Wednesday, May 21, 2014

a restless leg

Maybe it's just my group of friends, but there's a hashtag that's become a part of my daily vocabulary: "first world problems." It's a little sassy, more than one word, and self-deprecating--my favorite breed of hashtag. When you just want a pack of gum and you only have a $100 bill. When you need an iPhone 5 charger, but all anyone has is a 4. When your Sunday brunch is running a little long and you're concerned you won't make it to see the ballet on time. All very first world (also acceptable: "not real") problems.

I had what I considered a particularly rough day at work on Monday. I had to wake up at 4.15am; I hurt my foot; I had a good cry (read: several); something at lunch didn't agree so well with my digestive system; and--speaking of iPhone chargers--mine stopped working. Fourteen hours later, the work day was over. I went home to my parents' house on Long Island, had a little cry in the shower, had a pity party while I iced my foot, continued that fiesta a bit on Skype, and finally drifted off into 10 hours of puffy-faced, much-needed sleep. I survived Monday.

Sitting on the floor of Penn Station waiting for a train today, I started to think about this past Monday. I had spent some of today (Wednesday) feeling very tired, and missing a lot of things and places and people, something that happens mostly when I need sleep. And I thought back to two days ago, when everything felt so terrible. I realized that all of it--in fact, nearly 100% of my life problems--would be considered a crapsack of first world problems, albeit on a more "real" level than needing to break $100 or almost-missing the ballet.

I didn't really know how to feel about this. Of course, in the large scheme of things, my daily issues are quite trivial; this usually hits me in a sort of acceptable amount of time. (I'm many things, but completely oblivious isn't one of them. I mean, that awful day at work? Took place on set for a new American television series. That disagreeable lunch was catered and free. Ridiculousness.)

But should I feel bad for feeling so bad about my first world problems when they arise? I don't know how to answer that. Because the thing is this: the world is full of truly, actually, awful things. These things are everywhere, in our faces, on our screens, every day. I see them. I read the news. I recognize that my life, and the lives of most people I know, are comparatively (thankfully) downright idyllic.

So, then: when your foot hurts. Or your wallet goes missing. Or you just have a day: you spill the coffee, and your heating bill comes and it's astronomical, and the dog pees on the carpet, and you get a huge zit, and burn the dinner, and your boyfriend's out of town, and you get your period, and forget to pick up the laundry, and the train is delayed, and then someone in front of you at the grocery store buys that last bottle of red wine you had been looking forward to treating yourself to after such a crappy day. Well, then what? Yes, "it could always be worse." Of course it could. But just because these things aren't national disasters or acts of atrocity or anything necessarily life-threatening doesn't make them any less immediately real, or any less immediately upsetting.

I'm not saying to indulge in shitty days for weeks, or to cry for hours if you drop your phone in the sewer and watch as a rat carries it away forever into the bowels of the NYC subway system. I think what I'm trying to say is: Mondays suck. Life, occasionally, sucks. Sometimes, it feels like a piece of Philip Glass music. As crazy and beautiful as it can be, it just seems to go on and on, and waiting for a break in the pattern can be like trying to find water in a desert.

The thing is, everyone--on a myriad of varying levels and in a million different shades of crappy--has their own shit-baggage to deal with on a daily basis. Whether that luggage is Louis Vuitton or a Hefty trash bag, it's theirs. But at some point, though it sometimes feels like you will never get there, everybody finds a spot on the floor of Penn Station at rush hour to sit, and breathe for a minute.

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