I was on facebook the other day, and as I usually do, I skimmed my friends updates and it really struck me how very different and how very diverse my life and on a larger scale the world is.
I have friends who are starting families in Orange County, working in the State senate of California, working in a fashion house in New York, working as actress in Germany, and (many) working at call centers.
It’s really depressed me to see how much where you started can dictate where you end up. I know enough about the 1000 or so people in my friends list to somewhat gauge their intelligence. It’s really saddened me how many of the smartest people I knew growing up didn’t end up as traditionally successful as I – and I’m sure-they’d thought they’d be.
The idea that the world is a meritocracy is a joke. Growing up I often cited myself as an example that the system worked. But it’s not true. I was very lucky and was given opprutunities and resources that many do not. The saddest and most poignant example of this is the valedictorian (or saluditorian? I’m not sure) of the high school I attended in the Philippines. Let’s call her V. I use to be so jealous of V. How the teachers would fawn over how smart she was, how everyone would whisper her name with such reverence and respect, how the tales of the brightness of her future filled my own with clouds of uncertainty. But life, and really world international politics have a funny way of turning things out. I remember asking V, my eyes big with awe and my head throbbing from the lack of sleep I encountered slaving away at projects and tests, what the secret to her success was.
V told me she studied till 3 am in the morning get only 4 hours a sleep a night.
Now V lives a similar life working at a call center in our hometown. Making 20? at most 30 thousand pesos (350 dollars) a month. It’s no coincidence that the most successful in our batch were the ones who were able to migrate to America. My best firend and I, both known as slackers and trouble makers, were the children of American citizens. In the much bemoaned American public school system, we excelled, got scholarships to world class institutions (mine being much better =P )and got upwardly mobile lives. What would V have given to have gotten our chances? our opprutunities? The opprutunities that most American children often take for granted.
What kind of world do we live in that where you are born matters more than your character, industry and natural talent?
In that same facebook, I posted my favorite quote:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
Often times, the unfairness of life, eats away at me. My family often ask me what’s wrong? Why aren’t I happy? I have the apartment, job, personal life, and even the closet filled with the clothes/shoes/purses that I’ve always dreamed of, why am I maudlin? Call it economic survivor’s guilt.
But as my fave quote above states, as long as the world’s-and my family and friends’s-lives are being made better by my presence in it, day in and day out. Then that’s all “they” and most importantly I can ask of myself.