But, really, what is fortune? Is it the choices we make? Is it the choices foisted upon us by life and family and friends? Is it the way we look? Is it the way we act? Is it in our DNA?
I don't have your answer, but here is my answer.
Fortune is a fickle mistress and if you pay her any mind at all, she will screw you to the wall.
I apologize if that offends you. It just came to me as I was writing. Fortune is fickle, whether you allow her to be your mistress or not. She has a strange and unique sense of humor, laughing at our expense, much of the time. She will sit and cry with us, shedding crocodile tears that mean nothing but offer some false solace. She will guide us this way or that way and...occasionally, we will find the path we're meant to take, despite her best efforts to dissuade us.
I have never been a big believer in fortune. As if the concept of one's fortune is wrapped up in the time of day, the day of week, the month of the year. If we make this decision, at this time, on this day, during August, in the year of our birth, or whatever...we will be rewarded with wealth and success.
Not really. Wealth and success are ideas perpetrated by those who have both...and love to thumb their noses at those who do not.
Does fortune bring privilege? What, we may ask ourselves, is privilege? Is it the mansion on the corner, downtown? Is it velvet gloves? Is it gold rings and diamond necklaces? Are we privileged if we jet about the world in a private jet? Or, is that part of the fortune we seek?
Who doesn't want success? Who doesn't feel fortunate, from time to time? Who doesn't understand privilege?
Most of us. That's who.
I remember as a child feeling lost and frightened, because I was alone.
I remember as a young girl, feeling lost and frightened, because I didn't fit in.
I remember as a young woman, feeling lost and frightened, because I was tired of being alone, of trying so hard to fit in, and of failing, on a daily basis.
And yet, to the world around me, I was a lucky child - with a roof over my head and an adequate diet. I was a lucky young girl with friends and a big family. I was a lucky young woman with a job, friends, a college education.
I was privileged. Fortune, one might say, had shined on me. My success was there for the asking.
Everyone wants success, though we all describe it differently. In our youth, success is living a privileged life in the mansion on the hill, with servants and plush carpeting and a big kitchen with a big refrigerator that never runs out of food or drink. In our senior years, we think differently of success. We think of health and family and we appreciate a smaller home, with warmth and love and laughter, and perhaps the refrigerator runs out of milk or cheese now and then, it doesn't matter. In our old age, we care little about missing a meal here and there. Our success is in the people we know and the ability to enjoy their company. Suddenly, privilege is just that - an ability to enjoy the necessities of life - and to understand what they are.
And I am not the first nor will I be the last to write about this. It was all brought home to me, just recently. When, one morning, after my shower, I noticed that time was catching up with me. Time, you understand, cares little for fortune or privilege. Time marches on, to its own beat, and cares little for the doings of a world of humans, whether they are fortunate, or not so fortunate.
I gave a sigh, looking at myself in the mirror, that say. I whispered to myself, "I was never going to grow old," as I remembered a lunch with my mother and a friend of hers, more than 20 years ago. We were talking and laughing and enjoying ourselves over burgers and fries and somehow the topic of aging came up. My mother and her friend chuckled over their poor knees and their ever graying hair, and they nudged me saying, "You'll understand someday."
"No," I said, in complete and utter seriousness, "I won't understand."
"Why not?" Nancy, my mom's friend, asked.
"Because I'm never going to grow old," I said. And, I meant it. I meant that I was going to take better care of myself, eat right, exercise, not smoke, all the things we knew were valuable to good health, back then. I was going to 'take care of myself' and of course it meant I would never grow old.
My mother and Nancy laughed - rather louder than I thought they should, but it didn't matter. I shrugged off their frivolity. Grow old? Not me.
I am old now. Well, not so old. I'm younger at this age than my mother was at this age. But, as I get out and about and make new friends here and there, I realize that I have grown old. By most standards. I clean up okay, as they say, but I am tired now, when I wasn't tired before. I am a bit slower now, than I ever was before. And, the gray in my hair is...more noticeable. A few months ago, I gave up coloring it and now, the silver color is shining through, announcing my generation far more effectively than anything else.
This is fortune and success and privilege are interesting to me. My perspective is completely different and I wish younger folk were more taken with it. I wish the ideas of fortune and success and privilege were topics of conversation in more seriousness, rather than passing thoughts.
Tom, my husband, is also deeply interested in these topics. He is also interested in never growing old. He is healthy, robust, even. He genuinely feels we can carry our health - both emotional and physical - throughout more than 100 years, so he is starting to teach people how to live a 100+ Year Life. You should check it out.
For me, I believe Fortune and success and privilege all walk the same path, hand in hand. We each of us view these three beings differently, depending on both our status in the society we live in, and on our belief in human nature (or not). Let's not muddy the waters further with religion - I leave you to your beliefs and would ask that you leave me to mine. In the meantime, my advice to all is to embrace your fortune (the life you are living right now), build your own success by being passionate about something, and live a life of privilege - a life that understands both fortune and success - as they bring comfort to you in your old age.