Sometimes my husband says the most profound things. Earlier this week I was obsessing about a decision. Finally, as I ran down the pros and cons to him for the sixth or seventh time, he joked, “First World problems.” I laughed because he was so right-on. I have heard the expression before, but ever since he said it, I keep thinking about it. When I looked it up on Wikipedia I learned that the term first appeared in 1979 in G.K. Payne’s Built Environment. It turned into an internet meme in 2005, and it became a popular Twitter hashtag. It is generally used to minimize complaints about trivial issues by people living in the lap of luxury. The quintessential First World problem is slow internet access. In fact, the expression is frequently used with regard to electronic/tech problems. For instance, classic First World problems are 1) I don’t have access to wi-fi right now, 2) I lost the remote, 3) the PDF downloaded instead of opening, 4) my laptop power cord died, or 5) I dropped my iPhone into a pot of boiling spaghetti sauce. If you google “First World problems,” you will bring up links to heaps of funny examples. I just did this and wasted half an hour that I could have spent writing this blog chuckling over these examples. Wasting time reading things online is a First World problem.
Although generally First World problems, my problems still concern me. Here is a short-list sampling of some of my First World problems.
1. I have so much work right now that I don’t have enough time to do my own creative writing (including writing my annual holiday letter).
2. I lost a piece of cheese in my car.
3. I can’t decide whether to make pumpkin bread or persimmon bread for the holidays.
4. I don’t think my Christmas Cactus will keep blooming all the way to Christmas, so maybe I should buy another one in a couple of weeks? Or not?
5. I dyed my husband’s socks pink by accident washing them with a red dress.
6. Writing comedy is hard and I want to give people a good laugh.
7. Last week I played Dez Bryant in Fantasy Football but then Tony Romo broke his clavicle (again) and the backup QB didn’t throw any balls to Dez meanwhile I left Sammy Watkins on my bench and Dez made 5 points and Watkins made 27 and I don’t even like the Dallas Cowboys and I don’t know who Watkins is and I think I should play Charcandrick West instead of Watkins this week even though West had a hamstring injury and this is the final week of the regular Fantasy season and I am agonizing so much about what to do that I think maybe I should stop playing Fantasy next year and…. I need an intervention.
8. I keep getting robocalls from cardholder services even though I am on the do-not-call list so what is up with that? Argh!
9. I can smell a missing piece of cheese in my car.
9. I am not good with numbers and my math ability sucks.
10. Organic food is expensive.
11. I can’t interest any publishers in my unpublished books. I can’t interest any agents in representing my unpublished books. I can’t stop writing books that probably will never be published. I can’t stop kvetching about it. I need an intervention.
12. They stopped carrying my favorite chipotle habañero sauce at the natural foods store so now I have to buy it online.
13. I mortgaged my house to put my children through college and I have no retirement savings so I will have to work until I die.
14. My orange tabby cat sheds on everything.
15. I cry every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life and my children laugh at me.
16. I can’t find a chemical-free air freshener that smells good to me. (So I don’t have a nice scent to spray in my car to counteract the lost cheese.)
17. I miss my cheese.
I would like to think that mostly my problems are not the silly non-problem problems of the oblivious privileged person, such as breaking a fingernail on the metal soy milk pitcher at Starbuck’s. My problems are the problems of a middle class person living in the First World, and I wouldn’t trade them for Third World problems. Even so, I do have some problems that I think qualify as All World (global/universal) problems, such as the fact that I am slowly going deaf, my access to clean food is compromised by profit-mongers, I can’t protect my children from the miasma of chemicals surrounding us (not least of which are the toxins in food), the damage to our environment threatens my safety and future (and that of my children and future generations), I don’t have easy access to health care that is honest and free of interference by corporate interests, and I am in constant danger of losing those I love to gun violence. Yet in the final analysis, my week of pondering the expression has led me to recognize that my problems are predominantly First World problems; and for this I am truly grateful, especially at this festive time of year when I anticipate being surrounded by friends and family and enjoying our First World bounty.
When I think about my problems from this perspective, I no longer feel nearly so stressed. Except maybe about that cheese. Why can’t I stop thinking about cheese? I’m hungry (that’s an All World problem).
I googled "cheese in car" for an image for this blog post and this is what I found, which is perfect
because it's not only cheese on a car but it's also a football image since it's a Green Bay Packers (the "cheeseheads") car therefore related to both my cheese problems and my Fantasy football problems.