Recently Our Next Life, a couple who have been writing online for several years now, achieved their early retirement dream at the ages of 38 and 41. After some press about this amazing accomplishment, I of course saw someone on Twitter complaining that they “had it easy” because they don’t have kids. This was not the first time recently that I’ve seen this, where people complain about the supposed ease of achieving a goal because of specific advantages they may have. I’ve also seen people feeling that they need to apologize, or feel guilty, about achieving certain goals because they feel they “had it easy”.
I personally strongly believe that this kind of thinking isn’t productive on either side. Ultimately this thinking both holds you back from achieving your goals and dreams, and hurts others. So today I wanted to write and ask that we stop the jealousy and the guilt, and instead focus on our own journey – and encouraging others in theirs.
What I Mean
Here are some of the more common examples of what I’ve seen around the internet or heard in real life of this sort of thinking.
- How DINKS (dual-income, no kids), or people with only one child have it “easy” compared to those of us with kids (or more kids-remember, I have three myself). Sometimes this one goes more toward the age you have kids, with people commenting that folks having kids later in life have it easier than us who had them very early on
- How people with an inheritance, or who had their home/wedding/college/whatever paid for by their parents, have an unfair advantage
- Doctor X. was of course able to retire early, or cut down to part-time: they make a tremendous income. You can replace Dr. X. with a lawyer, or any number of very high-paid professions
- How people with connections are succeeding because of them, while others who are “more deserving” have to struggle to be noticed by anyone who could be of significant help
- Let’s not forget how people who never had to support a family on a low income “have it easier” than people who started their careers with a high one
- Also there are those who were able to do unpaid internships and graduated right to a high paying job, while others had to work hard in low paying jobs during school due to lack of money
- People who were able to go to one of the more expensive, well known, Ivy League schools (perhaps funded by their parents) while others have to struggle to put themselves through community college and a state school
It’s not a contest about who had it harder in life-we all have our own stories to tell and journeys to go on. Don’t tear down someone else’s journey and struggles just because you have a harder journey or more struggles. We should support each other in our financial goals and dreams, and strive not to complain about the fact that others had advantages we don’t enjoy.
You would probably say that I’ve had obstacles to overcome. I currently have three children, with my oldest son born a mere two months after I finished college. I put myself through college working full time and going to school full time. When you work full time while in college, you can’t join clubs, or be the president of the student union, or even take an internship. No, you have to work your forty hours and then take five classes. Due to the cost, I started out in community college and then transferred to a four year school. During much of that time I was living on my own in a condo I bought with my own money – so I also had a mortgage to pay.
When I finished college I couldn’t work in an ideal job or work in a field I love for little pay-I had to support my family. My husband and I combined made a relatively low income for years after our son was born. For many years we worked opposing shifts, with my job during the day and his in the evenings, overnight, or part time (different situations in different years). I couldn’t take time off from work to get my MBA, and had to do it nights and weekends while having two small children. After finishing, again, I couldn’t decide to jet off to a faraway place to take a job in just any field. I had a family to support, and my husbands near-death and subsequent recovery had made it so he couldn’t work for quite some time. My youngest son was born only two and a half years ago, and my husband had to have a major reconstructive surgery when the little guy was only six months old.
Today I’ve overcome all these obstacles to achieve the goals and dreams my early-twenties self could only have dreamed of. And you know what? Even though I had obstacles to overcome, mine were easy compared with some others in this world. There are millions born into poverty where they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, or who don’t have electricity or running water. Children who die or are disfigured by illnesses we in the Western world take for granted we can easily cure. Single mothers, teenager mothers, people suffering from amputation or brain injury-the list goes on. So I fully recognize that although I’ve had difficulties, there are plenty of people in this world who would trade places with me in a heartbeat.
I could sit around and complain about this. Or perhaps I could spend my time and energy feeling sorry for myself. When I see people who have two incomes and no kids pursuing early retirement, or who started life with no kids and a good high paying job, I could sit around and think about how they have it so much easier than I do.
But you know what? If that was what I did – if I had sat around and simply felt sorry for how hard things were – I would never have achieved everything I have. It would have held me back. Because their advantages don’t have anything at all to do with what my life would be like. Frankly, life isn’t fair. We all start in different places, and have different journeys to go through, and have different obstacles in our path.
I prefer that we all focus on encouraging others on their financial or success journey, and in cheering them on as they pursue their goals and dreams. I think we all have a responsibility to each other to be encouraging and supportive. Even if someone looks to “have it easier than you” from the outside, that does not mean it’s actually easy. Every person has obstacles to overcome, tough times to wade through, and things that could hold them back. I think we all need to focus on building each other up and not tearing each other down.
In the great poker game of life, some of us are dealt a royal flush, others a terrible hand. Most are somewhere in the middle. Whatever combination of cards we get, we must play the hand we’re dealt. No matter how much we wish we had gotten a different hand, we can’t change that.
A Moment On Guilt
If you feel guilty because you think you “have it easier” than someone else, there’s really no need. Guess what? Even if you were dealt the royal flush of hands in life, with all the advantages other people can only wish they had, it was still up to you to make the most of it. We all know of people born with every conceivable advantage, but who ended up dead/in jail/broke/other bad things. Or people that achieve objective success but lead miserable lives. So it’s still up to you to make the most of the advantages you do have.
Fall Seven, Rise Eight
If you feel jealous or frustrated because of all the disadvantages and obstacles you have to overcome, stop it. Take stock of where you are, where you want to be, and figure out how you can get there. Focus not on how easy other have it, or on the circumstances outside your control, but focus on the things you CAN control. Those are the only things that you can do something about. Figure out what things you can do to to move yourself forward. Find other people who have overcome similar struggles to what you’re facing, learn how they did it, and then do what they did. Even if you get knocked down, just keep getting up. The key to success is to just keep getting up, one more time than you get knocked down.
So let’s pledge to stop tearing down others, feeling guilt, or feeling jealous. Instead let’s decide to encourage each other to play the hand we’re dealt, to cheer each other on, and to help one another through whatever challenges we face. And lets keep laser focused on our own journey-our own goals and dreams-since that’s the only way we will achieve them.
I Want To Hear From You
What are your thoughts on this subject? Have you seen the same tearing down, complaining, or guilt online (or in real life) as I have? Let me know in the comments.
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