When you’re poor and Christian, even with no money, you still have hope about a life beyond this one that consists of a great paradise eternal. If you’re a wealthy, or even just moderately well-off atheist, you at least have the now to live in, and will have a life of wonder and adventure, not worrying about the most basic essentials.
You have the economic freedom to go where you want, experience life and to make something of yourself. Even a poor Christian, who may be economically limited, knows that when all is said and done it isn’t their earthly wealth that matters, but the wealth of the soul that makes the difference, and that they will be recompensed upon meeting their maker.
When you’re a poor agnostic, there’s not much to look forward to in this life, or what waits at the end of it. You’re working and working to keep things afloat, trying to reach some of your dreams, because you know that this is the only shot you get, the only chance you have to life your life to the fullest, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. You look around and see people acting like they have all of the time in the world, and it just creates this huge burden of stress that sits on your chest, especially if halfway through your own life, you’ve accomplished nothing.
Now, some people think “accomplished nothing” and realize that it obviously doesn’t mean one hasn’t accomplished anything, but in this case it really is true, and for someone who excelled in the academic, it’s doubly frustrating, because our society values starting young and building on maturity. Starting in maturity isn’t really seen as a benefit, and so opportunities one would have had at, say, twenty or twenty-five, become dead ends at thirty and thirty-five.
If you’re wondering whether I’m referring to myself, congratulations. If you have figured out I’m not taking this transition to 35 very well, then once again, you’re on the ball. It doesn’t have anything to do with ego, or vanity, and everything to do with the most basic of dreams. Some people want to be rich and famous, but that’s not something I pursue. If I become rich and famous, it will be wholly by accident, I assure you. No, I just want the simplest things: freedom to go places I want to go, the liberty of choosing what path I want to take in life; finding someone to love, starting a family. These aren’t grand dreams, these are the most essential desires of the heart, ones many of us share, and most of us go on to accomplish.
One of the most despised sayings I have ever heard, and from a friend who meant well and one I don’t blame for their sentiment, is “good things come to those who wait.” I nod my head for my friend, but inside I’m exasperated. I have heard that saying so many times, and it just is not true. Good things do not come to those who wait: Crumbs come to those who wait. Loneliness comes to those who wait. Silence comes to those who wait. Senility, along with feebleness comes to those who wait. Pain and loss comes to those who wait. Finally, death comes to those who wait.
Good things? Hardly.
I see the specter of death and loneliness everywhere I go. I see failure, and heartbreak. All I have ever tried to do is good in the world. Is it really true that nice guys finish last? People who take the time out to help someone, do they get neglected by those around them? I’d hate to think that the world works this way, because we talk a good game. I’m believing it has all become empty promises to placate the powerless, because of course it has.
Still, I don’t think the saying “nice guys finish last” holds any actual weight. There are plenty of nice guys who succeed in life. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong time. I was born 3 months early. What I thought I was hurrying for isn’t clear to me, but it is so indicative of my life that it could be summed up in yet another old aphorism, “hurry up and wait.” I hurried to get here, but once I got here, all I’ve done is waited. I waited for my good things, and at 35 years of age, I’m starting to think either my good things were lost in transit, or never existed in the first place.
Good things won’t come to you, kids. Don’t believe it when someone says “there’s somebody special out there for you,” because that is not true. Don’t believe that someday you’ll find that special person; don’t believe in karma, and most definitely do not believe in the notion that if you work hard, you will succeed. These are not facts. They are faith, and their foundation lies in the idea that someone is looking out for you, that someone has your best interests at heart and that they are actively working to see you succeed. While there are individuals in life that are this way, and I know a few of them, the world at large has no interest in you beyond what it can get from you at the least expense. If you remember that, you might be able to make something out of this life.
I say this as someone who has burned through a thousand lifetimes of optimism, desperately clinging to the idea that things will get better if I just hold on a little longer, that the people who have ignored me up until this point will finally see me and do great things to help me to my feet so I can start living my life. This is a pipe dream. Those people get what they want from me when they want it, then they toss me aside until they need me again. This is how the world-at-large works. Believe there are good people, but do not believe that they are all good, or that their smiling faces reflect who they truly are.
If you think good things will come to you if only you smile, and wait, doing the work of others believing they’ll realize that you are in dire need, then you will have not only a long wait, but a fruitless one. There are no good things coming while you’re standing there, and if you are trapped where you are, with seemingly no options, then I sympathize with you. There is nothing I can say that will alleviate that stress, or that pain, or that frantic, clawing feeling in your chest that makes you want to curl up in a ball, on the floor, and just weep uncontrollably. I am sorry. I am so very sorry.
In closing, I give you the words of St. Paul, the greatest apostle, who asked of us, “all the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”