I, too, stayed at more than one job working long hours and feeling unappreciated and knowing I was not compensated appropriately for all the work I did, responsibilities I had, and hours I dedicated. One of the reasons I was reluctant to leave was because of the “2 Americas” you mentioned. How could I be unhappy when I was making a not-great, but decent living? What about all those people who work as many or more hours than me who are making minimum wage and struggle to put food on the table? I am such a whiny person of privilege — what is wrong with me? I did not have the great education, but still managed to get to jobs that many cannot dream of having. Yes, I had all those thoughts and felt that guilt every time I was tired and fed up and discouraged. I beat myself up over and over because I was sick of what I was doing, sick of not getting paid what I was worth, sick of being a doormat. I stayed for those reasons and many more.
It was not until the last ten years or so (I am now 62) that I realized I am living my life — not someone else’s life — and staying and suffering through what I considered unacceptable work situations did not help all those working at really lousy jobs making really lousy pay.
My suffering does not help them!
Maybe if I was working less, I could work in social and political arenas that would actually help those people. My working 60–70 hours a week does not help them. My working for candidates who want to raise minimum wage or help the lower class does make a difference. My volunteering at crisis centers does make a difference. My having time to know the people in my city and finding out ways I can help does make a difference.
If you can make the choice to lead a happier life and help others, why would you choose not to just because others don’t have that choice?