There Are Problems, and Then There Are, Well, Not Problems

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This video has been circulating the internet for a while now. I saw it for the first time about a week ago. I, for one, find it one of those, “That is so true and I wish people would take this to heart (but between you and me those silly first worlders are kind of funny and pathetic.)”

Yes, I considered myself to be relatively independent of the “first world problem” syndrome. I have been through physical and mental hardships, been deployed to third world countries, and lived in survival situations before. Check that block. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, didn’t need the t-shirt so donated it to good will. Next?

Then, last night I was chatting with my fiancee using FaceTime, which is free internationally iPhone to iPhone. We were both pretty stoked that I was in a hotel instead of out at the base. The internet is much better in hotels and you don’t play the abstract pixel-interpretation game so much. During this conversation I made the comment, “I wish they would switch the day and night modes on the AC in this hotel room. It gets freezing cold during the day, but then it stays warm all night.”

Even as I was saying it I heard this sound in my head.

Okay, so that is a pretty first world problem. So I don’t like sleeping when it is warm in my room? Well waaaaaaaa, cry about it why don’t you? I can look out my hotel room window and see entire families who live in tin shacks with no air conditioning or even fans, and they seem to get by just fine.

Just like that was born my New Years resolution. One of them anyway. I have a couple of ongoing projects, and I still need to finish up one of last year’s (I resolved to become a saint, but since that hasn’t happened yet, it goes back on the list for this year.)

The thing is that I forget my roots. I grew up in a lower middle class family, with work, chores, school, and not a lot of money. We were not poor, but we were not rich. We did not have video games, or TV’s in our rooms, or computers, or very many other gadgets. We didn’t even have our own rooms, except for my sister being the only girl. Food was not ready made, someone had to prepare it from scratch and we were expected to help with that. Fun was not ready made. We had to build our own games, design our own rules for them. A lot of the time we even built our own toys because the ones that came from the store were just not available. Even when we did get toys, the ones we made were manlier and therefore better. After all when you can make your own throwing knife by cutting and grinding the spring steel skid of an abandoned piece of farming equipment; and when you have had the bones in your hand broken in a quarterstaff battle with your brother, and walked around with that hand behind your back for weeks so Mom wouldn’t find out, well, a silly plastic sword from Toys R Us seems like a step down in the world. (I had four brothers. Plastic toys did not survive in our house, except for legos, which are awesome!)

Since then, as I said at the beginning of this, I have been at times even lower materially and comfortwise, until I was literally happy to get one half bite out of bit of sausage that someone dropped in the mud (yes, that really happened in SERE school.) On the whole my life has been comfortable, but I have learned that I can deal with discomfort quite well. I even embrace discomfort a bit. I am at my most creative, most fulfilled, and even my happiest when I have some purpose that worthily calls me to be uncomfortable.

I have also learned that comfort is relative. It is conditioned by expectation. For example, if I expect to have spicy seared tuna belly, garlic asparagus, beef fried rice, and a mango banana shake, with rice candy for desert, then I will be disappointed and made uncomfortable by over-grilled tuna belly, garlic asparagus and steamed rice. However, if I am expecting nothing, that same over-grilled tuna belly will be a pleasant surprise. It will be delicious.

This is my New Year’s resolution: to think of my first world problems as not problems at all; to come at life from a position of emptiness so that I may be grateful for every thing. If I can do this even just a little bit, I think it will be quite a happy and fulfilling year.

Ryan Kraeger

Ryan Kraeger

Ryan Kraeger is a cradle Catholic homeschool graduate, who has served in the Army as a Combat Engineer and as a Special Forces Medical Sergeant. He now lives with his wife Kathleen and their two daughters near Tacoma, WA and is going to school to become a Physician's Assistant. He enjoys reading, thinking, and conversation, the making and eating of gourmet pizza, shooting and martial arts, and the occasional dark beer. His website is The Man Who Would Be Knight.

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