“A singular thought has followed me through my life, the thought that because there are other people in the world who don’t have it good as I do, other people who do not have a warm place to sleep or food to eat… I need to worry about something, anything. That I owe it to those who have a harder life. That because I am very lucky I need to suffer crippling anxiety to even things out a little bit. And of course, the exact opposite is true. I owe it to those who are not as lucky as I am to appreciate the hell out of my life, I know this fundamentally, I just can’t get around the guilt I experience almost every hour over the fact that my life is really good when so many in this world have lives full of ongoing tragedy, an overwhelming feeling that if I am not a stressed out mess everything will be taken away from me.“
I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. For example, Kashif’s friends tease me about my redialing-Kashif-tendencies (i.e. redialing frequently if he didnt answer the first go around). I redial because my mind goes into worst case scenario mode. Until I hear his voice all I feel is the knot in my stomach growing with each redial as the other shoe slips further off the ledge in my mind’s eye.
I wait for the other shoe to drop because I feel that I am undeserving and unworthy of the good in my life. And I feel guilty. Yesterday, a professor congratulated me on my fellowship and mentioned another candidate at another school waiting to hear back. They had tried out for the same spot as me. I thought of how sad they would be that they didn’t get it. I felt so guilty my stomach hurt. Kashif looked at me like I’d been taking crazy pills. “Do you want it?” Well, yes. But I feel bad.
A lawyer at a firm who helped me prep for the interviews called to congratulate me and teased me “are you on cloud 9? are you just through the roof??” Why can’t I just enjoy a moment? Why must I apologize for it? Why must I feel guilty? Why can’t I just let the joy sweep me up and carry me on its wings for a brief moment instead of spending the time preoccupied about my unworthiness?
My fellowship enables me to help low income sick children with their educational access. I will fight for better services for them. I will educate their parents to advocate for their children. I will advocate to school boards to rethink their policies. I am doing this because I love children. Because I want to make social change. Because I want to give back to society. Because I want to please God. But aside from the selfless desires, its a prestigious fellowship and its a first for my school. Its not booko moolah but its booko prestige. That part brings out the guilt: Why did something so good happen to someone so undeserving? I feel guilty about helping sick kids?!
Dooce put me in a tailspin as words were attached to unspoken feelings in my heart. If you made it down this lengthy post…. thanks for listening.