birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

DNA

Need instills want. But is there a cap or ceiling to need?

I didn't grow up poor, but as kid there was a steady heartbeat of my family trying to make ends meet — bills deferred on my mom's to-do pile, Christmases or birthdays that delivered more practical than passionate gifts, meals that stretched the staples for maximum value — and we saw comparatively what the neighbors or our cousins enjoyed in their lives.

So the drive to build something secure and prosperous in my own life ran deep. My cousins and I were the first in our families to know that college was the way to raise the bar and to open up new opportunities.

College, though — at least mine, in choosing to attend a private university to pursue my passion majors in a rigorous, challenging setting — underscored the vast disparities between those with wealth already in hand and those struggling to create a foundation for the future.

Between my freshman-year roommates we had one used car, my best friend's used Honda. Neighbors across the hall in the dorm got their first Mercedes or Benz for high school graduation and planned weekenders in Palm Springs or San Francisco.

Other freshman looked forward to rushing fraternities and sororities and eventually moving into their respective houses. I learned of the $1,500 premium to live in a frat house and knew that wouldn't be possible for me.

Classmates talked excitedly about Spring Break plans in Cabo or Florida, or doing an academic Semester at Sea. My roommates and I mostly pondered a road trip in the state, or hitting the beach locally, and getting done with our majors as quickly as possible to save on financial aid.

I did summer jobs and had work-study and side gigs throughout my college years. Classmates boasted of long summers doing nothing but hitting the beach and traveling abroad.

It's all relative, of course. I was firmly aware of students who never even got out of the dorms or their apartments over long holiday weekends or spent the holidays with a relative or friend's family because airfares home were prohibitive.

I never questioned making the most of what I had, or thought twice about the work it took to get something, anything. But I did wonder about the view from where the grass was presumably greener.

Did having unlimited opportunity engender less appreciation of the moment? Did a wallet that never ran out of cash inspire taking greater chances and experiencing life more fully?

Did the money make a difference in their overall happiness? I'm not sure. I do think a struggle makes success a bit sweeter. If I had a karmic do-over, though, I'd like to try life with the easy option to start with.

The Egg

Billionaires