Throughout my undergrad I lived in residence for 4 of my 5 years (I changed majors half way through and extended my program). By a strange twist of fate, the same custodian ended up working in every building where I was living, so we got to know each other pretty well by the end of my studies.
Towards the end of my final year, he was good enough to invite me over to his house for dinner. After a couple beers too many he became quite morose and shared with me how much he hated his job, primarily from how servile it felt to him and how he was treated by his supervisors and the students.
To put this in perspective, he had:
- A nice house in a good area of town
- A wife who was VERY attractive (notice that I put this AFTER the real estate)
- Two healthy, active, engaged children
- Plenty of food, and a wife who was a good cook (we had an amazing feed)
- An active social life (life can’t be too bad if you’ve got Mr. Cheap coming over to drink your beer)
- A good brain in his head (he used the word servile to describe his life, and I like to have intelligent conversation while I’m drinking someone’s beer)
- Good enough health that he was quite active in a competitive recreational hockey league
- A great life experience, having moved around and lived all over
- Two cars
- An active spiritual life with his whole family involved in the faith
I told him at the time, and believe to this day, that his life would be the envy of 99% of the world. Literally. Seriously.
If you wanted to look back in time, his modern life would be the envy of 100% of the world (he’s living better then any 16th century monarch – we can eat meat EVERY DAY if we want to). We live in a world where a writer can go from being on welfare to being richer than the Queen of England.
I think it’s easy to focus on negatives in our lives, but it’s also important to occasionally sit back and realize how good we have it. This is a GREAT time to be alive. Roger Williams (the author of the incredible The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect – if you start reading it, don’t stop after the first chapter) makes a point in a podcast interview about how a medieval peasant seeing our modern life would probably take the view that people would be happy all the time (think medical advances, consumer goods and improved working conditions). Our worries and fears about the obesity epidemic, a looming recession and the sub-prime meltdown would be bizarre and incomprehensible to him.