Everyone's struggle is real... at the very least to them

A couple of weeks ago, while in line waiting to pick up some food I'd just ordered, I overheard two conversations - I don't make a habit of this, but it's hard to not hear things when you leave your phone behind. :-/

My first reactions as I heard both of these conversations was annoyance at the protagonist in one and admiration for the other. Both conversations stayed with me for a while, but it took me some time to realize that was unfair on my part to be annoyed at the person that I was annoyed at.

So about these conversations:

The first was between someone working there and a friend. She was sympathizing with her friend who'd be starting a new job leaving this place. "Oh, it's minimum wage again?", she said with concern in her voice. "Yes, but it's fine", said her friend. The job was closer to where she lived so she thought she'd make about the same and she might get home a little earlier to her daughter some evenings though the hours were less predictable. It was clear she was sad to lose the job she had, but was grateful about the job she'd gotten. She was being optimistic and putting on brave face.

This conversation was happening to the left of where I was standing. The second conversation, happening on my right, was between two guys - apparently much better off. Rather the monologue by one of these guys was about how hard it was to make it all work now that his stock investments had fallen. He talked loudly about how he was struggling with wether he should still get rid of his swimming pool since he hardly used it and add an extra garage for his cars - he had a few cars apparently. This decision had kept him up last night and he'd gotten into a fight with his girlfriend about it. 

Something about the juxtaposition of the conversations really annoyed me and I left thinking "Yup. This is why it's so easy to hate Silicon Valley techies. We're oblivious to how lucky we are and obsess about such rubbish."

Until a week after when I was getting stressed about something and was about to start complaining about it. Something I learned to do a long time ago before complaining, was think about how lucky I am compared to most people on the planet (if you're in a position to read this - it's likely you are too). It generally stops me from complaining and let's me either relax or focus on what to do instead. That day my mind immediately drifted to the woman in the first conversation, but then immediately to thinking about how different was I really from the person in the second conversation complaining about his small garage? 

I realized in the grand scheme of things - not that much. There's a fundamental set of needs that we have in order to survive and live with dignity, but everything on top of that are constructs and challenges we create for ourselves.

The stresses of the person worrying about his cars were as real to him, as were the stresses of the person worrying about her new job and the unpredictable hours. The former had a much bigger safety net, but that's not something they even realized in the moment. 

From what I can tell, especially when it comes to our own situations, most people tend to focus on our challenges and seldom our advantages. It takes a comparison to others situations to remind us of how well we're really doing - and most people don't bother thinking about others until something jolts them to do so.

In other words, always be kind - even to the jerks that don't realize they aren't being. Their struggles may not be real to us, but they are to them... 


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