The other day, I was walking around an indoor track at my local rec center, when a thought stopped me in my tracks.
Bowling For Soup’s song “1985” started playing on my Pandora station. It’s a song I love. In fact, I’ve loved it since it first came out, which was right around the time I was finishing my senior year at The Ohio State University and getting ready to solidify my future.
You see, I was terrified about life after college. I was suffocating at the thought of joining the “real world.” And I identified with the lyrics:
“Debbie just hit the wall
She never had it all
One Prozac a day
Husband’s a CPA
Her dreams went out the door
When she turned twenty four
Only been with one man
What happened to her plan?
Her yellow SUV, is now the enemy
Looks at her average life
And nothing has been alright”
And nothing against CPA’s (really – many of my good friends are CPA’s!) but generally speaking, they aren’t known for being spontaneous and totally upending their life just to see what happens next. And let’s be honest, I find that totally hot!
I’ve always been attracted to the “Tim Ferris” personality type, but that’s not exactly the guy you bring home to dinner. Especially if you have an #asianmom
So for me, this potentially “safe and secure” life with an accountant, driving an SUV and living in the ‘burbs seemed like a life sentence. It seemed like the sort of life that I’d have to self-medicate to get myself through.
And that’s when my privilege hit me like a ton of bricks.
Let me repeat – my version of pure hell was a solidly middle class life, being married to an orderly, predictable, stable man with a good job, and driving a sport utility vehicle.
It makes me cringe to type these words. How ridiculously privileged am I?
Here’s where it gets interesting.
At home, I had always felt my privilege. My immigrant parents never stopped reminding me how the simple location of my birth and the color of my passport was like holding the winning lottery ticket. Unlike billions of people all over the world, I had the golden ticket. I had access to the finest universities – even for FREE if only I put in enough hard work.
But in the outside world, I was told over and over again that I wasn’t privileged. I was a female. I was a minority. I was raised by a single mom. Studies were pointed out to me that because of my foreign sounding name, I’d be passed over for job interviews.
And people would argue over my shade of privilege, and place me somewhere between a black minority woman and white middle class man. I was told that as a “model minority” I wasn’t as underprivileged as I could be, but not as privileged as others were.
So who was right? My family? Or the social warriors of the day?
Here’s what I’ve come to believe.
Our minds are powerful. And our thoughts influence our outcomes. And I’m telling you that by focusing on what we don’t have or what makes our life more difficult is truly doing ourselves a disservice. When I focus on all the ways that the odds are stacked against me, it does NOTHING to improve my life.
Does that mean I think we should stop fighting for what’s right? Just take whatever is handed our way? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
What I’m saying is that we can choose to acknowledge all the ways we are privileged.
Every single one of us has privilege. I repeat – we are ALL privileged.
Do you have your vision? Privilege.
Do you live in a country where you can publicly debate whether or not you’re in favor of the current leadership? Privilege.
Are you attracted to the opposite gender? Privilege.
Are you reading this right now on a computer, mobile device or iPad? Privilege.
Acknowledging our privilege gives us power. It gives us mental strength. It gives us a moment of gratitude. And a moment of gratitude can change our lives.
Just so I’m clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be fighting to improve current conditions.
What I’m proposing is that we choose to acknowledge our own privilege while fighting to make the world a better place for our neighbors and friends.
I’m saying that I can acknowledge that I am deeply privileged to legally marry the man that I love AND rally to make sure my neighbors and friends have this same right.
I can acknowledge that the simple location of my birth has granted me immeasurable privilege AND rally to see that others are treated humanely.
As I think about the kind of message I want to send to my daughter, I can’t help but ponder how the words I choose will impact her thoughts and mental resilience.
The message I send will be that she has a life filled with immense privilege, and an immense responsibility to fight for those that don’t.
I want her to feel humbled by and grateful for all the good things in her life – and deeply passionate to make the world a better place for her neighbors.
Hopefully, if the world tries to tell her she’s at a disadvantage and chip away at her mental strength, she’ll hold up her hand and say “I am the master of my ship and commander of my destiny. I’m heading full steam towards something spectacular and bringing my neighbors with me.”
Who’s with me?