Sacrifices to Get Ahead

by Sandy L on September 19, 2010

I promised a Babci story this week and when I asked for things people wanted to know, one of my readers, Margaret asked “why did Babci get married so late in life?”

Well, there is indeed a story there. There are actually a couple of reasons why she was close to 40 when she got married.  If you’re new to the  blog, you may not know that Babci grew up in extreme poverty during WW2 in Poland. Her brother got shipped off to a Nazi work camp at age 14 and after 5 years of slave labor, the war ended and he immigrated to America.

When I was a smart Alec teenager, I always thought the reason she didn’t get married for so long was because she was fat and talked too much. I wasn’t even close to being right. You see,  since there were no nursing homes in Poland back then, the last person to stay single got designated the “old maid.”  They had to take care of their aging parents until they died. Since the old maid didn’t have a husband to take care of her, she usually was the one to inherit the parent’s home.  That old maid was my mother.

It wasn’t until I was about 20 when I learned the rest of the story.  You see, at some point, my mother realized that no matter how hard she worked, she would not be able to get ahead in Poland.  She wanted out and since her brother was already in America, it gave her hope that there was a path to a different life.  She also realized that if she settled down and got married, she’d be stuck there forever. At least if she stayed single, she had a chance to get out. So for the next 20 years, anytime a cute guy would come her way, she’d run in the opposite direction.  She was actually quite stunning back then.

It was tough to get out of Poland in the 50’s and 60’s, so it took decades of trying before she was finally granted a visa. At 36, she jumped at the chance to come to America.

Gumption

I look back at this and realize this is one of the reasons why Americans are so great.  America is made up of a bunch of gutsy people who take risks to get ahead. My husband’s family is Irish and they came over during the great potato famine 100+ years ago. Although that’s several generations ago, he still came from a group of people that said “Hey, I hear America has potatoes. Let’s go there.”  There were even more people that said “Let’s just wait it out, it’s too difficult to move and leave my family behind.”  I’m glad that I come from the stock that was optimistic and said “life abroad has got to be better than it is here.”

It saddens me when I see people forgetting where they came from. I see way too many people with a sense of entitlement to all the good things in life. It wasn’t that long ago when the motto was “Hard Work will Get You Ahead.” Now, people are pointing fingers in all directions blaming others for why they are not successful. They also expect the government to not only fix their problems but also take care of them until that time comes.  This is pure insanity and will ruin this country if we keep thinking that way.

If you want to get ahead, think about what you’re willing to give up in exchange for the good life. Unless your family is rich, there is usually a cost to getting that life.  And even if you’re family is rich, why do you think you’re somehow are entitled to the money you played no part in earning?

Babci made some big sacrifices to get her life here. What have you done to get to where you are today? And if you’re not where you want to be, what are you willing to give up to get there?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips September 20, 2010 at 12:52 PM

I grew up without a whole lot. A lot of my friends decided to work after graduation as a secretary or whatever and ended up getting new cars and such. I chose to go away to college, paying my own way. I was broke in college, and broke when I graduated with a bunch of student loans, and also some debt from my wedding. (We married 1 week after graduation.)

I sacrificed ‘instant gratification’ by heading off to college to get an education. Now, my struggles were nowhere near what your family endured, I was lucky to be born here, period.

I too am sick of all the finger pointing and blaming the world for circumstances people could control!

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Crystal@BFS September 20, 2010 at 2:42 PM

I grew up well off. I save my money so I can stay well off. I sacrificed looking for a new job while my husband found his perfect spot, but I’m looking now. I’m willing to give up 50 hours of my life every week to do a good job and get paid. ;-)

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Invest It Wisely September 20, 2010 at 3:31 PM

I love this post. It’s a shame that so many educated immigrants that come over to Canada have to work as taxi drivers, etc…. as their credentials are not recognized. At the same time, there are many that are coming to exploit the generous welfare systems that did not exist 50-60 years ago when my own family came over here. Things aren’t quite the same today, but I think we should always open our arms to those who want to come and work at making a better life for themselves, just as our own ancestors did.

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Invest It Wisely September 20, 2010 at 3:32 PM

I love this post. It’s a shame that so many educated immigrants that come over to Canada have to work as taxi drivers, etc…. as their credentials are not recognized. At the same time, there are many that are coming to exploit the generous welfare systems that did not exist 50-60 years ago when my own family came over here.
Things aren’t quite the same today, but I think we should always open our arms to those who want to come and work at making a better life for themselves, just as our own ancestors did.

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Money Reasons September 20, 2010 at 6:44 PM

I’m somewhere in the middle. My parents started out living across from the projects, but move up quickly and we moved to a middle class neighborhood in a small city.

I’ve had it pretty easy, although I’ve been working since I was 16.

I went to college, got a BA in Computer Science, got a job and that’s about it. For the past 10 or so years I’ve been on autopilot. I manage my finances pretty prudently, so we’re going okay. But, I think I’m tired of waiting or putting forth only half the effort.

In my case, perhaps it’s time to run instead of jog :)

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Sandy L September 20, 2010 at 9:00 PM

In my case, I was more like everyday tips. I decided to stay poor a while longer so that I could get a college degree. I picked a career that would pay well so I’d have a good chance to pay off my loans quickly after graduation.

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Squirrelers September 21, 2010 at 11:59 PM

Really good post. I think that there is a pervasive sense of entitlement around us. Many folks don’t have this, but a small (thinking optimistically here) number of folks do.

My Dad always said there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I think that approach can be applied to many life situations. I suspect that its a reality that many immigrants have, due to their own life experiences and their hard work to get here AND survive here, let alone thrive. There is much that can be learned by the average American or Canadian from the success through hard work and sacrifices made by immigrants.

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Financial Samurai September 22, 2010 at 12:00 AM

I’m willing to sacrifice a couple hours of sleep every night so I can make sure I’m not doomed for failure!

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eemusings October 3, 2010 at 8:39 PM

What a great story, and so inspiring. She sounds like a really strong role model. Isn’t it interesting how little we really know abotu our parents, and often don’t care to find out for years? The older I get, the more I wonder what mine were really like when they were younger, and what life was like for them.

I definitely have to remind myself of that sometimes..I can’t expect it all.

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Sandy L October 4, 2010 at 5:42 AM

Squirreler – yeah, attitude is everything. My dad thought the streets were paved with gold and money grew on trees here. He believed his mere presence would make him rich. It was like mixing communism with capitalism. Everyone’s rich, but no one has to work hard. He was wrong. My mom was more realistic..and knew rich people worked hard and long to get ahead. She liked it here way more than he did, but she was also much poorer than him when she came over.

Sam – you are an inspiration. I don’t know how you do all that you do. I guess I just need more sleep.

eemusings – You are so right. Most of us kids were boneheads who thought their parent’s sole purpose is to work, take care of the house and do stuff for us. I think it’s sometimes hard to think they were also young adults like us once upon a time. I didn’t truly start to understand/appreciate them til I had kids of my own.

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