I was poor but I did have my privileges. While I wasn’t financially privileged, I was emotionally supported to pursue my education.
In the last post I was questioning myself if I was entitled enough to share my stories with the students in my high schools, not only because I don’t think I have been successful enough, but also because I think I did (and still do) have my privileges even though I was financially poor. So yes, I have my privileges. Actually I often don’t get to share this part with them, either because the time is limited or because I keep forgetting about it, but I do have my privilege. That privilege is supportive/supporting parents.
My parents have been very supportive with my study. Even my mom would not nag me to help with kitchen work when she saw me studying or doing my homework. Perhaps because Mom had always wanted to go to school but couldn’t for some reasons (have I told you about this?), so she was just happy to see I was happy studying. My parents always said, “You study hard for real, don’t worry about money, it’s our responsibility.” But of course I didn’t misuse it, i.e. I didn’t ask my parents to buy me a lot of books when I could still borrow them from the library or from some friends, I didn’t choose an expensive major, I didn’t ask for extra money just so I could hang out with some friends after school, I didn’t ask for extra money so I could buy lots of snacks during the school breaks ’cause I ate at home anyway, etc. It’s because I know they worked really hard so they could pay for my (and my sister’s and brother’s) tuition, so I really tried to not be a spendthrift. I don’t want to burden them.
Well, of course I could have done it had I wanted to. I could lie and ask for more money telling them it’s for my study or school stuff when it’s not. But I guess, just like any other relationship, a parents-children relationship should work both ways too; i.e. my parents had tried their best to do their responsibility as parents, and as a kid, I tried my best to be understanding and not as demanding. Well, actually, if I use family standards in general, perhaps some people would say that my parents did not care about my school or my study. They have never helped me with my school registrations (except when they put me into my elementary school). They didn’t take me to schools for that. They didn’t “accompany me” me when I was registering for any tests to get into the school or the university, even though it’s in a different town, 3-4 hours by bus. They didn’t do all of that, so I learned to be independent and do it all on my own. (Well, not entirely alone, though, usually I joined my friends. Their parents usually take them, and I was like, “Could I join?” but anyway…) I know my parents. They didn’t do it because they didn’t know how and what to do about it themselves. They didn’t even finish elementary schools, remember? I was literally the first in my unit and big family who went and actually finished high schools and even university. So they trusted everything to me. (And I know they always prayed for me, it’s more than enough). I mean, they might not have done all of those things that other parents usually do, but I know and believe that they also care for me. They would, for example, ask, “When is the due date for your tuition?” to make sure that they could gather the money beforehand and make sure that I would not be late in making the payment. They have never asked about my GPA or my assignments, not because they did not care, but because they did not understand it. It’s really simply about mutual trust. They trust me, and I keep it. I mean, I could have lied and told them this and that, but what for? They just wanted me to study well and not cause any problems… (By problems I mean something like “free sex/sex before marriage”, drugs, alcoholic drink, etc.” ’cause it’s against our religious values).
But, well, that’s why I was really serious, kinda obsessed, and ambitious with my study. I just thought if I didn’t study well or hard enough, it would feel like betraying my parents’ hard work, and that’s not nice; I’d feel guilty if I did that. And I really tried my best to not make life harder for them, that’s why I often suppressed my feelings of wanting things that I didn’t think we could afford. Well, some people now often say, “Don’t have kids if you’re not rich. You don’t want your kids to suffer from not getting what they want ’cause they feel sorry for you.” Something like that. Well, true. But I guess there’s no helping it. It’s not as if my parents wouldn’t buy things even if they had the money. Had they got the money, I’m sure they’d buy me stuff I wanted too. And I guess I learned a lot from it too, like distinguishing needs from mere wishes, knowing what is necessary and not? I guess I wrote about it too before? :/
But, again, my parents are supportive. Even now that I’m in my 30ish doing my Ph.D., they have never pestered me to get married. They don’t ask me, “When are you going to get married?” They don’t say things like, “Get married soon, I’m getting older, I want grandchildren, what if I die?” and such. And when our big family or neighbor start questioning why I am not married yet, my parents come to my defense and stand up for me. They’ll tell them that I do nothing wrong, i.e. I’m pursuing my study (not sure what kind of excuses I can make later when I’m done with my study but still can’t get married 😶). But, well, that way I don’t feel rushed, pressured, or burdened (which is why sometimes it’s annoying when people who don’t even feed me keep rushing me to get married, like, who are you? More important than my parents? No!) Well, I do want to get married someday, but if my parents kept telling me to get married soon, I would go crazy, so I’m just glad that they don’t nag me about it.
Indeed, I say having supportive parents is a privilege for me because, well, perhaps other parents are not so supportive? Perhaps some parents do not want you to pursue your study to higher levels? Perhaps some parents just want you to get married soon? I don’t know, but I know my Mom didn’t have that privilege because, apparently, my Grandma didn’t think education was important, especially because my Mom was a woman so she thought sending her to school would be a waste of money. My Mom always told me the stories about how she wanted to go to school but couldn’t. She even picked the shoes she found in the river nearby because my grandparents didn’t bother buying her school uniform or shoes. Well yes, they were poor, but my Mom always thought that schools back then were not so expensive. And she said that even their neighbors who were poorer than them did send their daughters, her friends in the neighborhood, to school. She wanted to go to school really badly that she somehow went to school even though she wasn’t officially registered and did not have the uniform. (It’s in a remote village and I guess the rules weren’t so strick back then, that’s why my Mom could sneak into the school even though she wasn’t really a student). My Mom did that until 4th grade of elementary school, but then she eventually stopped going to school at all ’cause she missed and skipped too many classes when she had to help my grandparents with the farm work. Sad? Yes, I always cry when I remember her stories. I’m crying as I’m typing this now. I just can’t help thinking, my Mom would have been a much greater person had she been to school. She would have been greater than me (I’m not that great, though). And even now, with what I have been achieving, I don’t think I can compare to her. But she was happy because even though she didn’t finish elementary school, she could read in Indonesians. Her older sisters (my aunts) could not. Even two of her younger brothers weren’t really literate. And, I know I am not supposed to say this, but, I’m happy when she sounds proud of my achievement (i.e. getting scholarship abroad). Some of you might think I’m doing this only for my parents, i.e. I’m not living my own life. But that’s not true. I’m doing this for me, but that my parents are happy with my choice makes it feel much much better. I can’t be happier. So yes, I’m privileged. I’m lucky that either my father or my Mom isn’t like my Grandma. And I hope those students I share my stories with also have supportive parents like mine.