It's very easy to get wrapped up in your own life and struggles, and forget that there are others out there who might be suffering too.
I had a fairly good day; it wasn't the best day, and it wasn't the worst day. But I found myself getting stressed out over a couple of projects I'm working on, and which snowballed into being stressed out about my schedule, which snowballed into being stressed out about the purpose and meaning of my life. And on and on. You know.
I found myself in stressed-out-about-the-purpose-and-meaning-of-my-life mode as I left work. I hopped into the car and started driving, zoned out and not really listening to All Things Considered on NPR as it played on the radio. Then a story came on about the ten-year anniversary of the Iraq War, and how it is playing out in peoples' lives today. This particular segment was about a man named Ali who had been working with the reporter since the war started, and had finally had to flee the country as a refugee because he and his family were being targeted for helping Americans. Just to reiterate: his choices were to stay and probably be killed, or to leave his home and everything he knew and start over in a completely new place.
And just like that, Perspective slapped me in the face.
There was a clip of Ali playing a lute and singing a sad song about his homeland and the people he had left behind who were still suffering. He spoke of his difficulties finding a job when he got here, even though he was educated and fluent in English. He told stories of friends and family who had been assassinated for helping the American government or private companies. He said that compared to Iraq, his new home is peaceful (he lives in North Carolina). It is quiet. There aren't any bombings. Everyone is kind, helpful, and polite, always saying "excuse me".
As I listened, I got tears in my eyes. I thought of my worries and struggles, and how shallow they seemed compared to everything Ali and the people of Iraq (not to mention so many other countries, including the United States) have gone through and are going through on a daily basis. Everything is relative, to be sure, but sometimes I feel as though I am the queen of First World Problem Land: my computer just froze, I didn't get that important text message, what if they don't like my photographs even though I just bought that fancy new camera, I wish I had enough money to buy more clothes for my already bulging closet, oh woe is me.
The beauty of my struggles is that I can forget them. They are fleeting. I can have a glass of wine, go on a weekend trip to the mountains, or listen to a story about how much harder someone else's life is and get slapped in the face with the reality of my blessings. Someone Else, however, doesn't usually have that option.
I have a good life, struggles and all. It's just a matter of taking things into perspective.