not fair

life is not fair: big fish in small bowl, little fish in big bowl

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane lately where this blog is concerned. I love when I re-read a post from years back and have forgotten that I’d even written it, allowing me to read it in a whole new light. I love it even more when I laugh or cringe at all the right parts, wondering what’s going to happen in the story (which is saying something, seeing that I’ve lived all of these stories).

One of my earliest posts, which subsequently developed into three early and integral parts of my book, The Best Advice So Far, came from Carlotta, my friend (and my dear friends’ mom) who passed away many years ago. She left three key pieces of advice that have been mainstays in my own life, and which I’ve passed along countless times since. This post will mean all the more if you take a moment to read that earlier post first (it was one of my shorter posts), because understanding who Carlotta was will add even more depth to the wisdom she passed on.

Here is one of Carlotta’s pieces of advice, as she penned it:

Life is never fair. If you expect it to be, you'll always be unhappy.

And this is how the advice appears in The Best Advice So Far:

The Best Advice So Far: The sooner you realize that life is not fair, the happier you will be.

However it’s phrased, the point is the same. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Best Advice So Far:

Those who expect life to be fair behave as though some cosmic scale is being balanced on behalf of each person. For every difficult thing, they are owed an equally easy thing. For every pain suffered, they have somehow earned the right to expect a comparable pleasure. As the hard knocks stack up, resentment and impatience mount, begrudging the Universe for being so lax in evening the odds in their favor.And so they sit, unwilling to budge from crumbling docks, demanding that their ship come in.

In short, this belief that life is supposed to be fair immobilizes us. It leads to that victim mentality that I mentioned in the first chapter on Choice. The fact is, life is in large part what we make it. Bad things happen. Happy people have merely learned to accept the bad parts as a given, to shrug them off quickly, and to capitalize on the many good things around them.

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I have seen people overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and go on to thrive. And I have seen those with plenty of potential wither away in the briar patch of bitterness. In essence, it all comes back to choice. Life will be perceived as good or bad based on the choices we make at each turn, not on some unseen and unpredictable system of pluses and minuses. In short, if I want my life to be different from what it is, I’m the only one responsible for bringing about that change.

This is all true, and it’s certainly worth thinking about and considering what changes you may want to make accordingly in your own life.

However, today, I want to take a different tack on the same advice. You see, while it’s true that life is not fair, this isn’t always played out in setbacks or challenges or other generally crummy circumstances. Sometimes, life is unfair in the most wonderful of ways.

It’s true that life is not fair. But sometimes, life is unfair in the most wonderful of ways.

I told you in my last post that I was recently informed I’ll need to move from my new place, where I’ve only been for a year and which is the first place I’ve truly felt was “home” in 20 years. It has the perfect amount of space, and the rent for this two-bedroom beauty has only been $800/month. I was invited to stay forever at that rate. But the landlords are now needing to sell the house, and so I need to move.

This might seem like life is not fair. I thought things would be one way, and they changed. It’s going to mean finding a new place, likely for much higher rent, along with all of the packing and disruption that moving brings – and at a time when there is big change in a number of other areas of my life.

Whether we see life as fair or unfair is largely a matter of perspective and focus.

Whether we see life as fair or unfair is largely a matter of perspective and focus.

Was it fair that I was allowed to live in a beautiful two-bedroom place for a whole year at $800/month, when it easily could have drawn $1200/month? Was it fair that the landlords, whose son I mentored years ago and who love me to death, cut my rent by $400/month?  Was it fair that they gave me the keys six weeks early and told me I could start moving things over as I pleased, which allowed me to just put a box or two in my car every time I went out, bring it over, and set it up as I went, leaving my entire place ready to go about life the day the final move came? Was it fair that I was called upon to do a medical drawing right before the move, and that for 45 minutes of work, I received a check for about $4,000 that allowed me to not only buy all new furniture, but to pre-pay $200 a month for the entire year, thereby lowering my rent to just $600/month?

All of this was extremely unfair – a fact that worked overwhelmingly in my favor.

I have not had working air conditioning in any car of mine for more than seven years. On 98-degree days, it can be tempting to see it as pretty unfair. I just don’t have the money to justify fixing “extras” like this. So I roll the windows down (the ones that work) to at least circulate the oppressive heat somewhat. I’ve driven to weddings in shorts and a tank top, then scrambled into a bathroom when I arrived to slake the sweat off with paper towels and don my dress clothes.  I’m a nice guy. I try to help others. Why can’t I have air conditioning like everyone else?

But is it fair that I drove my last car to 310,000 miles, due to the extreme generosity of a kid I used to mentor who grew up to be a mechanic and wanted to take care of me?  Is it fair that the car was still in such good condition that I was able to sell it for $300?  Was it fair that my next car was given to me absolutely free as a birthday gift?  Is it fair that, due to such kindnesses, I have not had a car payment in over seven years? Is it fair that my mechanic friend just fixed the air conditioning in my car, which should have cost many hundreds of dollars, just so that I can drive in comfort to New Hampshire this weekend to be by his side as the best man at his wedding?

It’s absolutely and shamelessly unfair. And I’m awfully glad it is.

It’s not fair that I’ve been to Paris twice now, as the guest of the very best people in the world.

It’s not fair that I’m getting a free three-week vacation worth thousands of dollars at a luxury resort home, car included, around my birthday in a couple of weeks – out of sheer generosity and appreciation from friends who care about me.

It’s not fair when I get treated to an afternoon movie, just because someone “thinks I’m pretty swell.”

It’s not fair that my mom and her husband continue to graciously pay for my phone plan as an ongoing gift and show of support for what I do, even though I’m not a kid anymore (by a long shot!).

It’s not fair when friends and supports take their own good time and energy to tell others about my blog or rave about my book or buy copies for their friends or share my posts online.

It’s not fair that I have more stellar, high-quality people in my life than anyone else I can think of.

Today, rather than simply accepting that life isn’t fair, find reasons to celebrate it!

How many wonderfully unfair things can you think of in your own life? Feel free to share one or two (or more!) in the Comments section below.  Speaking good things makes a difference.

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