Thriver’s Guilt

This site can feel dangerously performative to me, i.e. ‘look at what I can do.’ The main project of my life here is to go outside, do good things, and write about them, and the project is going really well. My days feed this blog, and this blog feeds my days. The larger goal, beyond my personal interest in doing these things, is to get other people excited about going outside, more interested in nature, more interested in their health, both physical and mental.

But I am not unaware of the possible disconnect between the life I get to live and what other people have to do to keep themselves going.

This is on my mind all the time. I am clearly fortunate, privileged even. I have a life I don’t deserve, and I know it. I feel a constant buzz of gratitude, tinged with incredulity. There are multiple aspects to this. There is health. There is wealth. Some of that is bound up in the random circumstances of my birth. On some level, sure, I did what was required to preserve the gifts I was given, but I don’t suffer any delusion that I have worked harder than anyone else.

I have it all and on some level it feels perverse to be writing about that all the time.

In addition, there is a global pandemic wreaking havoc on people’s lives now. It has undoubtedly exacerbated the inequalities in our system. Many are sick. Many are dying. Most of them are poor. Many can’t earn their living right now. I have security in all these areas. This is luck not merit.

In fact, the pandemic has increased my opportunities to do what I do. I lost my job in March, but was able to replace it with consulting work. The unexpected interruption in my career became its own gift of time, and the cancellation of most activities, school, work, life, turned into all these opportunities to run, ride, hike, and ski.

I’m not the only one enjoying the freedom of living in partial quarantine, and thriver’s guilt is a real thing. If you’re healthy and not struggling to pay bills, you’re probably having an ok time. I’ve heard a lot of people worry aloud about what it’s going to be like when we go back to “normal.” Many dread the frenzy of the life we lived before.

As a rule, I believe guilt is a useless emotion except at it feeds gratitude or honesty or generosity. If you don’t know what you’ve got, then maybe you’re not properly honoring it. What I’m writing here today is my way of expressing that honestly and with gratitude, but also as a spur to generosity, to sharing what I have with more people who need it.