I spoke this quasi-sentence on the phone Monday when talking with a potential couples’ therapist. She and I were getting to the brass tacks portion of the conversation, settling in on the, “How much is this gonna run me” dialogue, and I offered up that half-phrase.
“I’m a teacher, so…”
What implications are in that sentence?! I am underpaid; I don’t have any money; I cannot afford your full fee; I cannot afford even close to your full fee; I am in a profession in which I will never afford your full fee; I am poorly paid; I am undervalued.
Whose “fault” is this? Well, surely, I could say it’s the “system’s” fault, it’s America’s fault, I could even say it’s the president’s fault. And while each of those might have grains of truth, there is no honor in blame of others.
To be clear, a) it’s my “fault” I’m a teacher, and b) I’m manipulating the codified undervaluing of our country’s education system to seem poor and weak and un-robust so that I can get a deal on something.
I realized in recounting this later, that this is such an “underbeing” phrase! How can I stand in one breath and tout the munificence of the Universe AND ALSO pervert the archetype of the broke teacher to my benefit?
Maybe you have your own version of the above sentence? I’ve certainly said iterations of the same: “I work in nonprofits, so…” “I’m a student, so…” “I’m in the arts, so…”
I don’t enjoy realizing that I’ve capitalized upon the pity, or generosity, of my fellows to cajole a few dollars out of them, but I do appreciate learning that my understanding of my profession as an “underearning” one lurks beneath my thoughts, as does the notion that I need to depend upon others’ pity to have what I want in life.
It will be up to me to change the thoughts, or to change my profession (which I don’t wish to happen any time soon), or to increase my income in alternate ways. In any case, using my “pain” to foster empathy in others is a low (and borrowed) form of power, and I vow to give it up, even a day at a time.