Social stratification is the result of the systems in place to distribute the social, political and economic power in our society. There are things I learned from growing up in the inner-city while having the privilege of navigating multiple social circles that I want to share with all those who live on the margins of society or who work with those who live on the margins with the hopes of enlightening perspectives.
While it is ideal for the resources and opportunities for advancement within our society to be equally accessible, there is a way to navigate the world as someone who comes from circumstances where what’s needed to thrive isn’t easily accessible. Here are 5 things that will help everyone looking for ways to navigate the “system” and perpetuate a life that is reflective of a thriving reality.
1. Welfare and SSI (disability benefits) are not long-term goals.
Stop-gaps, leg ups and government assistance to aide through difficult times are incredibly empowering tools for many people that allow for opportunities of growth and development. These resources are not meant to support long-term living. Even those who suffer from conditions that prevent them from ever working or being self-sustaining have difficulty surviving and thriving off outside aide alone. For those who are able to work or able to learn a trade (not just in the entertainment or sports industries), it is important to develop skills that allow you to exercise your gifts in diverse ways, expand your capacity for greatness, and pursue multiple streams of income to support and sustain your life. Cash-flow is an art that everyone must learn.
2. The “system” is designed to contain us, not care for us.
It is not the job of every public servant or service professional to know your story or to even care about your story. The people hired to work in the institutions that govern our society—no matter how well-meaning or skilled they are in their particular professions—are not equipped to know the depth of the psychological and sociological frameworks of the people they serve. Many of the folks entrusted to govern and lead in this society come with conditioned perspectives that may not include the desire or agency to navigate perspectives unlike their own.
3. Education is your ONLY way out.
Even with student loans that may take nearly a lifetime to pay back, or hours spent in tutoring classes, developing intelligence and gaining professional skills that you can use to work in multiple areas and sectors within society will help to generate income that is not dependent on someone giving you a “break”. Utilize the resources, advantages, and positive connections in life to develop skills and opportunities for success, and then succeed.
4. No one wants to be invited to your pity party.
The world can be cruel and challenging to navigate for kids who grow up in difficult conditions or without certain advantages—and those kids may in fact have to work harder than others to achieve comparable success, but that is the way it is. Life isn’t fair. We use our passion and voice to advocate for more evenly distributed opportunities and access to resources that will allow for the equal advancement of all people; and while advocating for a better world, developing a positive sense of self and building confidence will ensure that the connections you make in life promotes the kinds of circumstances you aim to achieve.
5. If you can’t articulate your circumstances, you cannot rise above them.
In order to overcome anything in life, we need to know what it is that we want to overcome. Many people who perpetuate the addictions and negative behaviors they grow up seeing only do so because they don’t understand, intend on, or perpetuate a different reality. We cannot overcome what we don’t recognize. When you shed light on the dark spaces in life, you create the possibility for new life and new opportunities to enter in.
If your speech is constantly negative, or you walk around wounded, without ambition or defeated—no matter what has happened to you in life, you will infect the good people and the good possibilities around you and you may push them away. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our pain that we lose sight of the areas in life that are good and when that happens, the promise of a brighter future is overshadowed by the inability to see beyond the current circumstances. There is time to feel and process painful circumstances; and there is time to heal from and rise above those painful circumstances.
Life can be challenging; but our challenges can be opportunities for us to show ourselves and the world what is possible with hope, intention, a positive attitude, and determination.