"Why aren't you married?"
"Don't you want to 'move up?''
"You could've been anything you wanted, and you chose to do this?"
"You've got this degree and you deserve more."
"You don't want to buy a house?"
"Don't you want to get another degree? You know, there's other fields out there where the money is."
"You should be hanging out with different people, ones that are going somewhere."
Everybody's got their own ideas about how one is supposed to live their life. Usually this corresponds to what they did, and what they value, and how they measure the worth of others.
Some of these life decisions are beyond my control. Others are things that don't mean much to me. To get married involves having someone around worth getting married to, buying a house means work and responsibility that I can't handle myself and the prospect of being stuck with crazy neighbors and not being able to get away from them.
If I was into making money and moving up, I wouldn't be living here. I would have gone to law school or med school or some prestigious place to get a PhD in something rather than going to library school at a state university. I would have moved to a bigger city with richer people and honestly that's not my bent.
I have friends who've left, who've looked down on those who stay as provincial and backward, who talk about how I need to expand my world and be somewhere that's more interesting and diverse. And I would love to see other places someday, but looking at what they do and who they hang out with, it's exclusively with other white upwardly mobile professional people who live in the same neighborhood who maybe like ethnic food or something.
I'd rather stay in my peon status because for me it means freedom. It means that I bring no work home with me, that I have enough to pay my rent and my bills and have a little fun once in awhile. It's given me time and opportunity to enroll in art classes without the pressure of grades or academic politics, to learn how to take pictures and play the drums and learn Swahili and hang out with people who inspire me and whose company I enjoy.
I don't pick my friends based on social class or what connections they have. The people I hang out with and make an effort to see are the ones I enjoy. My job is a means to these ends, I enjoy it and even find it meaningful, but it's not what I define myself by.
And until I can see some other parts of the world, the world has come to me. I can dance to bhangra, Lebanese pop, Americana, salsa, hip-hop, or Jamaican dancehall when I want to, share meals and drinks with neighbors from all over the world, hit up any number of street festivals, art openings or live music venues if I want my "culture," and hang out with my great crew of people that I've found since I moved back here.
I don't know what this weekend holds, if I'll hang out with my roommate and her people tonight or end up at Compound Fest or check out someplace new... it's so weird to have so many options.