Those who want to win educated-class approvalt must confront the anxieties of abundance: how to show - not least to themselves- that even while climbing toward the top of the ladder they have no become all the things they still profess to hold in contempt. How to navigate teh shoals between their affluence and their self-respect. How to reconcile their success with their spirituality, their elite status with their egalitarian ideals. Socially enlightened members of the educated elite tend to be disturbed by the widening gap between rich and poor and are therefore made somewhat uncomfortable by the fact that their own family income now tops $80, 000. Some of them dream of social justice yet went to a college where the tuition costs could feed an entire village in Rwanda for a year. Some once had "Question Authority" bumbper stickers on their cars but now find themselves heading start-up software companies with 200 people reporting to them. The sociologists they read in college taught that consumerism is a disease, and yet now they find themselves shopping for $3,000 refrigerators. They took to hear the lessons of Death of a Salesman, yet now find themselves directing a sales force. They laughed at the plastics scene in The Graduate but now they work for a company that manufactures . . . plastic. Suddenly they find themselves moving into a suburban house with a pool and uncomfortable about admitting it to their bohemian friends still living downtown.
Anyway, I find this interesting since it fits me right now. BOBOS in this case is what Brooks refers to as the Bourgeois Bohemians. I feel I'm a pre-BOBO, that there's part of me that desires money and affluence (mainly since I like nice things) while another part of me feels I should keep doing thinks like I'm doing. The question was raised this weekend when I was debating about applying for Teach for America or Harvard Business School. And I wonder if doing things like AmeriCorps*VISTA or TFA have any significant impact at all. Have I touched enough lives for it to feel important to me?
After my substitute teaching at my high school alma mater I had students come up to me and say "This is the first time I really understood math" and "Don't leave" and parents calling asking for the school to hire me permanently. After the students came up to me and said "This is the first ... " my assistant principal (who was also my old math teacher) said to me "and that's why we do it." Now, if this was an after-school movie there would have been a sole tear of happiness slowly dripping down my face as I walked out of the school alone - in reality I was like "umm . . . okay." Maybe it's just because I'm not emotional, but there was nothing that made me feel really great about it. I felt good about what I'd done, but no more than any of my other successes. So maybe I chasing a pipe dream? Maybe there really isn't that one job that'll make me think I'm changing the world, that as an individual it's just not going to happen . . . but that's such a defeatist attitude. I guess part of me wants to change the world, without having to do it one step at a time . . .