I just had a conversation about someone feeling underpaid at $170,000. A few years ago, I snapped at a friend who quipped “no one can live off of $120K.” Let’s just be honest and admit that’s bullshit.
So this male friend and I agreed that if we don’t take advantage of the current economic climate here in the Bay Area where the competition is so fierce that you’re able to keep asking for more salary and more perks, where recruiters don’t bother to ask why you’re leaving your current job, where references may not even be checked anymore, and staying less than one year at a company is no big deal… there will be someone waiting right behind us to take our slot, willing to make the same amount or more! But to lament a nearly $200K salary as being underpaid is ridiculous and insulting to everybody else who doesn’t happen to be in engineering or technology.
We also agreed, in theory, that while we’re talking and laughing about living in the tech bubble needing 300 dollar shoes, spending frivolously but rationalizing it as necessary, it is an obligation to give back to the community. I stopped short of asking how he ‘gives back’ because…
Once, on Facebook, I posed the question “where do you donate in money or time”? So few people answered and I get it – it can be a personal, private, and highly sensitive subject. But I also had another friend who had been making bank for at least the last decade and his only method of giving back was donating lightly worn clothes to Goodwill. (I may have just pissed off and lost a reader.)
Before you tell me to get off my soapbox, full disclosure: I only give 2 hours per month salary split between Homelessness, Civil Rights, and women farmers in Africa. Every time I get a raise, I increase the donation proportionately.
I confess that my donations to charity aren’t like tithing…I am not giving 10% of my earnings out (wha?!). I’m not saying that I am the example, the model to emulate. I’m not selfless. I could do more but I too am waiting for my $200 shoes (on sale) to come in. I enjoy eating out at will. I’ve paid premium parking just to avoid spending time looking; I’ve gotten a ticket and thought, “oh…too bad.” I’m not like Brad Pitt caught on tape years ago throwing his ticket off the windshield because for gods sake, he IS BRAD PITT. Recently, I paid extra shipping fees because I didn’t want to wait and get a smaller box, so I just paid more.
I still remember the days when $60 was hard to come by. It wasn’t so long ago and I imagine those days will return. If you’re a close friend of mine, you know that one of my weird habits is to identify good bridges I can live under. I was once 5 days away from being homeless…5 days.
I should go back to the point.
Yesterday, on my couch of sickness, I watched Before the Flood in its entirety with Leonardo DiCaprio traveling the globe as the UN ambassador of peace. He’s very involved in environmental awareness, climate change, and I too am on board! I would have loved to hear how he…rich movie star… who, as he was driving an unnamed yet obviously sleek car, admitted during filming that he probably has a larger carbon footprint than the average person…what has he changed? What is he doing at the individual level to change the future?
What are you doing? What am I doing? Wha dafuc?
Those shoes are going back.
So…this is a tough one. Living in the BA, I think we have a skewed perspective when it comes to what constitutes “living wage”. You don’t have to travel very far outside our “bubble” to see how much less other folks survive on. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your neighborhood – the sheer numbers of homeless people clogging up the sidewalks and underpasses speak volumes. I see wealth that I never could have imagined all around me, held by younger and younger people who seem increasingly oblivious, and at the same time, the depths of hopelessness that makes me want to cry for my city, my state, my country. And yet…I have fresh running water at the turn of a tap, which is the ultimate luxury in many, many parts of the world. Not to mention heat, fresh vegetables, AN ENTIRE HOUSE ALL TO MYSELF. So do I have more than I need? Absolutely. But sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to share the bounty. There are so many causes, so many needs, so many who deserve support. I think it’s a very personal issue. My criteria of where to donate is based on: 1) Who will this benefit? Does it cut across racial and gender lines? (hence: I give to gun control organizations) 2) Is this a reputable organization where my donation will have an immediate effect? (Doctors Without Borders, IRC) 3) Does this person or cause enrich my life and give me energy to face the world in the morning? (myriad artists, musicians, filmmakers, educational programs). In my darker moments, I sometimes feel like it doesn’t matter, that the world’s problems are so insurmountable, that nothing I do will make a darn bit of difference. So when I feel that way, I pull some weeds or talk to someone in my neighborhood who looks like they need a smile. Sometimes just the little things CAN make a difference, if only in the short term. Thanks for talking about the tuff stuff, sister!
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