A lot depends on my perspective. I grew up in Toronto never knowing hunger or homelessness, regularly getting a chocolate-bar from my grandparents who “babysat” me after school, before my mother got home from work. Yes, my parents were divorced, but as far as I could tell, they couldn’t stop bickering about anything… So, in the end I had a normal childhood! My wife’s childhood looked much the same: divorced parents, living in Moscow, another big city.
Some differences however, are huge. My father-in-law fought in the Second World War and when the fighting ended, was sent to the Gulag for not having escaped from the Germans. In 1953, at the death of Stalin, prisoners were released and he, now free, set his hand to becoming the leader of a small mixed orchestra.
Why bring up this history? Many of us, here in North America have pretty soft lives and never think about it. Our privilege is normal, and we often look upon societies that do not provide such privilege as backward or failing.
What ends up happening is that most of us cannot see, through self-satisfaction, the problems and brokenness that exist even in the midst of our privilege. The divorced family is a normal thing, children migrating from mom’s house to dad’s house every other week is normal, playing video games 35 hours a week . . . such is life.
Being born into a society that is materially wealthy does not guarantee happiness and good times for all. Many seem to think that there is no effort needed to be happy in life. Nice things happen naturally, spontaneously, and no care or struggle is involved at any time.
I once knew a pianist whose attitude was really rather surprising. She practiced only when she was “in the mood” but nevertheless was frustrated by the fact that her career never got anywhere. Oh, she had talent, tons of talent, the problem was that it was hard to see what she was doing with it! In contrast, a second-cousin of mine, who practices daily, is part of a small mixed orchestra that gets regular “gigs” for weddings and anniversary parties and so on.
Neither the pianist, nor my second-cousin are ever going be world-renowned musicians, but my cousin can really say that she is a musician who is active, and somewhat known in her community.
So much of my life can be spent thinking or even obsessing about what I do not have, and about what I would like to have. To avoid this trap, I need at some time to be able to say that “I myself have achieved such and such a thing”. Keeping this in mind, many things can still get in the way, and we may need the help of a friend or a colleague to make a breakthrough. Reach out. Look for chances and for people that will change your perspective; you may find that happiness is worth a long and hard haul.