Adversity and its hierarchy

Adversity is universal. Everyone deals with difficulties (or challenges, as some people like to call it) at different stages in their lives and at one point or another, people will have to deal with them when they’re not “supposed to” (e.g. in the middle of the semester, or when there’s a groundbreaking company deal that’s going through, or during exam period, or during a really important work project). These difficulties cannot be equated for everyone because no two people deal with the loss of a loved one or anxiety the same way.

Adversity is universal, but when you’re nobody and at the bottom, you’re not supposed to let any personal issues get in the way of your productivity and your work. No boss or mentor or teacher is going to let you slack off (too much) because you need to take a moment to stabilize your emotions when deadlines are closing in. No, no, any shifting in deadlines on a very low level of the company hierarchy will cause too many problems going up the chain and too many bureaucratic barriers are in place for any second-lowest level boss to make moves in.

Adversity is universal, but when you’re on top of the chain, you’re allowed to grieve and grieve publicly. You get invited to commencement speeches and your personal accounts are published in books that hundreds of thousands of people will read. Colleagues and subordinates will step aside and make amendments to pull some strings and cover up your slack because your personal issues should be held up to the highest importance and family/personal issues should always be more important than work (as it should be). You suggest some changes in company policies pertaining to the specific issue you are facing and if you’re lucky, all the other employees in that company (who will never be taken as seriously as you and will never have a say in the company policies) will enjoy a more lenient rulebook to work by.

Adversity is universal, but there’s a hierarchy to it. The suicide attempt of a world-famous model generates more empathy than the suicide attempt of a high school student struggling to get through their high school examinations. The model is assigned counselors while the student has to catch up with all the classes they missed because they were hospitalized for several days.

To get to the top, you often have to dehumanize your very humane personal issues, set them aside, and work your way through and up. It’s the only way you can make it in life, and it’s the only way you’d get other people to take your very humane personal issues. So, in a way, you have to dehumanize your issues to have them viewed and treated as humane.

Adversity is universal, but we’re not all treated universally equal for what we each have to face.

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