First world problems:
It’s impossible not to laugh as we remember our own chip/dip quandries of taking ourselves and our meager little lives and problems too seriously.
Only, well, I kind of do feel sorry for First World Problems.
With a real problem – something hard and flesh biting of the sort you find in developing nations, you have something that makes you feel alive and brings your senses, your heart, your everything, really to full attention. Something that sharpens you. With the “problems” here, you are left with this dull ache, like brain freeze that won’t go away regardless of how much you lick the roof of your mouth.
When I was a kid in Fiji, we lived about 2km from the nearest small town of Levuka, with villages on either side of us. I spent a lot of time outside. I’d read outside, play with the neighbour kids, play with the hermit crabs on the small beach in front of our house. I’d go to the villages on occasion to play, or we’d go for our missionary work. Or to swim in the waterfall that was behind the village to the right of our place. In any case, hard life was up close in the villages.
The women worked their butts off – washed clothes by hand in the river or via the hand pump. Grew their own food in most cases, fished right in the ocean in front of the village. Set traps in the river for prawns. Yes, the food was very fresh and “organic”, but life was obviously hard. People looked old far before their time. Lack of access to healthcare or dentists meant missing teeth or diseases that would run rampant, taking lives.
On the flip side, people had time for each other, laughed long and hard. They were never alone – either in their spaces or in their problems. There was always someone around to help. And care.
Later, when we had moved to the capital of Suva, sometimes we’d see someone in the street, crazy or drunk or both. We’d shrug, saying they were a displaced villager. It seemed to be some sort of common knowledge – that villagers would go crazy if they left the village. I thought about that rather a lot. What was it that would make someone go crazy if they left their village? Why? How?
Now, having lived in the United States for 10 years, with depression all around and inside, with people going nuts and shooting one another for pulling into a lane without using their indicators, it’s pretty clear to me that a great many of us have left our villages. We need that contact with one another. We need the support. the camaraderie, the love, the joy, the pain that comes from living in close proximity with people that know us and that we know.
We yearn to be known, to be understood.
But here, in our developed nation, we place our hands on our cherry red LG washer/dryers and think that somehow we’ve got it all right, don’t we, because we’ve got a washer/dryer and those poor people in those villages have to wash their clothes by hand. But we are washing our clothes alone, with our kids underfoot. We’re washing our clothes, sometimes with depressed tears coming out, washing our way through our land of plenty, alone while the villagers are washing their clothes with others, laughing.
This isn’t to say that I think we should all move to a village in Fiji.
Like I said, life can be very hard there. I can only imagine the excruciating pain that would come to a mother who cannot help her child when he contracts an illness and dies from it – an illness that would be cured if only he had access to the right type of medicine. I know the joy too, that comes from being able to give a gift to your child that costs money or to think about things in the realm of ‘possibility’, like education, the future.
Plenty to think about, that’s for sure.
I’ll be busy at the laundromat.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.