Life is all about perspective

Holly New

I am a wealthy individual.

Between the three jobs that I juggle, I bring in about $16,000 annually.

I barely exceed the poverty line—in the U.S., that is. But what defines poverty depends on where we are talking about.

According to a BBC News interactive chart which allows you to compare your monthly wages to other countries, I am wealthy—in India, Mongolia, Tajikistan and dozens of countries where the monthly wages average far below mine.

It’s all about perspective.

I could pout all day about how many hours I work or how my minimum wage in Illinois is lower than Vermont, Washington and Oregon. Sometimes, I do.

But I’ve come to realize that if I didn’t work, my life would be harder. This brings me to a larger point: one person’s misery may be another person’s happiness.

I realized this a few weeks ago in a conversation with my mom. I was complaining about how I was working doubles and had no free time when my mom, almost bluntly, said, “Well, at least you have a job.”

The recession has hit us particularly hard, and my mother has been unemployed for some time. And in that moment, I realized that I was taking my jobs and my income for granted. Jobs are hard to find, yet I have three. My discomfort was exactly what my mom was wanting.

With that, I have boiled my epiphany down to two discernible beliefs.

The first is that struggles occur in any income bracket; our troubles are not defined by our income, race, religion or education. Basically, everyone has their problems. But I have realized that each problem is a potential gift. I think most of us could agree that the statement “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is inaccurate. Instead, what doesn’t kill you may create you.

For many years, I struggled with mental illness. But from that struggle came a desire to write—to express my struggles—and I have found that I can be very successful at writing. I believe that I would have never explored that side of myself had it not been for the inspiration mental illness poured into me.

This led me to my second belief: Feeling guilty for having money, talent or possessions is futile. I do not feel guilty for the things I have; I am grateful. I understand that there are those without, and while I am not against helping them in various ways, I know that my guilt will do no good.

On the other hand, I don’t resent those who have more than me. I accept my current position in life, work to better myself and recover when I have fallen.

I will always complain, and perhaps wish for various items or traits. But I will remember the words of Martha Washington, “I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances.”