I’ve always wanted to be THAT person. The one who lives life fearlessly. To the fullest, without limits. The one who really lives by all those old addages and platitudes. The one who can just make the choice to walk away when life goes wrong. The one who can find herself in travel, in experience.
We all know those platitudes.
“Do what you love, and love what you do.”
“If you’re unhappy with your life, than change it.”
“Do what you love, money will follow.”
“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“Choice, not circumstances, determines your success.”
“The world is a book and those who don’t travel read only one page.”
I could go on and on and on.
All of these platitudes place the onus on us (pun intended), places both the blame and credit of success and failure on only our own shoulders, removes the world at large from responsibility, denies the possibility of luck, of limits, of real legitimate barriers.
And I wanted to be the person who lives as if they are true. Cheryl Strayed. Elizabeth Gilbert. But here’s the thing: they aren’t true. Not in the same way for all people. Sometimes not at all.
All the platitudes in the world cannot erase the very real limitations and barriers that entire swaths of the population experiences in a daily basis. No amount of positive thinking can erase the fact that the vast majority of successful people are white, upper class, straight men. And those who are successful despite not fitting that category have been dealt no small portion of good luck on top of however much determination and hard work they may have invested into their lives.
When racism, sexism, homophobia, and poverty still exist in this world, in this country, is truly staggering numbers and horrifying ways, there can be no TRUE reality in the statement that “if you can dream it, you can do it.” And the more people say this, the more they place the blame on those of us who were simply born without privilege, without money, without justice, and without luck, while denying their own culpability in the misery and dashed dreams and lost opportunity we have suffered.
How many women can deal with a bad break up by simply picking up their lives and walking away? How many can afford it? How many don’t have family, children, parents, siblings, who depend on them? How many are far more concerned about where the next meal or rent check is coming from than about the sustenance of their creativity? How many simply do not have the luxury of being reckless or creative or wild or defiant? Who is going to feed us or our children? Certainly not those same wealthy people touting the adage of living life to the fullest – they’re too busy spending all their money on trips to Africa and yachts and multi-million dollar mansions.
So I say: yes, try your hardest, work your hardest, dream big, try to find something that will make you happy. But if you fail, if you find yourself working a miserable job and cannot imagine escape, don’t blame yourself too much, don’t make yourself more miserable by assuming it’s your own damn fault because you somehow didn’t try as hard as the white guy with the trust fund who lives in the penthouse downtown. Because I bet you, nine times out of ten, the world just didn’t give you a fucking chance.