Last week I was visiting Eugene, Oregon on a teaching trip. Over the past few years, I've been training teachers at Eugene Yoga, and along the way, I have made some good friends out there.
Over dinner one evening, the subject of luck came up. When I shared my view that I've been very lucky, a good friend turned to me with the arched-eyebrow that immediately preceded her what?? query.
As some of you know, I did have kind of an odd upbringing. I was adopted at birth, and my adoptive mother struggled mightily with a potent anxiety/depression combo. My adoptive mother's mental illness primarily expressed through narcissism, which made her forays into caregiving furtive and rather incomplete. Despite my relative lack of mothering, I persist in believing that I have been very lucky in this life.
In this recent article in the New York Times, the author refers to investor Warren Buffet's view on his good fortune on his winning draw in the Ovarian Lottery. Similarly, I believe that by dint of the conditions of my birth, I've been disproportionately lucky. Yes, I've worked quite hard to get where I am, though lots of people have worked far harder than I have - and not been as richly rewarded for their hard work.
How have I been lucky? Here are a couple of examples:
For one, I was born into the vast prosperity that envelopes residents of the United States of America. The prosperity that we take for granted in the USA is unheard of in the majority of the rest of the world.
In addition to being born in a land of opportunity, I also had access to a great education. Even though my family life was sometimes Dysfunction Junction, my parents still made sure that I got a good education. Attending pre-school, for example, was one of my many lucky breaks. While pre-school may not seem like such a big deal, I had the good fortune of entering kindergarten with the skills that have been shown to correlate with increased success later in life.
During one of the Bush presidencies, I remember hearing the derisive comment he was born on third base and thought that he hit a triple. While I may not have been born into a situation quite as favorable as a Bush kid, I still believe that on the continuum of lucky breaks, I was born toward the Bush end of the continuum. I've worked hard, yes, though I've also been the recipient of lots of lucky breaks. As I begin my 2nd semester of grad school, I hope to keep in mind the sentiment expressed on the napkin - appreciating luck as a means of cultivating humility.