Keeping life in perspective

by Erik Cliburn | Editorial Assistant
Published: Last Updated on

As the stress of finals, papers and projects reach its pinnacle for the semester, we students begin to feel as if the weight of the world has fallen upon our shoulders. Unfortunately for us, these “problems” have become so common in the lives of friends, family and ourselves that we often take them for granted.

According to collegeamerica.edu, only 6.7 percent of the entire world’s population has a college degree of some sort. That puts everyone graduating from UIndy into an even smaller percentage, because the school is a private university. As hard as life may feel right now, there are many others around the world and in the United States who would sacrifice almost everything to be in our position, and some do exactly that.

This applies not only to education, but nearly every aspect of our lives: personal expression, food, family, politics and so forth. As Americans and as college students, we have major advantages that most people around the world do not. In several Middle Eastern countries, women are not allowed to drive, vote or be seen in public without their husbands. In some of the same areas, members of the LGBTQIA community fear for their lives because of strict and unjust laws against homosexuality. Some families in China are working in sweat shops that pay less than $1 an hour just to put food on the table. Children in Africa are being kidnapped and forced to fight in bloody wars for tyrannical warlords. The list goes on and on.

The purpose of this is not to make everyone feel bad for getting an education, it is just the opposite. It’s not guilt we should feel over these people’s misfortunes because most of these are out of our control, but we should feel empathy. If we can empathize with those around the world who are in terrible situations, then we can truly appreciate our own circumstances.

Usually, if I am facing difficult circumstances or have a terrible tragedy strike me, I stop and ask myself, “If I were on fire right now, would my situation be worse?” I can say that 100 percent of the time that I have asked myself this question, I have realized that my problems could be a lot worse. Although it’s a somewhat morbid example, it’s what I use to keep my menial problems in perspective. That’s not to say that I haven’t had real problems in my life, or that all Americans or all college students don’t have real problems. Problems and issues exist for people in every walk of life, but it’s how we handle them that really matters.

One of my favorite hip-hop groups, The Roots, has a song titled “The Day,” which has resonated with me because of how it keeps life in perspective. It says, “My preacher man told me it could always be worse, even a three-legged dog still got three good legs to lose.”

Another quote that helps keep things in perspective for me is from the book “A Tour Round My Garden,” by Alphonse Karr. The quote says, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

These quotes really capture the essence of true perspective and gratefulness.

Keeping life in perspective isn’t always necessarily about being upbeat and positive. Negativity and misfortune are inevitable for nearly everyone. But it is about realizing that in whatever situation you may find yourself it could always be worse. At some point, we have to have some sort of perspective or else we begin to take the whole world and life itself for granted. So when you go to take your finals, write your papers or present your projects, keep in mind that, although your stress is warranted, you could be in a much worse position.

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