When people find out about my current work and living situation they often say that I’m lucky. Or, if they have a religious bent they will say I’m blessed. I understand what they are trying to say, they are trying to point out that my life is pretty good. I agree with the sentiment, but I disagree with placing luck or blessing as the source. In fact, I think it is really dispowering to view the world through that lens.
Yes, there is a certain level of luck or privilege that has been a factor in my life. There is nothing magic about that, I have been the beneficiary of decisions made by people other than me. I was born into a relatively stable family with two loving parents, that was beyond my control. I didn’t make them bang at the time they did, nor did I make my grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents…. or human ancestors 100,000 million years ago bang. I just kind of popped out into a situation beyond my control. But, I don’t think being the beneficiary of decisions that weren’t my own removes any sort of personal responsibility from my life.
My job, working part-time remotely, is often what people are talking about when they say I am lucky. This fails to acknowledge that I made many, many decisions in my life that got me to where I am today. I joined the Army and fought in two wars. I went to college and took on tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I worked in DC for three years and networked with hundreds of people. I rode my bike across the country from DC to LA without any job prospects waiting for me, then I quit my job in LA to travel the country without any job prospects. I chose not to have kids, not to buy a house, not to buy a car, and to live very minimally. I chose to be open about who I am and what I love, even if it meant I would lose my family or friends. These decisions all lead to the job and life I have. To say that it was mostly luck is to ignore the decisions I made but, more importantly, it is to disempower the person who says it. If someone views my life as luck then they likely view their own life as luck, and that means they are powerless to change it.
We can’t change the decisions we made in the past, but we can always work towards improving our lives. The future isn’t here yet, and any commitment to it is tentative. It is never too late for me to change my mind about something and prevent disaster. If I want to have fewer expenses I can sell the junk I don’t need and cut unnecessary bills out of my life (this may be surprising, but you can actually thrive without Netflix, a cell phone, a car, and many other things… what you actually need in life is so very little). For better or worse, our tax dollars provide a lot of “free” resources like parks and libraries, you might as well take advantage of them if you are paying for them. There are adventures to be had and a way to truly live this life.
All I’m really saying is that we can’t change the past and there are powers outside of our control, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless. When we chalk up someone’s life (even our own) to luck or fortune we remove power, we give those circumstances and drift along the river of life refusing to use the paddles, even when there is a waterfall on the horizon. Nobody is purely a subject of their circumstances, we all have some control… probably more than any of us realize.