Socioeconomic/Cultural Factors

The people who will be part of our lives as adults has largely been determined by the socioeconomic and cultural factors we have encountered in childhood. Our mates and friends are likely to have similar educational and religious backgrounds, and are likely to be of a similar level of attractiveness and intelligence. The contacts we have in later life, and the opportunities we have in life, have in large part developed through our early contacts and influences.

I was always aware that money was tight. It was one of the things that my parents fought about all the time. I also had picked up the idea that winning the lottery would solve their problems.

For the most part, I was never really aware of lacking anything when young. There was a period of time in which I was made fun of at school for not having 'cool' clothes, and for only having one pair of jeans, but this was not the norm for the bulk of my school years. I was never really 'in fashion', or 'cool', but I probably didn't really stick out as uncool. Later on, when I wished to go to university but received no parental guidance or support, I didn't really associate this with socioeconomic or cultural factors. My upbringing had been such that it was understood that if you wanted something in life, you couldn't expect it to be handed to you.

During my first three years of high school, my father managed a company which had a scholarship program: if I achieved a 75% average in my final year of high school, my university expenses would be paid for. It was realistic for me to achieve the grades necessary, and so for the first three years of high school, I was under the impression I would be able to get a university education with such a scholarship.

However, my father decided to take a new job, which began in the summer of 1982. It was because he needed a new challenge, and this is understandable. I don't believe that a person should stay in a job they hate, especially if they have a chance to try something new they might like. But, in addition to and in part because of major family disruptions and upheaval at this time, the new job did not last long.

When one of my brothers later applied for a student loan to go to university, he was initially turned down because of the amount of money my father made. However, this amount did not factor in all of the upheavals over the years and changes in family structure, nor did it consider that when my father moved to another province for a job opportunity he had continued to support my brother through his last year of high school so that he wouldn't have to change schools at such a stressful and crucial time.

Our mother had gone to teacher's college and would have liked for all of us to go to university, but she died in 1982. Our father did not encourage any of us to go to university, and did not contribute toward higher education. He himself had managed to do well in life with a Grade 10 education.

I attended public school. To what extent are schools responsible in helping us to identify our strengths and interests and to develop them, as opposed to helping us to fit the status quo or predefined slots that are 'acceptable'?

If everyone is judged according to the same narrow standards, and success in life depends on being able to meet those standards, isn't society ultimately deprived of considerable variety and richness of life?

With my mother, we all ate regular, healthy meals, and on weekends we were allowed treats. Occasionally, we might go to a movie or to eat in a restaurant. We had bicycles and crosscountry skis. With our father there was more extravagance with regards to food, and no real limits regarding amounts eaten. With our father, we had access to horses.

We experienced a wide range of different settings and lifestyles. We lived in the suburbs, a big city, a small city in Northern Ontario, on a farm, at a small fishing resort in Northern Ontario, we lived in houses and farmhouses, and we lived in a small apartment. We even spent a summer camping once. All of this may have resulted in adaptability to new surroundings, people, and cultural practices. In each place, we had different duties, and different adaptations to make.

There is much familial or ancestral information of which I am not aware which could possibly broaden my overall view regarding 'who' I am. It would be a logical step to try to find out more, but at present I do not have access to this info.

When I was a teenager, there was no internet. It was not as easy to search for information (in privacy) about things like ichthyosis or eating disorders. Sexual abuse of various kinds was not as openly discussed at the time. It was not possible to find online support or discussion groups. Teens now probably face different issues - perhaps related to too much information, i.e., what information is trustworthy. Teens may have issues with cyber-bullying, and with extreme privacy issues - photos or info about themselves having too wide a distribution, great difficulty in removing these once they are out there.

My mother and her family were Roman Catholic, and so some family activities represented this. We went to churches in many different places.

My mother came from a middleclass background, while my father's background was working class. My mother went to teacher's college, and at the time I was born soon went to work teaching kindergarten. I think she quit working before my first brother was born, and did not return to teaching, except to supply teach from time to time once we were settled in the country, or had been there for a couple of years. She later sold Avon and Amway products, before she and her boyfriend bought and operated a small summer/fishing resort together.

My mother's father worked for IBM for 25 years, and her mother was a hairdresser.

My father's father was a plumber, who died young - around his early 40s. He, like my maternal grandfather, was an athlete. I am not sure what my father's mother did while my father was growing up - when I was young she worked at a well-known chocolate shop.

My father's father died when my father was 15, and sometime around then my father dropped out of school, having achieved Grade 10. I don't think he left school because he had to work, but the death may have been disruptive. He began by sweeping floors in a printing company, and through the years learned every aspect of the business, until he was managing large printing companies. In addition, he also spent a lot of time at a horse stable, and took out trail rides. This is how he and my mother met - she was one of the people he took out on such rides.

My father also had a considerable athletic background. He did rodeo trick riding for a time, taught judo for a time, and played on a rugger team which won a North American championship.

Athletic ability was highly valued on both sides of the family, and this was an influence in all our lives.

Women on both sides of the family worked, and most had driver's licences.

My mother's side of the family was Polish. My first spoken language was Polish, which I probably picked up from the great-grandmother who babysat me while my mother worked. Mainly this background was reflected in the food that was served at Christmas and Easter, and the family's religion was also tied to their roots. (They were Roman Catholic). However, once I started school, my peers had more influence and I picked up English and began to forget the Polish I had learned. My grandfather throughout his life maintained ties to the Polish community in Toronto.

My father's side was of mixed heritage, but I am not totally clear on the exact truth. Some of his ancestors came to Canada fairly early on. The parts I have heard about are English, Irish and Scottish. My grandmother made Scottish shortbread which was a tradition every year at Christmas, and something we all liked. I am not sure if they associated with any church or religion. I never knew any member of my father's side to attend church.

I didn't ever learn much about either side of the family. I didn't ever learn much about Poland or ancestors there, and I didn't learn about the early settlers of each side of the family who came to Canada.

Our mother insisted we go to church, and for a time we went to Sunday school. I did not seem to pick up religion as easily as I did school subjects. I had my first Communion, but was never Confirmed. Once I lived with my father, I never attended church again.

Both sides of the family got together for Christmas and Easter. The atmosphere was different with each side of the family. It was more enjoyable to spend time with my mother's family.

In the 70s, one of the common 'neutral' meeting places for divorced spouses regarding the pickup and drop-off of kids was McDonald's. Whether this was true for my parents or true some of the time, it was considered a place to go that was within the budget to give us a 'treat'.

In later years, from my late teens to early 20s, my existence might in some ways have been considered below poverty level. There was always lots of food, (although I did not get a choice as to what that food would be). But I had zero resources. I had no personal money, and in gaining weight there would be very long periods of time in which I had no clothes that fit. The people who lived in the house with me would have observed me wearing the same clothes, day in and day out - the only ones that fit. In order to get a job, I would have needed some resources, including money for transport.

When I was hospitalized in 1989, I think it's possible the people there thought I didn't care about my appearance, and that was why I wore the same clothes every day. When I was released, a nurse had asked if I planned to start changing my clothes more often, not realizing that I honestly didn't have any others that fit. When I first went on welfare, although it badly affected my self-esteem, I realized that it was much more comfortable than living in the family home. I received something like $400 CDN per month, more than half of which was for rent, but it seemed like an enormous amount of money to me. (I did immediately buy some clothes.)

By the time he was 30, my father had realized that he was locked into a family, and into a system that was restrictive and limiting. He realized that the system was not fair. Once he was locked in, it was extremely difficult to live what he would have considered a good life. I may have been influenced by such realizations, such that I myself never became similarly 'locked in'.

See also: peer influence, and memes.















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