First World Problems

first world problems

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.

  • Janet Oberholtzer

    Nothing but love here girl.

    We try to be (and we teach our kids) to be happy even if we don’t have as much as others (like I never have the money Bill Gates has or be as funny as Tina Fey) but I can still be happy.
    So the reverse is also try, just because our circumstances and challenges aren’t as bad as someone else’s doesn’t mean we can’t be sad and/or feel overwhelmed by them.

    So xoxoxo to you.

    • Alise Wright

      Yup. I think we just need to allow people to have a bad day, or even a bad few days without needing to throw it in their faces that other people have it worse. I definitely think there can be a space for that, God knows sometimes I need people to tell me to stop bitching, but I also think that’s better done by people who KNOW me.

  • Sharideth

    This. All of this.

    • Alise Wright

      Well, you DID get a little preview of this over sushi. Mwah.

  • Abby Fahmi

    The way I see it is that, sure, my problems aren’t anything like those of some people, but they’re *real to me*, and don’t I count? The answer, of course, is yes, I count. My problems may seem trivial to other people, but that doesn’t make them go away.
    I think the dismissive/shaming/judging attitude sometimes comes from an idea that we should be grateful for what we have. And while that’s true, we should be grateful if we’ve got a lot, it doesn’t take away the day to day problems that crop up, and no one should be shamed because life gets a little rough sometimes.

    • Alise Wright

      Yeah, I don’t think it’s intended to be dismissive, but it IS dismissive. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but I also sometimes want to smack people. ;)

  • Niki Cox

    This. A thousand times, this. I get it. I’m lucky to be a talented artist and writer, and I’m lucky to still be so young, three months shy of my 30th birthday. I’m lucky to have no terminal illnesses. I’m lucky my maternal grandparents so willingly adopted me three years before my mom died from the effects of seven years of quadriplegia at the way-too-young age of 26. I’m lucky I have my own home (even if I’m afraid of losing it if I don’t find full-time work soon), and I’m lucky to have the bestest little canine companion in the world. I’m grateful. I really am.

    But the headaches and migraines I get every day? They’re real, too. The low energy levels I have from having too low of blood pressure? They’re real. The stress I have from not knowing if I’ll have enough classes to teach to make ends meet? That’s a real concern, too, especially since I didn’t get any this summer. Yes, I’m lucky to have a job at all, but it’s still not a living wage.

    So yes, I have the right to be frustrated when my parents or friends tune me out when I mention I’m in the middle of a particularly nasty migraine. I can’t deny them away, like my dad seems to think I can. My problems may be small compared to many, but they’re still real, and they still make life hard. Yes, I complain once in a while. But I don’t complain nearly as often as I’m actually in pain or scared shitless or having a panic attack. I usually keep it to myself (hence the anxiety attacks), and I only vocalize when it gets to be more than I can handle. But when the pain is there every day, that’s still going to be a relatively frequent occurrence.

    Yes, I know I need to tough it out. And I do and will. But there’s no need to shut me down or try to cheer me up with shallow platitudes.

    Thank you for writing this, Alise.

  • Jo Malone

    I have low days, and my darling loves me anyway. I pick myself up with that knowledge – I’m always amazed.
    Here’s a little bit of love to you. Offering of love and help should never be for reward… Having said that, the reward – if it exists – would be your smile.
    Sorry if that sounded corny – I’m in that kind of space today :)

  • Doreen A Mannion

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I do not believe in comparative suffering. Your pain, your tiredness level, your frustration, your level of feeling overwhelmed, is YOURS. It is relative to you and your situation. Others’ mileage may vary. Map not to scale. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.

  • Kaye

    Thanks for this. It resonates with me deeply, expresses some of what that has rolled around in my head, and encourages me more than I can say. I wish I could articulate my thoughts a bit better, but my brain is fried simply because I let myself get a little sleep deprived – another classic first-world problem.

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