The internet is ablaze with contempt for this 22 year old Huffington Post columnist after writing that she wishes she had to struggle more. It’s not that I don’t agree with the haters, but I feel a little bad for her. She is articulating a couple of things that most people feel: a romanticized idea of struggle, and a reverence for suffering.
There are quite a few well known stories about struggling artists, writers, athletes, and businessmen. Writers, with their flare for storytelling, can make their salad days sound particularly fetching. What aspiring writer, reading a copy of George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London doesn’t get a little dreamy about living in a dirty French hostel? I’m not being sarcastic. There is a freedom and simplicity in living outside convention. There are also a lot of other, less desirable things, but it’s difficult to really feel them while reading a book. If you’re not hungry, or freezing, or staring at a letter demanding you start paying off your student loans ASAP even though you are marginally employed, it’s hard to grasp how un-romantic those things are.
George Orwell, after living in poverty for a few years, falling ill, and having all his money stolen, went on to write two of the most brilliant and widely read novels of the century. Was he able to achieve this because he struggled and suffered? There are a lot of greats who had a lot to overcome. Some would argue that Lance Armstrong wouldn’t be a multiple Tour de France winner without first having battled cancer. Or that Van Gogh wouldn’t have produced such beautiful and innovative paintings without being poor, insane, and hungry enough to start eating his paints.
People adore a triumph over adversity story, and people loath those that have it easy. There is something so satisfying about a story that starts with lack and ends with success. So what happens if your story doesn’t include much hardship? If you subscribe to the above beliefs, your life is boring and unadventurous, and you are destined for mediocrity. Some public figures will fudge things in their biographies to make their success seem harder earned and to endear them to the public.
In the end, no one gets off easy. It just looks that way. And we should cut the girl a little slack. We’ve all seen what an unstable economy can do to seemingly stable lives. And dating in your twenties is no picnic. Godspeed to her, and to the rest of us. We’re all struggling and suffering in different ways.