Weekends growing up were spent hitting tennis balls with my coach, sketching still lives at a local art studio and practicing the violin with my private teacher. My parents endorsed my interests because we had financial security that most families in America didn't. I'm thankful that this wealth also allows me to live in one of the most affluent suburbs of New York and attend one of its best public schools, where it's not uncommon to see my peers driving to school in a Mercedes-Benz.
Even though I can buy glamorous things because of my family's wealth, I've never felt comfortable spending it. Some girls in my school frivolously spend their money – at the local Abercrombie, they'll point to a shirt they like and swipe their cards without batting an eyelash at the price. I use my money differently because of how I was raised. I make a beeline to the discount sections at higher-end retailers to find trendy garments and resell them on eBay to make a profit covering next semester's art supplies.
Many of my peers were fed since birth with a silver spoon, not giving a second thought to the family wealth at their disposal. I like to think I use my spoon sparingly, feeding myself only when necessary. I dislike spending my parents' money because I didn't earn any of it. I appreciate my parents endorsing my interests like violin because these hobbies are enriching, but I'm discomfited when they pay for superficial things like name-brand clothing. I'm fine just wearing thrifted shirts and discounted sneakers. I suppose it's because my mother raised me to embody a Chinese proverb that translates to "save when financially stable because the future is unknown.
"At a young age, I was forced to understand what came at the price of that wealth: time with my father. When I was 8, he left to build his own canned fruits company in China. That was the first year a seat at the dinner table remained empty and a car in the garage sat untouched. Suddenly, our relationship became two five-minute phone calls per week. He'll see my brother and me only for a quarter of the year - just the equivalent of a season spent together. He couldn't come to my brother's high school graduation, and during school orchestra concerts I would take a hopeful glance at the audience to see only my mother's face in the crowd. However, he’s the reason I have a silver spoon that allows me to scoop more than just canned peaches. If he hadn't followed his ambitions, we would still be a close-knit family living in a smaller home, but maybe then thrift shopping would be mandatory instead of voluntary.
My love and appreciation for my father makes me honor the money he provides me with - every dollar comes at the expense of his physical distance. When my father comes to visit, he offers to buy me the newest iPhone or drive me to Bloomingdale's because of the guilt he feels for not being with us. I accept his offer sparingly because I don't want him to think of me as someone who asks for more than what I need. While everyone in school has been toting the newest iPhone since ninth grade, I took his used phone, giving up 24/7 Internet access - I didn't need to check Facebook every minute. Although I enjoy the security afforded me by his success, it doesn't diminish my determination to build a future with my own bare hands. When I leave the silver spoon too long in my mouth, I feel this nagging itch telling me to remove it, as if I'm allergic to silver. If the spoon's used sparingly, I can avoid an outbreak. But I don't mind my allergy. I embrace it because it reminds me that everything comes at a price - even silver spoons.
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