Children that come from very little constantly face the feeling of guilt. Our parents sacrificed everything to give us a better life and our success comes with a price. In a recent Instagram post, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contemplated the struggle of bearing the fruit of her parents’ labor while also partaking in the luxuries they never hand. Her touching post came while grocery shopping. This ongoing ritual may be seen as mundane but necessary, though can also be a trigger when you break down the privilege of doing something that others — even your own family — cannot.
“I looked down at my grocery basket today and couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt,” she writes. “I’m still paying my student loans, and while I try to make my own meals; I also quite often will resort to a frozen dinner or take out. These are luxuries I never had growing up, and as I looked down at my basket today, I couldn’t help but think of all the times as a child that I complained about eating rice and beans for what felt then like the 10,000th time.”
She goes on to say that while she hated eating the same thing every day, and envying privileged children, she now understands why her parents did that, and why that matters to her today.
“My parents were young and trying to raise two kids on a dime,” she adds. “Eating rice and beans every day is what allowed me to go on school trips and play soccer. I didn’t get it then — my parents didn’t want me to feel limited — but I really feel guilty for it now.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez also expressed the awkward feeling of making more than her parents, and that is profound guilt that many children of immigrants or children of poverty face all the time.
“When I graduated college, my first job paid $45k. It was more than my mother made in her entire life. There is a lot of guilt and strange emotions that come with that, but now when I think about those moments — those dinners where I whined because I didn’t understand the sacrifice my parents were making — all I can do is try to take that guilt and turn it into everyday gratitude.”
She ended her touching post by saying that the constant battle of appreciating the privilege you have today and understanding that your former self or parents never had these luxuries before, it’s all about perspective and being thankful. The success you have today is happening because of their hard work and that is what counts the most.
“I’m thankful,” she writes. “Half the time I don’t feel deserving of how my life has turned out over the last year. It brings a lot of stress and complications, but I’m not afraid for my own survival the way I used to be when I didn’t have insurance or when the restaurant was dead for weeks in a row and I wasn’t making the tips I needed to pay rent. All I can do is be thankful. I thank my creator and every well-wisher, supporter, organizer, family, and friend. And dedicate my life now to working as hard as I can so that everyone in this country can have the opportunities needed to be blessed with a basket like the one I have today.”