Do I look forward, back, or live in the present?
Another year is about to end in our arbitrary way of marking things. I kind of wish that the year started in September. School and fiscal years would match better. Or perhaps spring, perhaps in April. Either way, winter would no longer be split into two years. As it is, a blizzard in December of one year followed by one in January of the next would appear to be two separate winters on paper, even though people living through them would say that they are all part of the same season.
But I digress.
A part of me wants to look back on 2015. I want to see what has happened, good and bad. I want to recognize the patterns and learn from them. I want to give credit to the good and grow from the bad. I want to see what has been lost and what has been gained as if doing so would quantify and qualify this year as “good” or “bad” in some definitive fashion.
This might be a foolish impulse. For the year itself is just a demarcation of time. Is the year real? It’s not like I can go back to some box, pull out 2015, open it for my friends and say, “that was a good year. See?” as I pull out bits and pieces to display. Or perhaps drink it and let it suffuse us as we chat and remember and then put it back to be remembered at some later date.
I do know that things happened this year. They always do.
I know that many things that happened hurt me. I know that many things pleased me. I know that I ate and drank and ran and played music and painted and danced and juggled and joked and learned and laughed and cried and slept.
I know that I did not die.
And in that, I find that I am one of many fortunate people.
Fortunate. It is not something that people like to be told they are. It is OK to recognize on our own, but to be told is disconcerting.
“Do you know how lucky you are,” asks someone. Maybe a paramedic. Maybe a police officer. Maybe a doctor. Maybe a parent. Maybe a friend. Maybe a stranger.
Our first reaction is almost always confusion or disbelief. You can see it in survivors of accidents or other traumatic events. You can see it just as easily if you grab a child and pull her out of the way of a speeding car.
Tell a person that they are lucky and they do not know what you are talking about. They might even start trying to argue.
“Lucky?! I have a broken arm!”
“What are you talking about? I lost everything in that fire!”
“My car was totaled!”
It does not matter who says it, “you were lucky” is not an entirely welcome statement when it comes from without.
I suspect that is why people have problems with the idea of racial and gender based privilege.
Telling someone that they are privileged is saying that they were fortunate. That they were lucky. That their situation arose more from accident than design. That implies that what they have could be taken away with a roll of the dice, a flip of a coin, a spin of the wheel.
- If this sperm had beaten that one
- If this word had been spoken instead of that one
- If a left turn instead of a right
- If the driver of that car had gotten a good night’s sleep and could have fought off that cold
- If that jerk hadn’t spilled coffee on our best outfit on the day of the interview
- If the thousands of random meetings in the generations previous had not produced you and the economic situation of your parents
- If the people around us had done things slightly differently
would we be the people we are? Would our situations be the same? Would we have the same goals, hopes, dreams, and abilities?
Calling someone privileged is saying, “you were lucky.” And even if it is true, most people do not want to hear that. They want to hear that they were strong, smart, or talented. But lucky? No one has control over that.
It robs us of security.
Most of us know that they world is unjust. But most of us also believe that we are just.
But if the things that happen to our fellow humans are prevented mainly by the luck of being born to a particular family in a particular social status in a particular nation in a particular period of time …
And if we refuse to help one another out of denial that fortune was the deciding factor, then can we truly call ourselves just?
This is not where I pictured this post going. I was going to write about this past year, the good and the bad. I was going to write about my change in employment. I was going to write about my health. I was going to write about my family. I was going to write about unicycling and magic and who I am and how it seems I am becoming who I want to be. I was going to write about how I do not really make New Year’s resolutions because I try to make course corrections pretty regularly (sometimes daily, but never less than weekly.)
I do not have any answers. I am not even sure if I am asking the correct questions.
I just know that I am going to keep doing what I have been for my entire life.
- I’m going to keep trying to learn a little more about the world around me and the people in it
- I’m going to keep learning new skills and improving the old ones
- I’m going to keep seeking out the nifty and sharing them with everyone who might appreciate them
- I’m going to roll with the punches when I can and heal from the blows when things get too tough
- and I’m going to do my best to treat everyone and everything with love, respect, and a little humor.