The other day my morning started in the same way many mornings start for 20-something women. I was standing in my walk-in closet full of clothes and thinking, I have absolutely nothing to wear.
Everything was going to be too warm for our weather, or I'd be too cold in the AC. I just wore a cardigan (don't tell Raven! ;)) yesterday, so I couldn't possibly wear another today.
You know, the big dilemmas in life.
I eventually decided on something, slipped into my over-worn and over-loved Tory Burch Revas and walked out the door to work.
I work in Wellington, Florida, about 10 miles west of West Palm Beach. You'll notice when you get outside of the touristy areas in Florida that the economic class can change from traffic light to traffic light. I took a wrong turn trying to get to a gas station a few weeks ago and had to do a U-turn in the driveway of a completely broken down trailer, only to pull into the gas station 50 yards away behind a Maserati. It's something that's hard to miss, but like most, I'm guilty of turning the other away and not thinking about it too much.
That is, until I found myself surrounded by it one day at work. We were all in our cubes, doing our thing and chatting when the sweet woman who has the cubicle next to me was asked how her husband is doing. He suffered a terrible leg injury the year before, and has been on disability, in and out of the hospital for the past year. She answered by saying he was doing really well except they needed one more medicine, which was just too expensive. We all nodded in agreement, as working in a pharmacy makes it very clear just how expensive medicine can be. Then she said, I don't know what we're supposed to do. Where are we supposed to get an extra $40?
That's when my head popped up, and I tucked my TB flats under my desk, suddenly very aware of all the pictures I had decorated my desk with, pictures of Dom, my family and me in different countries doing crazy things. I had been worried this morning about not choosing the right combo of clothes from my full closet, where this lady was worried about finding 40 spare dollars for her husband's medicine. How many times have we gone to Target for one thing and spent tons of money on cute things we don't need? I look at my receipt, laugh, and promise myself I won't do it again, until next week. I never thought about how lucky I am to be able to spend money on fun things, even when I'm on a budget.
Then in the kitchen, one of the men I work with was asking questions about where I went to college and if I liked it, etc. His daughter is a senior in high school and wants to be a doctor someday. He was telling me how she has been studying so hard all four years so she can get into her dream school, the University of Miami. They've been crossing their fingers every night she'll get a full ride scholarship, otherwise she can't go. He shrugged his shoulders and laughed, saying you know how that goes. I gave a nervous laugh and nodded.
For the second time that day, I grew embarrassed and tried to remember the last time that I actually thanked my dad for paying for my schooling. I wanted to major in International Affairs, and the best place to do that was GWU. Very expensive GWU. I remember my dad saying in high school that if I got in, he'd figure out how to pay for it. We both kept our end of the deal and I moved to D.C. in August of 2007 to start college. I didn't even think about the financial strain that going to GWU put on my dad. He started taking paid speaking engagements around the country and called them "GW units." We giggled at the name, but I didn't really think about all the extra work my dad was doing to give me the best education possible. It wasn't that I wasn't grateful, I just never thought about it. I was obviously thankful, but did I thank him after every trip? No. And I should have. Where I'm from, everyone goes to college. My sheltered self didn't think of the families I knew as well off, we were just normal. (That is, until I got to GW and quickly realized what kind of wealth there really is out there. I was the first girl my freshman year roommate had ever met that didn't have a copy of her dad's credit card to shop with. And then, of course, there were the heirs and spattering of international dukes and dutchesses in my freshman dorm. But that's a post for another day). As absurd as it is to say, I never thought about someone not being able to go to school because they couldn't afford it.
Talk about a realty check. Sometimes it takes seeing a situation from another point of view to open your eyes. There's nothing wrong with accidentally spending lots of money at Target, but don't forget to be appreciative of the fact that you can blow some extra money without worrying about putting food on the table. Be careful before you complain that your designer flats are getting frayed. The person your chatting to might only wish they could have a pair. I sometimes say I wish I could fast forward the next few years so I can get my next degree but not have to do the work of going back to school. What should I be doing? Be thankful I'll have the wonderful opportunity to go back to school.
I think we can all stand to take a few extra minutes to count are blessings, and be thankful for the things we take for granted.
News flash, Robin, you do have something to wear, and if that is the biggest problem of your day, you've got it pretty damn good.