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Sunday, October 11, 2015

On gratitude

(Note: the beginning of this post may seem overly jaded or bitter, but I promise it's not just keep reading.)

Most of my working life post-graduation has involved me getting jipped. 

What do I mean?

As part of the systems I've worked in, I've had colleagues doing exactly the same work as me, with equivalent or identical qualifications, who get a quite different package. Housing, flights, and shipping allowances, better healthcare. They travel around the world given the smallest vacation without a second thought. Simply put, they get more. Why? Because they were hired from overseas, and had to be lured over to Morocco. I, however, already live here. 


These policies aren't fair, but are something I've had to accept. I have a few friends in similar situations, including the one who recommended me for my current job, and they've all suffered the same fate. This discrepancy is something that our logic understands but that our senses of fairness get pissed off at. It results in our pieces of our schools' grand puzzles looking little, stunted, and ugly. 

And I do get mad. sometimes There has been some confusion at school recently regarding the different contracts which has resulted in some discontentment. Our wonderful principal is doing her best to get it resolved, and it is all turning out okay, but the unfairness does still lay heavily on me.

But then I go home. 

As I look around my apartment complex, my puzzle piece, which seems so small at work, starts looking very different. Othman and I live in a huge complex many streets wide with a very high population density. We live among the Moroccan middle class; policemen, taxi drivers, hairdressers, teachers. These are people that can make the $250-300 rent each month, and can pay roughly the same amount to send each of their kids to private schools, and still have a little left over, with which they pay for their satellite dishes and buy their groceries, lugging them up to a fifth story apartment with a toddler or two in tow. They live on top of one another, families often squeezing five or more members into two tiny bedrooms, and have essentially no safety net.

The roof of our building, six stories up.

In this context, the one I return to and witness each day, my piece of the puzzle takes on gigantic proportions. How is it fair that I live among among these people but have working conditions they could only dream of? It isn't.

This dichotomy reminds me of two things. The first are my first few months as a freshman in college at Notre Dame. The amount and the quality of STUFFand corresponding wealththat my classmates displayed made me feel small and inadequate in a new and very uncomfortable way. But then Fall break, coming a bizarre two months after orientation, saw me traveling home on the Greyhound bus. The many 90s-era discmans in the seats around me made my previously-laughable ipod return to seeming like the luxury it was. The payphone users made me look at my simple cellphone in a new light. The beat-up shoes I saw prompted a double take at my own feet. My puzzle piece went from tiny to huge right before my eyes, and while that was again uncomfortable, it was an easier feeling to have.

Finally, I am online quite a bit and can't escape the ubiquitous memes and quotes all over the internet. While I rarely remember any specifically, this one has stuck with me, and has come to mind many times in the past couple weeks.


Gratitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. One leads to the other, but first we have to choose them. A sure way to short-circuit that cycle is comparing our piece of the puzzle with those of others. They've followed a different roadone we can't ever really knowand the outcome is unique to them. A puzzle can't be made if every piece is the same, and were mine different, it would belong to a totally different puzzle. I do fit in, in my own way, and have to find contentment in that. And with some practice, it's getting easier and easier.

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