I’m a Britney Spears fan ever since high-school and “…Baby One More Time”. After I graduated and became a working girl, I’d often watch her interviews to relax after work.
Britney would talk to Jay Leno or Oprah or some other famous host, and pretty much every interview she’s done – from 1999 to 2013 – would have something of this fashion:
Host: “You’ve achieved quite a lot for someone so young!”
Britney: “Thank you, you’re very kind.”
Host: “People tend to only see the glamorous side of your life – private jets and TV appearances and fancy clothes, – but is that all there is to it?”
Britney: “Well, there is that side of it and I’m very thankful that I’m able to enjoy it. But there’s a lot of hard work, too. Like, a lot. We’ll do a video shoot and instead of wrapping up at 10 pm, we’ll stay until like 2 or 3 am, or sometimes I’ll work 10 straight hours without even a bathroom break…”
Host: “But at least you get paid very well – I mean, other people work as hard as you but they get seven bucks an hour.”
Britney: “Yeah, I know.”
Host: “You’re lucky, Britney, you know that, right?”
Britney: “Yes, I’m very lucky, I know.”
What amazed me was that Britney agreed with them – every single interview. She says “Yes, I’m lucky.” She also puts an emphasys on very – “very lucky”. That means she really believes it (and had excellent training by her PR people.)
Watching those Britney interviews, I was thinking – God, if I was in her place, I’d hit the table with my fist and say NO, I’m NOT lucky, I’ve worked my ASS OFF for this! How can they just brush off her accomplishments by branding them “lucky”?
See, if you had talked to me a year ago, I would have told you I don’t believe in luck.
Back then, I had these two co-workers, Nina and Jane. I came to work one morning and saw Nina arranging chocolate-chip cookies, cake and OJ on a table.
“Nina just sold a property,” Jane informed me. She helped herself to a cookie. “How much did you make off it, Nina?”
“Well, I’m no millionaire yet, but it was a nice windfall” – Nina said. “We’ll use the money to repair some leaks in our budget. Money’s never enough, you know.”
“Oh don’t play humble, Nina” – Jane frowned. “Your budget’s fine. You got assigned to two extra projects and you also got promoted last year… You’re just so lucky.”
“Lucky?!” Nina was offended. “I worked hard for this!”
“Oh come on! It’s not just about hard work and you know it! I work just as hard, but no one gave me a promotion and two extra projects!”
Alright, that was a meanie, but was it possible there was some truth in it? Let’s get past Nina and Jane and take a look at the company as a whole. Or any company. The people who get promoted aren’t always the ones who deserve it. And if my recent short, but troublesome job-hunt has taught me anything, it’s that you don’t always get what you think you deserve.
Soon after college, I got myself a pretty good job – I had an air-conditioned office with free coffee and never worked more than 40 hours a week. At the same time, some of my college mates stocked shelves in the supermarket or served coffee to spoiled schoolkids. I was much better off compared to them, but I didn’t see myself as lucky. I saw myself as better: better at English, better at resume writing, and better at interviewing. I was priviledged to have a good job only because I had worked hard for it. All those hours I spent alone in my dorm with a textbook finally paid off. I totally deserved it!
Or so I thought back then.
See, in the years that followed – almost a decade now – I developed a new theory. Yes, I had worked hard at school, but I was lucky that my parents encouraged my learning. Dad taught me how to write when I was 5, and mom held my hand as I struggled to write a decent “M”. They spent a lot of time asking about my day at school, asking about my homework assignments, encouraging me, and helping me draw a triangle.
In contrast, there was this boy on our street whose mom had died of cancer, and his dad was always drunk (and creepy). They lived with the boy’s grandparents so there were three adults and one kid in the household, yet he often got by on sandwiches and mustard – because no one cared enough to make him a cooked meal. Let alone pay attention to how he was doing at school.
Yes, I did get into a good college, but I was lucky that I could afford to spend time preparing for the admission exam. I didn’t have a sibling to babysit. I didn’t have to do farming to help my family put food on the table. I didn’t suffer through a bitter divorce or a drinking parent.
In contrast, one of my classmates had a hard time at school because her parents got divorced when she was 10. Both of them re-married and both had another kid. Neither her mom nor her dad paid much attention to her or her grades. I thought she’d start waitressing right out of high-school, marry some random guy with a tattoo, and then divorce him before their kids reach three.
To my pleasant surprise, it turned out she wanted to go to college and get a diploma. She thought her only ticket to a better life was a college degree and this had turned into a fixation to her. (If obsession could ever be a good thing, I think this is it.) Her parents couldn’t care less about her education and didn’t help her at all. She told me once how she got by on two burgers a day and how she only had one pair of jeans throughout her four college years.
When she got her degree, she was working at a low-paying job at the Statistics beaurau. Then when a local bank advertised a job-opening, she applied and got herself this great, well-paid job.
Air-conditioning and all.
* * *
Since I started working seven years ago, I’ve always been with good employers. I’ve always had regular working hours, sick days, and full benefits. I thought this was something I had achieved throught my hard work and that it was what I deserved.
In retrospect though, I see that LUCK was actually a big factor. Yes, I did all the preparation I could, but I also had the opportunity to apply my preparation.
Now that I have this really great job, every day I feel happy and grateful that this happened to me. I no longer think I’m entitled to it. The coin could have easily flipped NO instead of YES, because that’s just how life works.
Britney’s coin flipped on SUPERSTARDOM; but what if miss Spears had, in one of the many little crossroads we get in life, what if she had taken just one wrong turn? After all, I’m sure Britney wasn’t the only cute southern girl in Louisiana who could also sing. And Lynn Spears sure wasn’t the only supportive mom who thought her child was talented.
Maybe, if miss Spears’ luck cheated on her just a couple of times, you wouldn’t see her name on a star at Holliwood lane – but on a nametag pinned to her uniform as she works the dayshift for Kentwood’s KFC.
We can never know for sure what would have been. That’s exactly why Britney Spears says “Yeah, I know, I’m very lucky.”
And that goes for me, too.