Luv Doc: Lucky You
How can someone who has experienced such wealth and plenitude ever hope to live a life free of tortured conscience?
Dear Luv Doc,
My boyfriend and I were dating long distance for the better part of last year while he worked a low-level position at his dream company in N.Y. Now he's back in school with me for our last semester, and it's looking like in spring he'll be getting a higher-level job at the same amazing company, starting his dream career. I, on the other hand, have been working my ass off for the last six or so months trying to find a post-graduation job (coincidentally or not-so-coincidentally also in N.Y.), and can feel myself getting steadily more jealous of him and his job experiences, prospects, and trajectory. It's kind of putting the relationship out of whack. He's in N.Y. right now for a work trip, sending me photos of the exciting stuff he's doing, and I'm sitting here alternating between job applications and homework night and day. It doesn't help that we come from pretty much opposite backgrounds, and his whole life – from fancy private school to pretty much biannual vacations to Europe – has in a lot of ways been basically handed to him. I love him very much and need to know – what do I do to make the jealousy and bitterness abate?
I don't like this. I don't like it one bit. Clearly your boyfriend is being an insensitive asshole. What kind of monster sends his girlfriend pictures of the exciting stuff he's doing? He is totally trying to make you jealous by rubbing his success in your face. What a D. And the private school education and the biannual vacations to Europe? It's like he was trying to make you feel like shit before he even met you. Wow. That is some next-level treachery right there – exactly the kind of devious, Machiavellian mind-fucking that rich people seem born to excel at – well, that and just excelling at everything.
I mean ... where is the humility? Where is the long, tearful soliloquy where your boyfriend repudiates his privileged upbringing and vows to devote himself to a pious life of humble servitude? Why does he not lacerate his flesh every morning with a penitent's scourge to atone for the luxuries of his upbringing? How can someone who has experienced such wealth and plenitude ever hope to live a life free of tortured conscience? Why is he not outraged by the economic inequity from which he has benefited so greatly? I just don't get it. I don't understand how he can even live with himself.
Then again, I didn't grow up rich. Well, actually, that's not exactly fair ... just like life itself. Depending on your perspective, I grew up fabulously wealthy. I had two parents who both had jobs. We were able to live in actual houses with indoor plumbing, electricity, and climate control. We had food: Three meals a day, and while they weren't haute cuisine, they were nonetheless reasonably palatable. I received what I believe to be a decent education – perhaps not of the quality of a Choate or Phillips Exeter – but I was able to get into a decent state university where, a scant seven years later, I emerged with a liberal arts degree and moderate job prospects. So yeah, on a global scale, even by the most conservative estimate, I am a one-percenter. Hell, I am even a less than one-percenter, and here is the thing: I don't feel rich at all. If anything, I would call my upbringing lower middle class, but what a privilege, right? To grow up in the lower middle class of America? Globally, that's a fucking bull's-eye.
So am I tortured with guilt about the economic disparity that surrounds me? Do I lose sleep at night knowing that literally billions of people have it way worse than me? To be honest, no. That's an embarrassing admission, but no. I am busy being envious of my friend who is going on that awesome vacation or my co-worker who just bought that dope new ride. Truthfully, for me to waste time on those kinds of thoughts is just ridiculous and unproductive, but I can't help it. I can't see myself as the fabulously wealthy person I really am.
My bet is your boyfriend probably feels the same way. Or, maybe he is just a fucking awesome guy who is completely focused on gratitude, humility, and compassion. For all I know, those qualities are what make him so successful. Regardless, that is the work you need to do. You need to find a way to feel grateful – if not for your fabulous good fortune of soon becoming a college graduate, then for having a boyfriend who is about to embark on an exciting, successful career. Lucky you. Lucky, lucky you.