The middle class is defined as that large group of people between the working class and the upper class. More recently and specifically it means those with significant human capital. To me, it just means you’ve been caught in the sucky middle, not rich enough to have it all and not unprivileged enough to not have to make choices.
This is what I see as the problem of living in the middle class, it’s deeply unsatisfying. Okay, yeah, accuse me of having first world problems, accuse me of not appreciating what I have and being gracious but really I’d rather have a simple, albeit harsh life of the working “blue collar” class than being stuck in this middle ground where I can always see something better, something newer that I want without the ease of just obtaining it.
I think what defines this middle class is work ethic, that and being stuck with too many choices. When you’re of the upper class, anything you want you can have. When you’re of the lower class, life is no longer about want and desire, sure you can have those things but they’re only secondary to making sure you’ve got enough from day to day. Perhaps I’m faulty to want this based off my work experience, but when I was waitressing, working some 12 hours a day, life was simple. You get up, you go to work, and you come home too tired to be worried about anything else. That sort of simple, habitual lifestyle appeals to me as opposed to the life of a middle class salary man. A life where, sure, it isn’t bad, but it’s not so great either. And because you’ve got this entire class of people above you and you’ve got so much human capital that you could attain it, it’s always there, teasing you. Plus with the advent of social media and other celebrity tabloids or whatnot telling us what great lives other people are leading, our middle class lives look completely dull in comparison.
More, more, more. Why can’t I have what they have? For the working class member, it’s because you’re not working hard enough. The work ethic is so ingrained that the only person or thing you can blame is yourself. If only I had worked harder, if only I was smarter. Or maybe that’s just me.
Then with this life where you’re exposed to so much that is better, that is newer, so much that you want while simultaneously being told that you should be gracious for what you have, how can one ever be happy? To me, when I was working and living the ‘simple life,’ pleasures and happiness came easier. Maybe because they were rarer and more coveted but happiness was so much more easily defined. It was simply time off, time to myself, time away from the hustle and bustle of work. I didn’t need to go spend money on anything but even if I did, there was a simple pleasure in spending money that I had worked for, my money (perhaps I shouldn’t be complaining about middle class life, then, but rather the life of someone who is not yet working…)
A life torn between seeing what you want but don’t have and trying to be thankful for what you do is living in a dichotomy. It’s a life filled with choices, where everything becomes a choice. Happiness is not straightforward because it consists of knowing there was a ‘better’ option while also acknowledging how ‘great’ it is that you had a choice at all. A life filled with choices, choices about prioritizing your wants, about deciding what you want to do with your life, and what is the balance between productivity and happiness, they all build up.
Life like this is deeply unsatisfying.
It lacks the ease of the upper class and the simplicity of the lower class and is just all around difficult. It builds pressure on the individual because all the choices you make are your own, your decisions so that the only person you can blame for not ending up on top is yourself. The only person you can blame for this unsatisfying life is yourself. The only person who’s fault it is for this life not having meaning is your own.
Obviously, I’m oversimplifying things a lot. Yes, upper class life is probably not all easy. Neither is the lower class life so simple. Each class is faced with their own sets of decisions and I can only speak about and from my own experience as a member of the middle class looking at the other classes.
Thus, I rephrase, I find my middle class life deeply unsatisfying.
And, yes, I could just be over thinking things and making it difficult for myself to be happy and satisfied. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by my interactions with the other classes. Perhaps, like in the opinion of many of my close friends, I just have an extreme case of “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome. But all this doesn’t change the fact that I’m unsatisfied.
Unsatisfied with my behavior, my intelligence, my abilities, my relationships, my preferences. And here I blame it on my position in the middle class. In essence I blame it on myself. In an article I read I resonated with this particular quote: “Depressives look sad, but that is the view from the outside. Of course they’re sad; they’ve probably gone their entire day getting berated relentlessly, by the single person in the world whose opinion they hold most dear — themselves.” In no way am I depressed, I don’t think so anyway. I just know that your worst critic is yourself and it sucks because you can’t get out of your own head. When I try to think on how to change such an unsatisfying position, I just end up talking myself in circles, concluding nothing and often finishing in a state worse than when I started. Too stubborn to take advice, unable to take my own, prone to making stupid decisions, it’s like I’m on a road to nowhere.
So what am I to do?