As I sat at lunch with a friend today, he bemoaned the large amounts of work I do compared to the seemingly small amount of the resulting (minimal) salary I spend. Why not go out and get a new pair of jeans or shoes, perhaps a dress? This is not a new debate for us, but in the course of my typical reasoning and response – namely, I neither need nor want new shoes, and all of it will necessarily be put towards paying for school loans– a new vein cropped up.
Five children in one household, I noted; you do the math. Somehow, being that mine is a mixed family, this morphed into a conversation about child support laws, when this person left that person, when this person married this person, and my general combination and balancing of school and work since the age of 16 (largely explaining my now freakish sleeping pattern).
This was one of my best friends on campus, known for three years, and even lived with for two months of this past summer – yet this was all news to him, and covered only the tiniest bit. This could partially be because it doesn’t come up on an everyday basis, and partially because it just isn’t fun or easy to even summarize a story that includes remarriages, full-blooded siblings (1), half siblings (1), and step siblings (4), when and how this happened, guesses as to why that happened, etc etc (one friend, upon hearing a summary in full, concluded that it sounded very much like a soap opera… a complicated one). Thus it goes left unsaid, not being necessary on a day-to-day basis.
After our relatively brief conversation about school loans and child support (such happy topics, no?), my friend , temporarily out of questions, paused, slowly shook his head, and commented along the lines of: “You know, sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own problems, that I forget that other people have much larger things to deal with. I mean, what is being short on cash to buy phone credit compared to…” We both fell silent for a minute, deep in our own thoughts.
This point, in my opinion, was the most crucial one to come of that conversation: we all have our problems, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that we aren’t the only one with challenges to deal with or complicated back stories. I suppose that’s yet another reason the topic didn’t come up in the three years we’ve known each other – why burden a friend with unnecessary worries? My email drafts folder could certainly testify to my restrained verbosity in that case, as I rattle off lengthy emails then relegate them to “Drafts,” never to be sent… a virtual “Island of Misfit Toys,” stuck in limbo as an undesireable.
On one hand, sure, festering is no good. One person once went so far as to decide that he thought, if written, it should be sent- no drafts folder limbo- though I’m quite sure I could change his mind if his inbox were to be inundated with the aforementioned undesireables. Of course such undesireables should get out every once in a while, see the light of day to avoid a particularly putrid stench of rot emanating from their place of limbo, but, as with everything, in moderation. A thin line at times, perhaps, but a line nonetheless.
As saddening as it is to hear – or tell – some stories or reports, it is also sobering, a necessary feature of both grounding us in reality and reminding us to appreciate everything else. Maybe, just maybe, things aren’t that terrible, aren’t as bad as we think they are at the moment. Perhaps, rather than spending time bemoaning our own issues, that time would be better spent appreciating that which is going right and/or helping someone else alleviate their troubles. If nothing else, I’ve found at least one benefit of listening to hours upon hours of even the silliest venting: it makes it easier to forget your own issues when you get caught up attempting to solve someone else’s. …Is that wrong? Should I not admit to thinking that way at times? haha…
The sobering topic, I suppose, fits with the tone of the day, the ninth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. While it may be heart-wrenching to remember some things from our past – be it personal or group, familial or national – it is, nonetheless, an important piece of life, if only to appreciate all else that is good.