Privilege: I have it. (A confession)

Yesterday, I got a much-needed attitude slap down, and I don’t know if the person giving it to me even realized what she was doing.

I was sitting in my mother’s studio-slash-study (a room in the basement of her house that ironically enough used to be my bedroom). We’d been talking for a couple of hours, and the conversation had spanned from my four year old niece’s latest exploits, to why there are no female street artists, to how I was going to afford to pay for my husband’s therapy bill.

That turned the conversation towards the Affordable Care Act, and I started going off about my monthly bills. I personally was very upset because the Department of Education can’t communicate with the Department of Human Services and see that they’re each saying that because I make X amount of money, I don’t qualify for assistance with their respective payments. However, if I deducted, say, my student loan payments from my income, I WOULD qualify for assistance with my health insurance (and vice versa).  I didn’t think that was “fair” at all, since the bills would force me to put a hold on my long term plans. My question to my mother was: Why can’t the government communicate? Why can’t they count debt as well as income so I could keep a handle on my life?

Her response was not as supportive as I expected, given that my complaint seemed perfectly valid to me.

She sat back in her chair, looked at me for a moment, and said, “You have some serious First World problems.”  I laughed, but she didn’t. She talked to me for a few minutes about how absurd it was that I was complaining about “unfair” with the job, lifestyle, and dreams that I have. Then she went on to say: “Do you know who needs assistance, honey? People like your aunt.  Even though she’s blind and crippled by diabetes and no one is willing to hire her, the government wants to cut her disability payments, and she can’t make it by as it is. She needs help with her insurance. You don’t.”

That shut me right the hell up.

Her sharp commentary on my privilege are still echoing inside my head and poking at my pride. The more I think about it, the more I realize she is unquestionably right.  Yes, my husband and I struggle…but we are NOT struggling to survive. We have achieved stability, even if it is not quite the way we want it, and the only reason we cannot afford our insurance premium is because we do not want to sacrifice the immediate comforts we feel we are entitled to….nor are we willing to extend the timeline on our long term plans. We are not willing to sacrifice our current privilege, and therefore we have zero right to complain about being denied yet another.

With her words and those facts in mind, I have come to the conclusion that the only decent thing I can do at this point is to shut my freaking pie-hole about what I can and cannot afford, stop being an ass about my self-inflicted problems, and fix my tiny family’s issues the hard way.   It’s going to be rough and uncomfortable for a while, and it’s going to force me to be patient and thrifty, and to institute a level of self-discipline that has not previously existed. I also have a feeling it’ll be a forced march for my husband on some of the decisions that need to be made…but….the end result, I think, will be worth the effort- not just for us, but for those we love and the random lives that we touch every day.

I’m going to begin my journey by making a conscious effort to STOP complaining.  Such an action has nothing to do with finances, but….it will have a hell of a positive impact on my life in general, wouldn’t you say?