Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Thu Sep 6 2012

Privilege, guilt, and the right to pursue our dreams

Sometimes I wonder…
What right do I have to pursue my dreams?
Especially when so many other people can’t.

But the truth is…
Everyone has the right to pursue their dreams.
Whether or not they choose to is a different matter.
And it has nothing to do with me or my right.

Yes, some people are more privileged than others.
Some are luckier.
Some achieve success quickly.
Some take a long time.
Again, none of that has anything to do with me.

As long as I understand, appreciate, and don’t abuse the circumstances of my life,
I have the right to make the best of them.

Guilt serves no one and accomplishes nothing.
Let it go.

filed Personal
15 Comments
  1. gingermandy says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 8:49 AM

    You’re so right. I had a conversation about this recently and had to remind a friend that people who appear “privileged” or “better off” because of their upbringing can’t control the family they were born into anymore than someone from an unstable home could. Sure, it doesn’t seem fair that it’s so unevenly distributed, but there still isn’t much to be done about it and there’s no sense in holding a grudge against someone or feeling guilty for what you have.

  2. Dustin says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Brilliant. I’m constantly inspired by the act of searching for meaning and relevance in one’s life, regardless of situation. You’re stalwart attitude toward story telling is what make you YOU in my eyes.

    As Ben Brooks once said to me at the All You Can Eat Sushi in Vancouver – You go girl!

  3. Sonje says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 11:13 AM

    What’s the other side of this argument? What are you “supposed” to be doing?

  4. Aria says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I think the missing element here is charity. I agree that guilt is not useful and that we shouldn’t give up on our dreams, but balancing it out with the little things, instead of upgrading to the latest phone or TV immediately, give your extra money to a quality charity, help out those other people in a way that actually makes a difference in their lives.

  5. Stephanie Mooney says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 12:02 PM

    I totally agree with you! That kind of guilt can creep up in almost any situation (most often from other people imposing it upon you): “How can I enjoy this meal, when there are starving children in Africa?”, “Is it fair that I’m happy, when so many people are depressed?”, “Why do I get to live, when so many people have died?”

    You just can’t live your live like that. I think it’s important to be aware of how privileged we are and not take that for granted, try to give back. But guilt helps no one. It won’t make someone else’s dreams come true, and it can hinder you in pursuing yours.

  6. Chris says:
    Fri Sep 7 2012 at 6:52 PM

    Good food for thought, thank you!

    Please let me add:
    “You are a child of the universe. You have every right to be here.” (Desiderata)

    You are responsible for yourself, for what you make of your life, you are not responsible for universe; it takes care of itself.

    There is no need to feel guilty because there are people less well off than you are, and no need to buy peace of mind by giving to charities.

    Try to be a good person and to lead a good life, that is the best you can do, the best contributon to the world. Think along Kipling’s IF for that. Like the Desiderata worth reading and rereading every day.

  7. Aria says:
    Sat Sep 8 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Giving to charities need not be “buying peace of mind” it can be a selfless act, not linked at all to guilt, part of that “leading a good life.” There’s a big difference between guilt and kindness as motivators. Charity given out of kindness will help people have clean drinking water, for example. The “universe” is not providing clean drinking water on its own, sorry.

  8. Chris says:
    Sat Sep 8 2012 at 3:27 AM

    No, it need not, but most of the time is.

    Charities are exploiting our feelings of guilt to get funded.

    Kristan was reflecting about priviledge and guilt, in this context charities seem to me too easy a way out.

    The universe WILL provide drinking water, it did provide it to you and me; who are you to believe that only you can do that? You will find lots of opportunities around you to do good, maybe not as easy as wrting a cheque to a charity though.

  9. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Sun Sep 9 2012 at 8:12 AM

    I agree that guilt is useless. I agree with Aria — if there’s an inequality in the world that bothers us, we should do something about it.

    Looking at it from the point of view of people who are less lucky, are they sitting around thinking, “Well, I hope those people who have the good stuff are feeling guilty about it”? I imagine not. They’d rather get something more tangible.

    To Chris’s point, I agree that people give to charities (and charities are just one example of what I’m talking about) for all sorts of reasons, including even because it can help on taxes, but if what you’re doing actually helps people (and that is a big “if” that always has to be looked at carefully), I’m sure they’re just as glad to get the help no matter what the motivation.

  10. Kristan says:
    Sun Sep 9 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Mandy-
    Exactly. We can’t control if we are born into privilege. We can only control how we choose to act upon that privilege.

    Dustin-
    Lol, thanks.

    Sonje-
    Good question, and I think it’s one that every person has to answer for themselves. (For me, it’s “getting a real job” and/or “earning steady income.”)

    Aria-
    Your interpretation takes this discussion in an interesting direction. I’m not sure charity applies to the specific set of circumstances that led ME personally to this conversation with myself… but it’s good food for thought in a broader discussion.

    Stephanie-
    “It won’t make someone else’s dreams come true, and it can hinder you in pursuing yours.” – Precisely.

    Chris-
    Thanks for the additional quote. :) It’s very zen.

    Anthony-
    “Looking at it from the point of view of people who are less lucky, are they sitting around thinking, “Well, I hope those people who have the good stuff are feeling guilty about it”? I imagine not.” – Good point! Whether or not they’re looking for charity or anything else tangible, they’re more than likely not thinking about me at all. They’ve got far more important things to worry about.

  11. Aria says:
    Sun Sep 9 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Chris – there are many people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water and they are dying of disease because of it. And I don’t believe I’m the “only one” who can help with that, it takes tons and tons of donations of the size I can afford to make a difference. It’s only one example too, there are many ways to help less fortunate people via charities.

    Kristan – Yeah, when I think of privilege I often first think of people in countries where their basic survival needs aren’t even being met, but I realize that there are many kinds of privilege even within a higher socioeconomic bracket such as those based on gender, race, sexual orientation etc too. I agree that as long as you doing everything you can to not perpetuate the problem, you can’t control it if other people are treating you more favorably because they like what category you fit into.

  12. Chris says:
    Mon Sep 10 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Aria – I seem unable to bring my point across as to why donations do not sound right in the context of Kristan’s “priviledge & guilt” text.

    However, there also is a reason why I generally discourage donations to charities. Unfortunately most charities are rife with financial waste, inefficiency and fraud. The money isn’t going to the needy – it is going to marketing, fundraising, black-tie balls and bureaucracy. Some spend only 19 cents of every dollar on the people they claim to be helping; that is less than one dollar in five.

    However, if you want to provide clean water where it is needed, and if you want to do it in an efficient way, have a look at http://www.aglimmerofhope.org/home . As far as I can tell, these people guarantee that every last cent of your money will end up with the people needing help. (I have no association with this organization, never donated to them myself; just found them when researching “efficient charities”, because I was fed up with my money being wasted. And I remember that they care about clean water as much as you do :-) ).

  13. Meghan Ward says:
    Tue Sep 11 2012 at 6:40 AM

    Amen, sister! We are all born with different gifts, talents, privileges and we should make the best of what we were given!

  14. Meghan Ward says:
    Tue Sep 11 2012 at 6:45 AM

    P.S. I give to charities all the time, but I do think Chris has a point that it’s worth researching which ones are most efficient. It’s been well documented that very little of the money that organizations like the Red Cross (to which I always donate in the event of a disaster) collect makes it to the people in need.

  15. Stuff & Things IX | Ginger Mandy says:
    Sat Sep 15 2012 at 8:15 PM

    [...] > Privilege, guilt, and the right to pursue our dreams. [...]

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