My parents were poor. However, they were rich as well.
On a relative scale to the world, they were not poor at all. My mother inherited money from a great uncle, when my parents were in their mid-twenties. They chose not to touch the principal. Back in the 1970s, it kicked out between 10-20K a year as best I can tell.
My father was in graduate school in mathematics, my mother was doing art full time and selling very little, and we lived in a slightly ratty old house in Johnson City, New York. We hiked and skied, with mostly crappy equipment. We had a house full of art, music, books and graduate students. We had the smallest, dullest black and white tv. My parents gave in to it when I was nine, because my sister and I were drawn like magnets to the neighbor's television.
My father quit with his masters, refused to write his PhD, and took a job in the experimental computer section of General Electric in Alexandria, Virginia when I was starting high school. From the small town to the roiling area around Washington, DC, with both Congress and PACs and demonstrators yelling daily about something.
The GE job eventually closed down and my father taught mathematics and computers at a community college intermittently. My mother did art, had tons of shows, was in a cooperative gallery and cut her own mats and glass, swearing. They cared for my maternal grandmother after my grandfather died. The house was full of art, music, books, and characters who cared about any of those.
I am a physician and on a relative physician scale I am poor, like my parents. I am making similar choices to my parents. I have my own clinic because I refuse to see a complex patient every 15 or 20 minutes. It is crappy bad medicine. Initial visits are an hour, complex follow up 45 minutes and the 25-30 minutes for anything except taking out stitches or a blood pressure check.
I don't make much money. I am a small business owner and a rural physician. Supposedly valued by all sorts of politicians and specialists. I don't feel valued at all by them. I went to a medical conference Thursday and Friday. On Friday I got up to a microphone in front of 300 conference attendees to ask questions of two specialists. One interrupted me, made a joke and blew off the question. The other was dismissive, clearly knew nothing about the topic I was asking about, and disrespectfully talked about placebos. Do I feel valued? I panned the conference and said I would not come back. Because I am tired of the lies: that in theory I am respected but in practice denigrated to my face in front of 300 people.
I am thinking of my parents and shifting my thinking. I am a professional, but the work choices I am making (and have to make because of the three bouts of serious pneumonia) mean that I am a "poor" professional. A poor physician, ironically enough. I don't mind, because I have a house full of art and music and books and interesting people. I don't mind, because the people I really care about do value me. I spoke to a member of a patient family yesterday on the phone. He thanked me multiple times for pushing for an ECG for his spouse. Abnormal. Echocardiogram. VERY abnormal. I call the cardiologist who is going to see her in 6 weeks. "I will see her next week," says the cardiologist, moving the appointment up.
I am poor but I am rich. Rich as Richie Rich, richer than Midas, rich as Croesus. I am rich in art and music and books and friends and joyous work and photographing birds. I do not have money and I am rich.