A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my mom when she said something to me that made us switch roles for a minute. Hearing her say that she felt "so lucky" to be in a healthy, loving relationship with the man who is now her husband made me take on the position of lecturer and advice-giver.
"I'm gonna stop you there. You aren't 'lucky' to have this relationship because it is something you deserve. You put in the work to make this happen and you are a wonderful person," I said.
I have a problem with the word “lucky.” This comic shed light on the issue with saying “sorry” when we mean “thank you.” I heard several people champion that cause. Rightfully so! It allows for human error and shows appreciation for supportive relationships all with a simple change of phrase. “I’m so lucky” versus “I’m so grateful” is my own version on changing your words to change your mindset and show appreciation.
Lucky implies that we don’t have a lot of agency in our own lives. Was I lucky to be born into the situation of middle class white woman? Absolutely. I had no say in that. And I’m not too big of a believer in the bootstraps-bullshit story that so many overly zealous (rich, white) people like to preach to the less fortunate. The that I was born into a pretty easy race, class and gender identity for this country definitely give me an advantage.
But even those who have toiled and struggled to land an entry level position or minimum wage job aren’t lucky. That discounts the backbreaking hours they spent to get to where they are. It ignores what they had to do and discourages others from trying the same thing. If people think that making it work is purely based on luck, why would they ever try? That’s selling the lie that there’s no way out. It is a perpetual myth that keeps people down.
I think it’s encouraging to meet somewhere in the middle of “Everyone can be Michael Jordan if they work hard enough!” and “Damn, that guy is just so lucky to be an all star athlete.” The importance of recognizing the factors stacked against those born in a certain neighborhood, or of a certain color, or in a certain country, cannot be understated. But those who excel despite the odds aren’t lucky. They’re fighters and deserve more credit than simply saying they had good fortune.
On a personal level, I say I’m grateful because it puts me in control and reminds me of my self worth. For example, Jessica (my talented coworker) and I have an amazing job. We get to be outside with plants all day, every day. We’re home by 4:30 in the afternoon. We feed people with our harvest. When Jessica said that she felt so lucky to have the job we do, I asked if she felt lucky or grateful. We both have phenomenal work ethics that showed through in our interviews for this position. We have a deep love for the actual job we are doing and a skill set based on personal curiosity and tenacity. We intend to utilize what we learn for the greater good for the rest of our lives. Those are some pretty big shoes for “luck” to fill.
I'm not lucky that I drive a paid off car, that I’m still on my parent’s insurance, that my rent is cheap, that I have the sweetest boyfriend...lucky doesn’t put in that work. We do that. And I’m sure as hell grateful.