Why do I have everything?

I’m so sick of posts talking about how women can have everything, just not at the same time (a Claudia Goldin quote, I believe… she was talking about the generation of women who are now retiring).

I especially hate the way that disagreeing and saying, “Hey, I have everything” makes me look like a jerk.  Folks should be able to say, “I have everything and you can too.  You may not have it now, but if you keep trying it can happen.”  People shouldn’t have to apologize for being awesome.  People shouldn’t have to say, “The only reason I’m awesome is because I have had advantages that you don’t (so don’t even bother trying).”  The truth is that we can all be awesome, or at least awesomer than we are now, but some of us have to work harder than others at becoming awesome because of differences in advantages.

Here’s why I have everything.

I’m smart.  I have good genetic material.  A family that values intelligence.  My mom ate crazy healthy when I was in the womb.  My parents were active with me as a baby.  My house was full of books.  But smart isn’t just an inborn trait, it’s something you have to use and nurture by growing dendrites and taking on challenges.  You can become even smarter, starting now.  (Read Mindset by Carol Dweck.)

I’m focused.  I know what I want and I make plans on how to get there.

I’m well-prepared.  I’ve sought out and taken many educational opportunities.  I understand the culture I’m working in (I didn’t at first, but I learned and changed).  I had solid training.  My parents also gave me tools to navigate the adult world… I can budget, invest etc.  If I can’t do something I know how to find out what to do.  The best thing my mother ever taught me was how to use the library.

I’m determined.  I’m not a shrinking violet.  I know I’m valuable.  If I’m not getting what I want, I figure out how to get it.  I don’t have everything I want, but I’m going to keep trying until either I do or I decide I want to try a different game.  I realize that often opportunities don’t fall into my lap, but I can ask for them (firmly and politely).  And if some people think I’m not staying in my place, that’s their problem, not mine.  Sometimes I strike out, but I still go up to bat.

I’m hardworking.  I no longer work 80 hour weeks, but I sure don’t work less than 40 hrs/week either.

I have a growth mindset.  Set-backs are simply set-backs.  We learn from them and work harder to get ahead.

I have the perfect partner.  We don’t fight.  We don’t guilt.  We shoulder the load.  We comfort.  We support.  We look for solutions together.

I’m not a martyr.  I don’t see any reason that I should have to sacrifice myself for anybody or anything.  Yes, I did all the “right” things when DC was a baby, but never at huge sacrifice to myself, and I got to decide what was “right,” after a lot of research.  I did what I did because that was what I wanted to do because I thought it was the right thing, not because I wanted people to think I was a saint or because I was trying to convince myself not to feel guilty for whatever reason.

I’m lucky.  Also privileged by geographic and demographic virtue.  I have to work harder than a white male from a tony family but I don’t have to work as hard as an equally perfect female from an underrepresented minority family would to get to the same place.  I don’t have to work as hard as someone from another country, and being an American gives me untold advantages and safety.

Perhaps most importantly:  I get to define “everything.”  My goals are achievable.  I don’t want to work 80hrs/week and be at home for my child 168hrs/week.  I want a happy independent kid who works to hir own chosen potential.  I want to be respected in my career and to do good work.  I want to be continually growing.  I want to make enough money (and spend reasonably enough) not to have to think about it unless I want to.    (#2 thinks that the ability to have it all depends on how you define “it” and “have”.  Do I sound Presidential?)

Anyhow.  If you’re feeling unhappy about your lot in life, instead of complaining about how women just can’t have everything in yet another blog post… well, ask yourself what you can do to get what you want.  Changing the game is difficult, but there are still strategies you can use to get ahead as a player.  And it’s not fair that it takes more effort for some groups than others, but if that’s what it takes, then that’s something you can do.

What can you do to make your life better?  Are you trapped?


25 Responses to “Why do I have everything?”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Great Post. As much as any of your points, “Everything” is also a state of mind. I have some family members that can never have enough and are always fixated on what they don’t have. It’s such a sorry state to be in when you look at your life and are constantly feeling bad for yourself that ” I don’t have this and this or that.” That coupled with laziness…wanting things but not wanting to put the effort in to get them is such a bad combo.

    Babci feels like she has everything she needs in life. Family, health, a roof over her head, her garden and plenty of food and money to pay the utility bills. She doesn’t care about any of the other stuff. By most US people’s standards, she’s living in poverty.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It really is! I have to say that I’m also crippled by overweening ambition, so I will never be truly content… But I keep moving forward…

      • First Gen American Says:

        Yeah, but I see ambition as a positive thing. Being ambitious doesn’t mean that you are dissatisfied with your current state, it’s just that you want to push yourself to your fullest potential. Theoretically, the older you get and the more experience you gain, the more potential you have, so it’s just a natural progression in life vs a dissatisfaction with your current state. Growth is good.

  2. GMP Says:

    Just here to say awesome post. Love the unapologetic tone.

  3. bloggerclarissa Says:

    My mother ate crap when she was pregnant with me and beat me for reading books. I’m not an American and not an English-speaker. My husband is – at this point – an undocumented immigrant. I’m lazy, whiny, annoying, and a total drama queen.

    I also have absolutely everything I could have ever wanted, though. :-)

    Great post!!

  4. Cloud Says:

    I’m pretty happy, too, and a lot of what you wrote applies to me.

    I always say that of course I had to give something up when I had kids- I didn’t get extra hours in the day when my first child was born, so obviously, some of the hours I used to spend doing something else had to be redirected to child care. But I got to choose what I gave up, and for all intents and purpose I have “it all” as defined by the folks who keep telling me that I can’t possibly have it all. And I love my life just how it is.

    I had to work at getting to the level of confidence I have now, both as a scientist and as a mother, but that work has paid off in spades.

  5. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    Young, Gifted, and GONE!!!!!!!! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!!

  6. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I need to work more at being happy with what I do while working towards goals I want to achieve. I know there’s crap in my life that’s not how I want it to be, but it’s better than it could be. And I know it keeps getting better. It’s true– I can have everything I want, just maybe not all at once, right now. I keep hearing Obi-Wan in my head, “Patience young padawan.”

  7. Zee Says:

    Not being a martyr is the key to happiness I swear. I meet so many women in my life (hi mom!) who martyr themselves for others, are miserable, and then get pissed when their actions go unnoticed.

  8. FrauTech Says:

    Love the tone of the post. I think the only beef I have is with those people who say, “you CAN have it all.” I know that’s not what YOU are saying. But the broad based assumption that anybody can or can’t have it all is frustrating.

    Also that your mom had access to enough food to not starve while she was pregnant with you was probably the only thing that made a difference. I hate to get all anti-health craze here, but socioeconomic status of your parents probably had a larger effect on your upbringing than the individual choices (vegetables while pregnant, books in the home) or rather, that affected the choices they made and informed your upbringing. I know, I’m contrarian today.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well… there’s folic acid… And there’s various things related to gestational diabetes that can have both short-term immediate and longer term impacts.

      SES is pretty complicated and bundles a lot of things… we were low income in a working class neighborhood, but my mom had a PhD… what does that mean for SES?

  9. Anna Says:

    I’m quite happy with almost everything in my life that’s within my control… I work hard, I do well, I get rewarded, I’m optimistic. The one thing that seems to be eluding me is the perfect partner. I found someone I decided was perfect enough, but he’s a major commitment-phobe so that doesn’t seem to be working out. I date, I look. I haven’t found anyone yet, and it is something that I want, yet I feel like I’m doing everything I can to make it happen. What say you to THAT? I agree that people by and large create their own happiness/unhappiness, but what to do with the things that are actually not in our control?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Well, given our ages, we have friends who have not found the perfect partner and have come to embrace single-hood. We have others who are still working on it but have not given up hope.

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  13. chacha1 Says:

    “Perhaps most importantly: I get to define “everything.””
    Yep. My “everything” is not your “everything” is not anyone else’s “everything.”
    Even in my current dissatisfied state, I have to concede that I have achieved many things on my Life List.

    It may not be politically correct to say so, but even adjusting for privilege, there is a whole lot of “everything” that is actually in our control. The most privileged person in the world can (and, occasionally, demonstrably does) throw it all away.

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