“Oh you’re SOOoooo lucky!” I get told that a lot. Of course I know I’m lucky. What’s more, I remind myself every day. Probably every hour. But it’s not because I live in two beautiful places and have the freedom to enjoy them. It’s certainly not for the reasons most people mean when they say “Oh you’re SOOoooo lucky!”
I was born, through none of my doing, into an ethnic group and a socio-economic group which rarely faces any form of discrimination, attack, or even pressure at any real level. The countries where I spend my time have democratic systems, social security systems, and health systems, all of which not only ensure that I am unlikely ever to be left totally starving and destitute, but more importantly ensure the same for everyone else (to a greater or lesser extent). I was not born in a country ravaged by war or starvation. I have chosen to be an immigrant in Spain, but my ethnicity, education, mobility and finances make that comfortable and unremarkable rather than the dangerous situation that faces many immigrants in many countries.
None of that is of my own making, and only a part was of my parents’ making. The wider systemic benefits which have cosseted me all my life are down to luck – the luck of being born in a good time and in a good place, to parents for whom the same was true. It could have been so different.
With that lucky beginning, the confidence and the work ethic instilled by my parents were able to blossom. After my father’s premature death, my first job at the age of 17 was as a cub reporter on the Windsor, Slough & Eton Express. A year later an ethical stand-off (oh the sublime arrogance of an teenager with an emerging moral compass!) led to my resignation from journalism and a move to stage management in the London fringe then repertory theatre around the country, tours, and dance festivals. With the horrific arrival of the HIV pandemic I moved into the social care and support of people living with AIDS, then campaigning around broader social care issues, and eventually into 16 years of successful freelance charity consultancy. All of them have been jobs I enjoyed and which made me feel useful. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t have a job I loved. It never occurred to me that I might have to do something I hated just to earn a pittance. Most of that comes from the luck of my birth in a developed 20thC western nation combined with the same luck my parents had in THEIR births, enabling them to pass on to me the education, assumptions, and work ethic that I was lucky enough to grow up with.
So everything is luck. The timing and geography of birth.
And mostly, the people who say “Oh you’re SOOOooooo lucky!” are equally lucky. Mostly, they also come from a similar socio-economic group, and were born in western democracies with systems of social security and health provision. It is said that if you keep coins for parking in the car, and if there is a handful of change on a mantelpiece or in a drawer, you are amongst the richest 10% in the world – the rest cannot treat money with such casual contempt. You don’t need a mansion, a plasma screen TV or a fancy Gaggia coffee-machine to prove wealth, just a pile of coins that you are rich enough not to need right now.
Everyone reading this has a computer. The majority are probably reading it on an iPad or a decent laptop. Most are in their own homes, from where they are not at risk of eviction. Most will eat well today. We are all rich, compared to half the world who will not eat well today. That alone makes us extraordinary lucky.
What else makes us feel lucky? Clearly family and friends. The people around us who enrich our lives so much. For many that includes animals too. Activities – for some it is their participation in sports, for others it is their art and creativity, the open air, walking in the hills, a rewarding job, reading, travelling, or growing food or beautiful flowers. Special moments when something is achieved.
“Oh you’re SOOOoooo lucky!” Yes, I know. I remember that every time I wake, healthy enough to enjoy the countryside I see from the window, wealthy enough to put gasolino into the car and to explore Andalucía and my adopted country. I remember that every time I spend time in Dorset in my cosy cottage, lunching with dear friends, shopping at the farmers’ market, and visiting London for friends and culture. I remember that every time a friend from the UK is able to jump on a plane and come out to see me. I remember that every time I turn on a tap and clean water comes out. I remember that every time I go to the Enchanted Place and remember my mother and all that she did for me, all that she made me.
I am so lucky. We all are. Just think how different life could have been for us if we had been born somewhere else, in different circumstances, without the riches we enjoy. Think of that when we are about to moan about a delayed flight, a traffic jam, a new bureaucratic form to fill in, an item out of stock in a shop, or when we lose internet access for a few hours. First-World Problems. So much of the world would love to experience our problems.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Now, from you, three things that remind YOU how lucky you are.
© Tamara Essex 2013