Stella Marin

It's Not About Privilege, It's About Personal Responsibility

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I was just scrolling through Instagram, when a comment left on a post prompted me to sit down and write this. A woman was sharing a story about a time, when she was on stage, she “became” the character that she had made up and written for a play. She was making the point that with imagination, you can choose who you want to be, regardless of external circumstances. This resonates with me SO much! I noticed, however, that someone left a comment telling her she wasn’t actually that character, and it’s not real, and the author is just “privileged.”

Stop right there. “Privilege” is one of the hot words that has been overused in the past few years or so. The post and comment I read is an example of how it’s getting out of hand. The author is not privileged in the sense I assume the person who commented was assuming - money. I responded to the comment left, explaining that the author is correct in saying external circumstances don’t matter, because I live well below the poverty line in my state, and yet I’m living my best life on my own terms. The author responded that she too lives below the poverty line. I’m not saying that privilege doesn’t exist, or that it isn’t sometimes easier to reach a goal if you have extra resources, but taking personal responsibility for your own life is something that anyone can and should do, regardless of their external environment.

Over the last two decades, “clean eating”, organic, yoga, meditation, crystals, cleanse, detox, so on and so on, became a regular part of our vernacular. Most of these ways of living appear to be led by a lot of upper middle class white women, and Gwenyth Paltrow, but it’s ridiculous to think you can’t live any lifestyle you want if you don’t fall into these narrow categories. You can be a millionaire, but if you don’t like yourself and are unhappy, your “privilege” will get you nowhere. Money can’t buy the life of your dreams; external things are not the way to success and happiness, and no amount of yoga, crystals or kale is going to bring you inner peace if you don’t take the responsibility to do the inner work.

I became interested in a more holistic and spiritual lifestyle because my mom is a Lumbee Native American, and I was interested in learning about that half of myself. After her divorce, she began reading books about the Law of Attraction, and other Oprah endorsed books of the month. I got to where I am now by conscious intention, not because I’m privileged, although, it is a privilege to be literate and have access to books. It’s a fine line like anything else. Privilege looks different to everyone, but the emphasis of this post is on personal responsibility, not what constitutes as being privileged.

Very long story short, I spent many years “in struggle.” Struggle with my emotions, my past and my present experiences and situations, my addictions, my lack of self esteem and self belief, my self sabotaging behaviors, etc. I once had the privilege of sleeping on a park bench in NYC one night, and learning that privilege is only having to sleep there for one night. I had to learn hard and quick how to be independent, and take care of myself and my daughter, who I had at 19. I was the one who had to make the decision to believe I could create the life I wanted. I no longer had financial or emotional support to help me get there. I had to break away from the unhealthy people in my life and learn how to support myself. I learned how to survive on very little money, often less than $100/mth, for years (this included the privilege of sponging off other people.) I had to focus my intentions and my actions on my dream, instead of wallowing in my self-pity and blaming others for how my life was. I am an entirely new person because of it; a happy person who knows what they want, and goes after it, albeit with a lot of self-doubt.

People often wonder where my money comes from or what I “do” to make a living. I do everything and nothing. I pursue my interests, I put myself out there, I learn a variety of skills so that I can be of service in as many ways as possible, I put my needs and happiness first, I don’t do anything for money that doesn’t bring me a sense of joy, and I allow the Universe to support me…which admittedly, is sometimes easy and sometimes hard. Sure, I recently bounced a rent check, all of my bills don’t always get paid on time, sometimes the only food in my house is pasta, and I don’t have any financial backup plan…..but I have everything I wished so hard for during those years of struggle. I achieved my goals and dreams, and now there is space for me to fill more goals and more dreams - to keep living the life that I want to live. I will always want more or better, but the most important thing is accepting and being grateful for everything we have right now. Anything is possible with a strong desire and belief….desire is what prompts action, action is what tells the Universe you’re willing to go out and get what you want on your own, which prompts the Universe to step in and help you out, and the stronger you believe, and the more grateful you are for all that is, the better and better things will become, but it all starts from within.