The High Price of Success: Finding True Contentment in a Material World
A reflective piece on how embracing a wholistic view of wealth can transform your contentment with life.
Desire to be Happy? You Must be Freed.
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You’re probably aware that I earned more than $1.5 million in academic scholarships and fellowships. I’ve told the story millions of times by now, to the point where the scholars I served at school used to remind me of how much I brought it up at the beginning of the school year. Admittedly, this forced me to confront my toothless attempt to motivate them.
Unfortunately, the primary driver that led me to diligently overwork toward the goal of a full ride scholarship to the University of Michigan was the trauma induced by the Great Recession. This economic fallout led to my family losing our home, moving into a roach-infested townhouse, and navigating mental and emotional turmoil. As a teenager, internalizing the stress of needing access to economic opportunities for my survival left quite an enduring impression on me.
Since early childhood, I was deemed “gifted” in the meritocratic education system, so I put all my stock in my ability to “beat the system” for greater opportunities. My family would never have to suffer from financial instability again, or so I thought. This misguided way of thinking is rooted in the widely touted pitch to millennials at the turn of the 21st century about how a college degree could change your life for the better. This heavy-handed marketing claim that higher education leads to many positive outcomes was admittedly convincing. However, previous research supporting these outcomes frequently failed to account for the rampant inequities perpetuated throughout environments before and beyond the graduation stage for minoritized professionals.
Even more problematic, the U.S. economy is disproportionately reliant on Big Tech, which means that the overserved, who hold the most sociopolitical power, are shrinking while lobbying to influence policy decisions for agendas lacking care for human dignity. This means that fewer people, who likely “fit a description” (i.e., colonizing capitalists), historically and continually make wide-sweeping unethical decisions that disproportionately exploit and devalue the (in)tangible resources of communities on a global scale.
In short, I bought into the rat race because I was unknowingly indoctrinated to play the game. Capitalism feeds on the will of laborers, who have few, if any, options outside of competing. This manufactured sense of competition places an inflated pressure on everyone to upskill and scale, unwittingly paying to play via a convoluted debt system, only to end up with the cruel realization that a college education does not guarantee a job, especially during the (oddly) statistically consistent periods of economic uncertainty.
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