It’s hard to maintain self-worth when you’re unemployed. You don’t have a concrete direction, and you’re not in a position that you’ve been told a college education and a master’s degree will afford you. It is difficult to fight back the feeling that you, personally are the problem. It’s the equivalent of when you’re four-years-old, and your mom tells you “It was no one’s fault” your goldfish died, but you have the sneaking suspicion that if you would have fed it, this toilet funeral could have been avoided.

The thought of self-doubt was followed by cursing a system that requires you to fit into a nine-to-five mold. It’s easy to become jaded, and ponder if people would be where they are if it weren’t for social class, nepotism, race, gender, etc. It’s easy to forget the privileges you have been provided. It’s easy to fall into a rut.

Then you run into the gas station attendant, riding into work singing Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball, while the song blares from a boombox bungee corded down to the back of his bike. Everything in society is telling that guy he should be in a deeper rut than me. Why isn’t he?

I’ve always been interested in various cultures’ responses to marginalization. The Black community transformed oppression into Jazz, Blues, Rock & Roll, and Hip Hop. The Irish championed the creation of unions to fight shitty working conditions. Latin American and Asian cultures form communities throughout the country to maintain their identity, and lighten the burden of assimilation while teaching white people to cook with spices.

Nowadays a lot of people transform hardship into negative YouTube comments. All I read when I see those is “I hate my life so much that I am going to make sure you’re as miserable as I am! After that I am going to post a picture of my feet in the sand on Facbeook with an inspirational quote to show everyone how happy I am with the way my life is going!”

Social media perpetuates a cultural feeling of negativity and cynicism. No one ever posts middle-of-the-road statuses. Either “My mom died, and I hate my dog’s shitty breath!” or “My seven month vacation changed my life forever, and I can’t imagine never having had this opportunity!” If you were to post “Work was long today, and then I got a sandwich from a 7-11 because I was too tired to cook.” I’d like the shit out of that status. The negative posts support a sentiment of “this life is shit,” and the positive posts give you an unrealistic standard to live up to.    

Hardship is good if you allow it to be. A failed relationship is a better opportunity to get to know your friends. Now that bitch won’t be around to tell you to stop practicing Spanish out loud. The worst things you can do while feeling downtrodden is compare yourself to others, act cynically, and lash out at the ones that are closest to you. As the philosopher 50 Cent once said “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain, Joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain.” This too shall pass, and if you play it right, and pay attention – you can learn a whole lot.

We all fall into ruts, and they’re shitty, but they’re our greatest opportunities to reevaluate what we’re doing. Keep what’s working. Get rid of what’s not. Feed your goldfish.