Maybe my father was right when he sent me a newspaper clipping many years ago about a college classmate of mine who had achieved a high political office. “If only you would have had his drive,” Dad wrote in a note clipped to the article, “you too might have been successful.”
What’s truly “successful,” of course, is certainly up for debate. How do you measure being successful? Is it about accumulating a large sum of money or gaining fame? You could also make a case for someone who heads a prosperous business or supports a happy family .
I probably wouldn’t be thinking about this if it weren’t for the class I’m taking at the University of Washington this quarter, Sociology 360 Social Stratification. Among other things, we’ve been studying the expanding gap between middle class income and that of the very wealthy.
Before taking this class from professor Jake Rosenfeld, I was well aware of the giant gap in wealth between the richest one percent and the rest of us. And like millions of other Americans, I’ve been none to happy about it.
However, since I don’t have any concrete suggestions about how we as a nation might close this gap, I’ve decided to quit wringing my hands and racking my brain about this inequality and concentrate on what I personally have. Depending on your circumstances, you might want to consider doing the same.
Perhaps I’m trying to put a pollyanna, positive spin on the upper-middle-poorer class divide, but unlike Donald Trump at least I don’t have to wear a suit and tie everyday or stress about making critical business decisions.
The older I’ve become, the more I’ve embraced the simple, less-might-be-more life. I don’t want to be poor, and I’m not, but I live pretty well on a relatively modest income. Two years ago, I retired from a university job where I earned a lifetime pension. That and Social Security provide me with about $4,000 a month.
I have a small condo in a nice neighborhood, a reasonable car and the world’s greatest dog. I eat regularly, sometimes out, and usually have enough left over after paying my bills to go to the movies and take an occasional weekend trip.
So, what is the point I’m trying to make here? That although the rich continue to get way richer, many of us still have a lot more than simply crumbs to exist on. We don’t need to waste our precious time wishing we had more than we have. To me at least, living a contented, comfortable, happy life is being exceedingly successful.