“You’re Lucky.” I hear that phrase every day. Sometimes more than once. It’s the ubiquitous response I receive from folks when they learn that I live in Cambridge, that I travel by bike, that I retired at age 58, that I don’t take any prescription meds, that I have no debt, that my belly is still flat.
“You’re Lucky.” I nod in quiet agreement and then keep my lips sealed. Yes, I am lucky, whether measured by the global lottery of being born a white American male or the molecular composition that bestowed me a fast metabolism. But does luck fully explain my fortunate circumstances? Is it possible that I made some prudent decisions along the way? Did I perhaps even do a bit of work?
“You’re Lucky.” Life is a cocktail of effort, circumstance, and choice. By middle age, the concoctions we’ve endured define who we are. If we are content or satisfied or proud, we fancy that our effort, rather than luck, landed us so well. If we are angry or wanting, we can identify myriad scapegoats who blocked our way. Yet when we consider others, we often figure the opposite. Whatever good fortune they achieved must be largely due to luck; if they are downtrodden there’s reason.
“You’re Lucky.” People who utter that to my face don’t want to hear about my effort or my choices, especially since my choices are often at odds with most middle-class Americans: a bike instead of a car, housemates instead of a single-family house; a lifetime of eating moderately and drinking even less, purchasing only what I can pay for, stepping on the scale every morning before heading to the gym. Tedious discipline is at odds with a culture enamored with fall and redemption, so years of consistency get rebranded ‘lucky.’ Acknowledging that I might be the agent of my good fortune would cast a shadow over others’ more sedentary, more encumbered existence. Chalking my situation up to luck deflects a mirror on different, more conventional, perhaps easier, choices.
“You’re Lucky.” I keep my mouth shut and nod in agreement. After all, they’re right, to a point. And I’ve heard it so often I don’t argue the point.