I grew up in a very poor part of Southern Indiana. Sure, there were a few well-off residents of my county, but for the most part, families were scraping by from paycheck-to-paycheck. I had friends who lived in partially renovated barns with no insulation. And friends who lived in houses with plywood for windows. And a lot of friends who lived in mobile homes.
I lived in a mobile home.
Until the age of 11, I lived in an full-on, sitting on cinder-blocks, single-wide mobile home. I am, at my heart, trailer trash.
There are a lot of stigmas that go along with living in a mobile home. Even now, I’m guilty of judging people based on the mobility of their dwelling. People living in trailers must be poor/unmotivated/trashy/dirty/etc.
Growing up in the lower-economic area I did, it didn’t faze me that I lived in a trailer. Even though, by today’s standards, we appeared “poor” we were actually much better off than a lot of my schoolmates. I always had food. My parents always came to my softball games. My Christmas stockings were always full. I had a happy childhood.
When I was 11, we moved into my parents’ dream house. As I drifted into my high school years, I was suddenly the “rich” girl at school because of our house. And suddenly, I desperately needed to hide my trailer trash roots.
I liked that my peers looked up to my life and my family. I was proud to have great parents, a great house and a happy family. When people would ask me where we lived before our current house, I’d dance around the fact that I’d lived in a wooden-paneled trailer for the first decade of my life. For some reason, something that was never a problem when I was living in the situation was now a source of constant embarrassment.
The hiding of my mobile home roots has continued well into my 20s. For the longest time, the trailer trash part of my childhood seemed so disconnected from the adult me. Strong, well-educated, and a little bit hip—I never felt like growing up in a trailer fit with my personal brand.
In the past few years, I’ve been inching up to a revelation.
Growing up in a mobile home isn’t just a part of my history, but it is a basic building block of my personality.
The foundation for this epiphany comes from the reasoning we lived in the trailer to begin with. My parents both had good jobs—we weren’t poor. The reason we lived in that trailer is because my parents dreamed bigger. Living in that small trailer allowed my parents to send four kids to college, give us all good childhoods and eventually build their dream house, all without using credit cards.
That red-doored trailer is a symbol of my parents’ dedication to providing a better life to next generation.
And now that I get that, I am proud to be born out of trailer trash. My humble roots are the reason I am where I am today. The reason I could go to college is because of the padded vinyl on the kitchen bar. The reason my parents could buy me a car in high school is because of the orange shag carpet. That trailer was the start of everything good in my life. And because of my parents’ temporary sacrifice of the American Dream, my siblings and I were able to go on to amazing things.
It is a lesson my parents taught me without saying a word. It’s taken almost 17 years for me to figure all this out. But I certainly hope it is a gift I can pass along to my future kids.