When I first met Mark, he told me he was in the process of starting two businesses. He said he wanted to retire by the time he was 35 and that he planned on owning a collection of jets, cars and other expensive things a writer like me could never dream of owning.
I wasn’t impressed by the amount of wealth this guy was counting on or the number of material items he hoped to possess one day but the fact that he seemed so ambitious and determined to succeed made him attractive.
As someone who came from a small town, big dreams were rare. Being a creative type or entrepreneur was mostly unheard of, so when I met Mark in our college town and he told me his plans for his future I thought I had found someone like me – someone who came from nothing but wanted to be something more than the life they came from.
Quickly after getting into our relationship though, I realized we were from completely different backgrounds. His parents were extremely wealthy and had provided their children with a life of privilege.
Mark told me about their yearly family holidays to Europe, ski trips to Aspen, and his study abroad semesters to exciting destinations. His parents paid for his $100,000 aviation degree and gave him a hefty living allowance every month that paid all of his bills and ample money for spending, never forcing him to have a job in college or after graduation so that he could “find himself.” Once he turned a certain age he would receive a large sum of money and until that day happened, he planned on coasting on his parents’ cash.
When we watched the first episode of Girls and discussed the controversy surrounding the show, Mark said, “I don’t understand. Why is it a big deal Hannah wants her parents to give her money while she finishes her book? Seems pretty normal to me. I mean, that’s what parents are supposed to do.” I just kind of stared at him for awhile and somewhere in the background I could have sworn I heard the music to the Twilight Zone playing.
I, on the other hand, had never come close to that lifestyle. I was raised on a small agricultural farm a few miles from Michigan’s largest prison. My parents didn’t have an abundance of money but I never knew it because we were rich in land and fresh produce.
In my family college was encouraged but not guaranteed. My parents never graduated high school and my siblings never went the college route so no one knew the steps of applying for college or how to get into university. Between doctor appointments, chemo treatment, and taking care of the farm, my future education was a topic that went left undiscussed between my parents and I.
After dealing with my father’s death when I was a teenager, I was almost 21 when I finally entered my first college classroom and I was eager to be there. Once I was on my own at 17 after my father passed, it was a simple understanding between my mother and I that she wasn’t there to help me. If I needed help with rent, school supplies, or even the smallest bit of groceries, it was up to me to figure out how to find the resources to take care of myself.
Trouble started brewing between Mark and I when we realized how fundamentally different we were. I had been struggling over the summer after being laid off from my job and could barely keep my head above water financially. During this time he would tell me his mom had just put $2,000 in his bank account because she “was worried he was getting depressed.” I scoffed at this and honestly, I was probably a little jealous.
“Why don’t you just get a job?” I would ask over and over.
Mark told me he wasn’t qualified for any real jobs. He said he had never had to work before and had no real experience so he was trying to create his own business. He refused to take even a basic job at a coffee shop because he said he was taught to “never trade hours for dollars.” His mother told him he wasn’t allowed to move out of state for a job, despite the lack of jobs in Michigan, and Mark sure as hell didn’t want to rebel against the person who controlled his cash flow.
He would come up with ideas about designing Iphone apps, dorm furniture rentals, food trucks, and a slew of other business ideas that never happened because these ideas needed real work and hours put behind them, a concept difficult for him to understand when he was relying on his parent’s money.
He wanted money and success to come to him as immediate as the bank transactions his mother gave him did. Soon I discovered the ambitious guy I first met was just someone totally and completely lost – a victim of overparenting and privilege. Maybe someday he would achieve his dreams of fortune but it certainly wouldn’t be anytime soon.
Our relationship took a turn for the worst when I only had $20 to my name after I paid my bills with my last check. Although I wasn’t entirely sure when my next paycheck was going to come, I wasn’t that depressed about it. I had food in the cupboards, a mattress on the floor I could sleep on in a warm home I could come back to, and a stack of books to read. Although the situation wasn’t ideal, I was taking steps to get back on my feet, and I knew it wouldn’t always be like this.
“How can you be okay with only $20 in your account!?” he asked me. Although he boasted about his wad of cash he was depressed, lethargic, and cried tears every few days about his miserable life. We simply couldn’t understand each other.
Mark, however, constantly criticized me for my standard of living, despite the fact he stayed at my place 6 nights a week and never helped me out with any living costs or groceries. He told me he had never had less than $1,000 in his bank account and that was at his “most desperate of times.”
When he told me I needed to reach out to my family for money, I told him that wasn’t an option. He shook his head and told me a “real family” provides all of the things he had been secured with. It was then when I realized then that our differences in backgrounds and mindsets were far too great to ever achieve a happy and successful relationship.
I don’t expect the next guy I date to have overcome the same obstacles I have because I understand there are many different types of families and situations out there, but I want someone who knows what he wants in life, and is willing to do anything to achieve his goals, even if it means slinging coffee at Starbucks for awhile.