I get to do a ton of things that I love. I teach piano lessons to some of the most interesting kids and adults. I get to play in a cover band with some of my very favorite people. I get to be a stay-at-home-parent to my kids. I get to see my husband every day. I get to work on writing projects that feed my soul and that I hope will be beneficial to other people. I get to speak about topics that are meaningful to me. I live in a time when I get to converse with friends who are near and far with minimal effort.
So I should never feel overwhelmed, right? I should just be happy, happy, happy because I get to do all the things that I love, right?
Except nope. I feel overwhelmed anyway.
I absolutely understand how lucky I am. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve worked really hard to be able to do what I’m doing. I’ve put in my ten thousand hours. I’ve had to wait and wait and wait for some things to work out and there is going to be a lot more waiting ahead.
But I’ve also been lucky. I have been on the receiving end of some significant generosity from people who have had nothing to gain from offering their help. I landed in a church situation that introduced me to someone who encouraged me to try things that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and who gave me opportunities to pursue creativity in ways that I never considered. I have a family that is supportive of some things that many would consider to be downright unwise. I was born into circumstances that have given me chances that many people never get to experience. I never want to ignore the “luck” factor in my experience. And I never want to seem ungrateful for the opportunities that I have been given.
But I’ve got to tell you, I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed.
I have deadlines that I’m running up against. I have stress about producing work for my book that actually lives up to some of the hype. I have a job as a teacher and musician that has to happen in the hours when everyone else is free, so it ends up taking nights and weekends away from my family. I have people who rely on me for some things that I don’t think I am providing very well more often than I would like to admit.
I see the #firstworldproblems hashtag pretty often when people are upset about their stresses here in the first world. And I get it. It’s kind of shitty to complain about not getting to watch the season finale of Parks and Rec because I’m teaching piano lessons when so many people don’t have access to entertainment of any kind, ever. I get that it’s not really a bad thing that I don’t have the energy to blog as much because I have other writing to do when some people don’t have access to free speech at all. I get that it’s silly to complain about my sore feet when they’re sore because I got to spend hours pretending to be a rock star rather than working 18 hour days at a sweatshop.
And yet. And yet. And yet.
Sometimes we need compassion even when we’re doing the things we love. Sometimes we need kindness even if our problems aren’t as stark as someone else’s. Sometimes we need a sympathetic ear even if it’s just to talk about someone being mean to us on the internet.
Yes, these are first world problems. I’m a white, straight, married, Christian woman who lives in the first world, so yeah, it’s kind of a given that my problems are going to rank pretty low in the grand scheme of things. Hell, even in the small scheme of things, my problems aren’t all that huge.
Fortunately, I am surrounded by people who choose to show me love even when I am complaining about events that aren’t of huge concern. People who recognize that shaming me will lead to a loss of intimacy between us. Certainly during times when I’m not feeling overwrought, they can help remind me of all of the opportunities that I have been blessed with, but in the times of stress, they show love by sitting with me.
I’m thankful that when I complain about my first world problems, my first class friends choose love over shame.