A continuation on my last post:
It's Friday and my classmates and I are taking turns at the wheel, lurching down the wide streets of the industrial side of town. J is driving, the instructor in the passenger seat, and S and I are in the back so we start talking. He tells me about growing up dirt poor in a wide spot in the road in central Cali, about getting into gangs just so he could get out of town, see Los Angeles, about getting out of gangs and working hard and buying a nice house so his kids have a better life.
He's had a job since he was 12, he says, and I say I've had a job since I was 14, because I have, because the middle class status for me was only based on education and vocabulary and industry, never economics -- I am an immigrant after all, which is something I forget sometimes when I get too wrapped up in What I'm Doing With My Life.
The longer we talk, the more I am tempted to just tell the truth about who I am and what I am doing here, so finally I say that I've been a news reporter for the past few years. S just looks at me hard and nods slowly. "You're going to write a book about this. I can feel it. It's going to be big," he says. Nods again, appreciatively. "Yeah, it all makes sense now. You're going to be sitting in your truck writing all night. I can't wait to read your book."
In that last post, I said that I feared I was "slumming." Let me clarify: I know that I'm not doing that, but I fear that my actions could be interpreted as slumming, and I want to avoid the inherent connotation of disrespect. This fear has now been dispelled: the first time I decide to open up about who I am to a classmate, I am rewarded with understanding and respect.
Reminder to self: have more faith, especially in the knowledge that you're doing the right thing. Respect begets respect.