Growing up as a working-class scrabbler

Just thinking about this. As much as having been raised lower working-class was a serious obstacle sometimes, I think it does beat both a poor and a white-collar upbringing.

Poor because … hello, poor. Poverty sucks in every conceivable way.

But I think it beats a while collar upbringing just because it makes you thickheaded. The idea of giving up because something isn’t just so isn’t in your DNA if you grow up scrabbling. This is a big part of why I simply do not get music teachers who state, as if they are saying something so obvious, that if Little Johnny’s parents don’t buy at least a grand piano for him when he starts lessons that he won’t stick with it! If Little Jenny is forced to use a student violin in her lessons, she’ll give up! It really speaks volumes about their own upbringings and the people they tend to congregate with if the only human reaction to imperfections or obstacles that they can imagine is to sit down and give up.

If you have a working-class background, I think it helps you realize that well … you ain’t never gonna get that grand piano (not as a kid anyway) or high-quality violin, so you have no choice but to keep pounding and sawing on what you have. Nothing in your life will ever be perfect or just so, and giving up in the face of that would mean never getting out of bed.

So with a working-class hard-scrabble background, you end up in a way with the best of both worlds: rockheaded stubbornness and juuuuuuust enough strength to improve your situation. Too much privilege growing up, and you end up too prone to giving up. Too little money, and stubbornness may not be enough to overcome your situation. Being a scrabbler means that your reach exceeds your grasp … but not by so much that you stop reaching. And if your grasp exceeds your reach, you stop reaching as well, only out of boredom.

This is probably another instantiation of the old canard about practicing and improving that the best way to move ahead is to set goals that are just out of reach. Too easy, and you get bored. Too hard, and you stop trying.

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