen minutes, then go around and collect the bottles. She was too small and developmentally delayed, but every orphan is. She probably wasn’t picked up very often. A lot of children in orphanages suffer from permanent growth stunts, where because they were never given “belly time” or allowed to bounce in a baby walker, their legs just don’t grow. Eight year olds end up with the body of a toddler, all because they spent the majority of their lives lying in a crib.
But this little girl was one of the lucky ones! She didn’t have any parents, so the charity hospital performed her open heart surgery for free. Sure, the surgery might have been a little shoddy, but beggars can’t be choosers. She lied in a hospital crib for two weeks, and while nurses came by to check her vital signs occasionally, the chair next to her remained empty and parentless.
She didn’t know it yet, but she was one of the lucky ones - she was matched with a family!
And while she spent yet another cold night lying in a metal crib in a dingy room in central China, shortly past her first birthday, so close to coming home, the blood couldn’t flow to some part of her heart, so her little chest started to heave, gasping her last desperate breaths, and without a glimpse of the life she would never have, her heart stopped. She never met her mother. She never had her own crib or took her first steps. She never went on a family vacation or opened an Easy Bake Oven on Christmas morning. She never said I love you, and she never heard I love you. And now she’s dead.
So, no, I might never get rich. In fact, with every month that I turn in my student loan payments late (or not at all), I may never come out of debt. I might sit on my couch watching repeats of Gold Rush Alaska (the best show on television, despite Mr. Winkler’s protestation), while I imagine my richer peers are out living the glamorous life, getting paid and getting laid. Oh believe me, I still think it would be nice to have money to throw around, but maybe I’m becoming a better person, and maybe that’s more important. Maybe the next time I don’t have the cash to buy another dime bag, or there’s nothing to do on a Friday night (or worse, I’m working on a Friday night), or I have to work an 18 hour day, I’ll think twice about complaining. Real life’s not college, and it’s certainly not always wealthy or flashy, but at least it’s livin’. I have a mother and a father who love me and gave me the best damn childhood ever, and some day, if I’m lucky enough, I might be able to give the same to my own child or two. In the mean time, I’m enjoying giving - it takes my mind off of having. Jay-z can keep his stupid yacht (although I probably wouldn’t say no if he offered it to me).
Addendum: A Scholarly Defense of Gold Rush Alaska
I love reality TV. It’s the best thing to happen to mass media in the past ten years. It’s cheap, exploitative, and extremely entertaining. You might find my taste low-brow or even outright offensive, but that won’t keep me from missing Thursday’s new episode of The Jersey Shore.
From here I could launch into my defense of all reality television, but hey, no skin off my back if I can’t get you to appreciate The Real Housewives Hoarders of Orange County Penitentiary. I am, however, here today to defend a show very near and dear to my heart: Gold Rush Alaska. In a previous article, Mr. Winkler called Gold Rush Alaska the best of the worst in reality television, calling the characters imbeciles for whom he actively wished failure. I’d like to argue quite the opposite: the cast of Gold Rush Alaska is comprised of real American heroes, with real American beards.
If you haven’t seen the show, please drop everything you’re doing and check your On Demand immediately. The show’s premiere season chronicles a green crew’s first time attempting a gold mining operation in Alaska. They have risked much for their venture – they’ve stretched themselves well beyond their budgetary limits on a gamble for a huge payday. They struggle, their families struggle, and they put everything on the line for a chance at a better life for themselves and their families.
And it’s hard, back-breaking work in the wilderness. It’s a long, dirty road with no guarantee of success at the end. They’re scared of what will happen to them, and they’re honest about it. They’re far away from their families and any other hint of civilization. And yea, they probably are going to fail.
Well, (SPOILER ALERT) they do fail. They don’t even manage to mine enough gold to break even to pay for the costs of their operation. They just hit bedrock when the first snow of the season falls, shutting their entire camp down and forcing them to leave as quickly as possible, before they become trapped in the deep woods of Alaska. Yet, in the final episode of the season (“Disclosure”), they discuss their plans for mining next season. In all their foolhardiness (and debt), they’re determined to go back next year.