the role of social class in our physical spaces

Growing up as a latchkey kid, I’d often squirm my way out of revealing where I lived to others. Instead, I’d lie. I’d tell friends I already had a ride or that it was no big deal for me to walk back home. I’d do or say anything to obfuscate details of where I lived and divert people away from seeing my dilapidated house. The faded blue paint that coated the wooden panels was slowly chipping away, just like my self-esteem. Needless to say, I was petrified at the idea of ​​inviting a friend inside my house. My home was typically organized and clean, but my kitchen housed a small intrusion of cockroaches that refused to be exterminated, despite numerous attempts. Ultimately, I did not want my peers to pity me and think I lived in a state of squalor.

On a similar note, I have memories from my childhood of when my mom, older sister and I would frequently take buses to get around. Although bus fares are cheap, the routes are not optimal in suburban areas given the indirect paths and the large swathes of land that remained untouched. As a result, portions of our trips — whether they be for dentist appointments at remote office spaces or shopping at distant outlet stores — would entail walking along stretches of highway to reach disjointed bus stops. This was especially cumbersome in the scorching heat of the summer sun. Drenched in both sweat and embarrassment, I wondered whether drivers zipping past us were judging us momentarily. I frequently worried that a peer from school would recognize me as they sped past me in their parents’ car.

These anecdotes highlight some of the spaces I’ve occupied in the past. The spaces that each of us individually traverse, occupy and have access to are often influenced by a myriad of factors. Through my writing, I’ve attempted to express and capture some of these differences by sharing personal experiences and connecting them to broader themes, primarily ones related to social class. One tool that helps illustrate these differences from a macro point of view is the Opportunity Atlas website (I highly suggest checking it out and tinkering with the filters). These social settings, or milieus, can each be described by the visual aesthetics, physical composition and ephemeral events that occur within a respective space.

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