First World Problems

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By Lisa Sugarman

Gut Yontif.

Oh, wait. Sorry. You most likely don’t speak Yiddish, so you’ve got no idea what that means. It means Happy Holiday. Or, if you’re Jewish, like me, and you’re celebrating Rosh Hashanah right now, it means Happy New Year.

See, this week marks the start of Jewish High Holy Days, when Jews everywhere take a minute to reflect on how well we lived our lives over the last year. It’s actually a pretty healthy exercise in self-evaluation, if you ask me. I think everybody should do it. And not just because of the food, which, by the way, happens to be an added perk of the holiday. But because it’s a nice opportunity to take a step outside yourself, take a good, long look, and make sure you still like what you see. And if there’s stuff you don’t like (and there almost always is), then you get to metaphorically throw it away.

So here’s what I learned about myself this year. I learned that, like a lot of people, I’ve got my fair share of problems. But what I found is that when I took the time to look closely at the things I classify as “problems,” it became obvious that most of them weren’t legitimate problems after all.

Let me explain.

Because we’re all human, and humans tend to get complacent after a while, we tend to forget to use our peripheral vision and absorb the bigger picture of what’s around us. So we get caught up in the stupid minutia of life and it’s that silly stuff that begins to look and feel like bonafide problems.

Look, I’ve got a loving and supportive family, good health, a roof over my head, fairly decent teeth (aside from a little genetic tooth discoloration), and exceptional friends. Yet I realized, after closer inspection, that most of the things I consider to be problems are nothing more than simple frustrations, also known as First World Problems. You know them, they’re the insignificant inconveniences that most of us deal with every day. Only the thing is, they’re really nothing more than trivial, mostly ridiculous things that we often mistake as real, legitimate problems.

In our heads, they feel incredibly real. In our heads, they’re aggravating and annoying and overwhelming. In our heads they’re big. But what they really are is nothing more than just figments of our imagination. They’re the product of over-Westernized and completely desensitized brains.

Let me put it another way. First World Problems are gnats of the mind. They’re actually completely harmless, but when you put enough of them together, they form a swarm, and any swarm seems dangerous to the naked eye. Funny thing is, they’re pretty benign.

Answer me this, have you ever said or heard anything that sounded even remotely like this?

“So annoying, my $7 Starbucks latte came with only ONE espresso shot instead of the TWO I asked for!”

“I’m never gonna make it through the day. I only got seven hours of sleep instead of my usual ten.”

“It’s so irritating, I have no place to put my leftovers from dinner because I have too much food in my fridge.”

“The free coffee at work sucks!”

“I changed my email password and now I have to re-enter it manually into my desktop mail app, iPad, and iPhone!”

“My car has heated seats but it doesn’t have a heated steering wheel and it was really, really cold yesterday.”

“One of my kids is watching the 50-inch TV; another one is playing Xbox on the 45-inch TV; and my daughter is watching a Blu-ray on the 40-inch TV; so I have to watch my TV show on the 10-inch iPad.”

Let’s be honest, the chances are good that if you live in the Western world you hear or say this kind of thing pretty regularly. But the ironic thing is, most of us tend to forget that these problems we complain about don’t deserve to be classified as problems at all.

Sure, minor inconveniences can be a pain, but when put into perspective, having cold leather seats when you get into your car during the winter isn’t really a hardship. Sleeping on a dirt floor crammed against eighteen other people, with no clean drinking water, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, is an entirely different story. I’m sure the stark contrast is sure to make the extra-long line at Starbucks seem like much less of a big deal.

I’m bringing this up for the simple reason that I refuse to keep getting conned into complaining about the problems of living in a Westernized world. The bottom line is, we’re all lucky. Period.

So this year for the holiday, the thing I’m going to stay focused on is how lucky I am that most problems I’m likely to have aren’t really problems after all. I mean cummon, we live in a country that has free refills. What could we possibly have to complain about?

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Check her out on Facebook at facebook.com/ItIsWhatItIsColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is, available on Amazon.com.

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