First World Problems
This whole conversation is admittedly the babbling of an educated white upper middle-class suburban female.
The problems I describe are First World problems. Wahhh, right?
Millions of people in this world are food insecure or dying from incurable diseases and I am whining about needing an extended vacay. Really?
People are suffering persecution, fleeing wars, living in refugee camps, victimized by human trafficking, and trapped in oppressive situations.
Meanwhile, I whine that I work too many hours at my upper-middle-class job in a clean, safe work environment. Then I have to clean my 2,800-square foot house and work in my park-like yard while my happy children and carefree family pets romp and play.
The absurdity of this whole whine-fest has not escaped me.
I have spent time in less developed places and have seen the faces of suffering. We also have it here. Life is not a 5-star resort for everyone, even in First World countries.
I have friends and colleagues who have immigrated here and escaped horrific situations. They miss their homelands and regret deeply that they had to leave but they thank their lucky stars every day that they are here. Life may still be a struggle but they are safe and free and their children will have better opportunities.
This isn’t an easy spot to be in. Who wants to leave all they know and love behind? In search of something better, they were courageous enough to do so.
While I am grateful for all that I have, I have longed to walk away from the sterile, disconnected absurdities of modern life in the First World to do something, anything, to make my small life matter and to help elevate the lives of others. I am also seeking something, a better version of myself as a more awakened, engaged human being.
The universal need to feel connected to a community of people who care and are making a difference is…well, universal. So is the desire for freedom from whatever may be holding us back. This can be due to human rights violations or it can be due to fear-based dialogue playing in our heads. Who are we to judge or rank one person’s suffering above or below that of another? Suffering is…well, suffering, and some have greater strength and resilience in the face of it than others.
My fears about living in this beautiful antiseptic bubble trapped in the land of niceness without really feeling or experiencing anything else is real. Yet I also fear leaving the safety of that cocoon. Things are really nice in suburbia. Life is overall safe, clean, developed and comfortable.
Millions of immigrants have come to the United States seeking what I have. Why would I want to leave?
But no, I cannot dismiss this.
In my most honest moments of self-assessment, I would like to be doing something about the problems of global poverty, human inequity, trafficking, and child welfare. I would also like to experience the incredible beauty and richness of other cultures and to admire their greatness and accomplishment. My psycho-crazy work ethic has lifted us out of poverty and secured our position in suburbia, but it has left me wanting for the time and energy to be involved in the community in a meaningful way.
In addition to whining about the woes of living in a First World country (wahhh) I also live in an era of increased longevity.
How long was the average lifespan 100 years ago? I’m not sure, but I doubt people lived into their 80s on average. They were in decline or in a box before any of this Midlife Crisis stuff hit the fan. They were also more concerned with basic issues of survival and had little time to worry about intellectual fluff.
Since we have the luxury of longevity (and excellent medical interventions if needed) we have more time on our hands than our ancestors did. Years more, in fact, as long as we guard our health.
I mention all of this because, for many of us, it may not be realistic to live in the same community and work in the same company and attend the same church for 60+ years of adulthood. Something in our DNA still longs for the freedom of an open adventure, a challenge, and something new to conquer.
But we have allowed technology and service sector jobs to turn us into marshmallows.
We are weak, tired, chubby, sickly office dwellers typing and staring at screens like zombies, seated at desks all day. It’s like something out of an old science fiction movie. It’s weird.
In spite of our screen-addicted, potato chip munching ways, modern medicine is still giving us the equivalent of two lifetimes.
Maybe the second half should look different than the first.
Maybe it isn’t so ridiculous to invest some time to figure that out.
Maybe, after decades worth of life and work experience, we are better qualified in midlife to tackle some of life’s persistent and complex problems. A greater depth of maturity also qualifies us to connect more deeply with the creative, artistic, cultured side of life and to experience greater pleasure. This can be a fruitful season of life!
First World Problems, I know, and I am painfully aware that I risk ridicule typing and posting this. However, I trust that I am not alone in my foolishness and that together the good and decent masses can figure out a better, more enlightened path.
Namaste. Shalom. Godspeed.
Whatever it takes!