You may have noticed I'm no stranger to issues. Which, if the glass is half full, is a good thing as it serves — quite unfailingly, I might add — as a stark reminder of my humanity. "You're not perfect, but at least you're human!" Well, that's great. If, as on most days, the home of my drinks is half empty, my familiarity with all things angry, frustrating and shocking blue is kind of a burden that may well explain why I'm so heavy despite my butt being fairly tight for a 46-year-old. Just so you know. Today the glass is half empty, and that means I'm once again haunted by the reality that is one hundred percent not my friend's.
My friend Ray grew up in a family of self-made winners. His siblings and cousins are diplomates, surgeons and lawyers. Their children are future diplomates, surgeons and lawyers. His brother is so rich that buying Ray a stack of first-class plane tickets is not only a must but very much the only option. We're talking pocket change. My friend's sister is so successful that headhunters come flying from all over the country in hopes of drawing her attention and returning home with a signature that's bound to boost their career. How's that for successful?
Oh I know what you're thinking, and I hope you mean it, too: "Money doesn't make you happy" — but money's just half the story. It's the result, not the aim, of who they are. And believe me, if you've got the brains to handle the kind of responsibility that comes with a substantial cash flow (and you may have guessed they do, in spades), money makes you very happy. It opens doors to pockets of freedom. We're talking independence begetting unity. It is the glue that keeps the boat afloat and the family together. When somebody is ill, they've got the means to afford a thorough checkup. When a child is born, they don't have to worry like my parents did about whether or not they'll be able to afford their child a proper education. Education is expensive. You may have noticed. Doctors are expensive. I know this to be as true as the gold I don't have. Take a glimpse at my medical bills and you'll know what I'm talking about. Money does not always lead to ugliness, you see.
But my jealousy runs deeper than their silver-lined pockets. I'm jealous of their closeness and especially of their collective determination to be somebody — to make the world their oyster. (Thank you, O Captain, my Captain.) It's that extra spark that makes the difference between generally good and generally great. They motivate and inspire each other, and the fact that money isn't an issue helps a great deal. When I grew up, no one had a college degree, no one ran a business, no one knew chapter and verse of the intricacies of the art of being inspirational. No one knew a single line. (Not one iota, Mr. Keating.)
So whenever Ray stops by to say hi, I typically make it my business to remind him of his luck. Come X-mas time, his family members fly from all over the world to be together. They just make it happen. They rent a place or spice up one of their homes to celebrate their sense of belonging. It's a beautiful thing, it really is. They are a caring, sharing and decent bunch and at the same time a bright, determined and successful bunch. My relatives, on the other hand, are not rich or — most of them — bright, but, boy, many of them sure know how to waste a good buck. It's too depressing to witness. And to add insult to injury, our once big and sparkly family is now incredibly small and dying like a candle no one cares about. I guess you could call it the survival of the fittest. Does that mean I don't love any of them? No, it doesn't. But let's put it this way: even if I had that first-class ticket, I wouldn't know who to fly to.
And that's the unsweetened truth.