not fair

life is not fair: big fish in small bowl, little fish in big bowl

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane lately where this blog is concerned. I love when I re-read a post from years back and have forgotten that I’d even written it, allowing me to read it in a whole new light. I love it even more when I laugh or cringe at all the right parts, wondering what’s going to happen in the story (which is saying something, seeing that I’ve lived all of these stories).

One of my earliest posts, which subsequently developed into three early and integral parts of my book, The Best Advice So Far, came from Carlotta, my friend (and my dear friends’ mom) who passed away many years ago. She left three key pieces of advice that have been mainstays in my own life, and which I’ve passed along countless times since. This post will mean all the more if you take a moment to read that earlier post first (it was one of my shorter posts), because understanding who Carlotta was will add even more depth to the wisdom she passed on.

Here is one of Carlotta’s pieces of advice, as she penned it:

Life is never fair. If you expect it to be, you'll always be unhappy.

And this is how the advice appears in The Best Advice So Far:

The Best Advice So Far: The sooner you realize that life is not fair, the happier you will be.

However it’s phrased, the point is the same. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of The Best Advice So Far:

Those who expect life to be fair behave as though some cosmic scale is being balanced on behalf of each person. For every difficult thing, they are owed an equally easy thing. For every pain suffered, they have somehow earned the right to expect a comparable pleasure. As the hard knocks stack up, resentment and impatience mount, begrudging the Universe for being so lax in evening the odds in their favor.And so they sit, unwilling to budge from crumbling docks, demanding that their ship come in.

In short, this belief that life is supposed to be fair immobilizes us. It leads to that victim mentality that I mentioned in the first chapter on Choice. The fact is, life is in large part what we make it. Bad things happen. Happy people have merely learned to accept the bad parts as a given, to shrug them off quickly, and to capitalize on the many good things around them.


I have seen people overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, and go on to thrive. And I have seen those with plenty of potential wither away in the briar patch of bitterness. In essence, it all comes back to choice. Life will be perceived as good or bad based on the choices we make at each turn, not on some unseen and unpredictable system of pluses and minuses. In short, if I want my life to be different from what it is, I’m the only one responsible for bringing about that change.

This is all true, and it’s certainly worth thinking about and considering what changes you may want to make accordingly in your own life.

However, today, I want to take a different tack on the same advice. You see, while it’s true that life is not fair, this isn’t always played out in setbacks or challenges or other generally crummy circumstances. Sometimes, life is unfair in the most wonderful of ways.

It’s true that life is not fair. But sometimes, life is unfair in the most wonderful of ways.

I told you in my last post that I was recently informed I’ll need to move from my new place, where I’ve only been for a year and which is the first place I’ve truly felt was “home” in 20 years. It has the perfect amount of space, and the rent for this two-bedroom beauty has only been $800/month. I was invited to stay forever at that rate. But the landlords are now needing to sell the house, and so I need to move.

This might seem like life is not fair. I thought things would be one way, and they changed. It’s going to mean finding a new place, likely for much higher rent, along with all of the packing and disruption that moving brings – and at a time when there is big change in a number of other areas of my life.

Whether we see life as fair or unfair is largely a matter of perspective and focus.

Whether we see life as fair or unfair is largely a matter of perspective and focus.

Was it fair that I was allowed to live in a beautiful two-bedroom place for a whole year at $800/month, when it easily could have drawn $1200/month? Was it fair that the landlords, whose son I mentored years ago and who love me to death, cut my rent by $400/month?  Was it fair that they gave me the keys six weeks early and told me I could start moving things over as I pleased, which allowed me to just put a box or two in my car every time I went out, bring it over, and set it up as I went, leaving my entire place ready to go about life the day the final move came? Was it fair that I was called upon to do a medical drawing right before the move, and that for 45 minutes of work, I received a check for about $4,000 that allowed me to not only buy all new furniture, but to pre-pay $200 a month for the entire year, thereby lowering my rent to just $600/month?

All of this was extremely unfair – a fact that worked overwhelmingly in my favor.

I have not had working air conditioning in any car of mine for more than seven years. On 98-degree days, it can be tempting to see it as pretty unfair. I just don’t have the money to justify fixing “extras” like this. So I roll the windows down (the ones that work) to at least circulate the oppressive heat somewhat. I’ve driven to weddings in shorts and a tank top, then scrambled into a bathroom when I arrived to slake the sweat off with paper towels and don my dress clothes.  I’m a nice guy. I try to help others. Why can’t I have air conditioning like everyone else?

But is it fair that I drove my last car to 310,000 miles, due to the extreme generosity of a kid I used to mentor who grew up to be a mechanic and wanted to take care of me?  Is it fair that the car was still in such good condition that I was able to sell it for $300?  Was it fair that my next car was given to me absolutely free as a birthday gift?  Is it fair that, due to such kindnesses, I have not had a car payment in over seven years? Is it fair that my mechanic friend just fixed the air conditioning in my car, which should have cost many hundreds of dollars, just so that I can drive in comfort to New Hampshire this weekend to be by his side as the best man at his wedding?

It’s absolutely and shamelessly unfair. And I’m awfully glad it is.

It’s not fair that I’ve been to Paris twice now, as the guest of the very best people in the world.

It’s not fair that I’m getting a free three-week vacation worth thousands of dollars at a luxury resort home, car included, around my birthday in a couple of weeks – out of sheer generosity and appreciation from friends who care about me.

It’s not fair when I get treated to an afternoon movie, just because someone “thinks I’m pretty swell.”

It’s not fair that my mom and her husband continue to graciously pay for my phone plan as an ongoing gift and show of support for what I do, even though I’m not a kid anymore (by a long shot!).

It’s not fair when friends and supports take their own good time and energy to tell others about my blog or rave about my book or buy copies for their friends or share my posts online.

It’s not fair that I have more stellar, high-quality people in my life than anyone else I can think of.

Today, rather than simply accepting that life isn’t fair, find reasons to celebrate it!

How many wonderfully unfair things can you think of in your own life? Feel free to share one or two (or more!) in the Comments section below.  Speaking good things makes a difference.


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The Best Advice So Far is about choice. Filled with wit, humor and poignantly real stories, The Best Advice So Far shares collective wisdom through a new lens, as well as practical application for living like it matters (because it does).


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About Erik

I'm an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer and lover of life. From the Boston area. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

23 responses to “not fair

  • sparkle | The Best Advice So Far

    […] I’ve had many difficult and disappointing things crop up of this past year, even more so in the last few months. But not a one of them has the power to rob me of this sparkle gleaming in my […]


  • purpleslobinrecovery

    briar patch of bitterness- how appropo!
    Glad I found you!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Sue Vincent

    Well, considering what you have just been reading, you may guess that I find life wonderfully unfair pretty much every day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Yes, I had an inkling. ;D

      And for those that want to know what exactly that was that I’d just been reading (and you should read it, because it’s not only a hugely inspirational story but a great alternative to whatever else you were going to throw $10 or $15 away on this weekend), please read RIGHT HERE AND NOW about Sue’s son Nick, his brain injury caused by senseless violence, his determination (as well as his mum’s and family’s) — and his current project to turn a nightmare into a dream for others. I just donated – and if I can, so can YOU.

      You want to make a real difference in the world? Now’s your chance. DO IT.

      Liked by 1 person

  • gina amos

    I love reading your blogs Erik, they pull me up and make me take stock of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Gina, I’ve been noticing you around the blogosphere (we seem to like the same haunts). Always thoughtful, classy and succinct. And while we’re sharing responses, reading your response just pulled me up (and might have also brought a sting to my eyes, but don’t tell anyone). Really glad your reading, finding value and coming back so often. Looking forward to seeing more of you around “our haunts.”


  • sonshinegreene

    Reblogged this on Riley Amos Westbook and commented:
    I just enjoyed reading this, and thought I’d share with everyone else. #LifeIsNotFair

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Riley. Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you and those you shared it with found/find some real take-aways. Finding silver linings is an art form we can each perfect with consistent practice.

      Liked by 1 person

  • D. Wallace Peach

    Good Morning! I like your flip side of “not fair.” We tend to think of “not fair” as negative and forget that we’re the recipients of unfairness is many positive ways.

    This reminds me of the whole impossibility of “fairness” anyway – we’re all different people with different lives. Like so much in your wonderful book, the key lies in attitude, reflection, and an open perspective. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • Jed Jurchenko

    That picture of the two goldfish is awesome and I love this post! You’re so right, life isn’t fair and it’s much more fun when we don’t expect it to be. Sometimes life is hard–and this is normal. But it can also be incredibly fun and funny too.

    This is the first time I’ve heard someone write in detail about all of the good ways that life is unfair. It’s funny how when something bad happens it’s so easy to scream, “unfair.” But when good things happen, we accept them as normal. You are so right, if we are going to dwell on the unfair moments, it’s so much better to hone in on all of the instances that life was unfair in our favor 🙂

    Right now, I’m working more jobs that I’d like, and this is keeping me busier than I want to be–it’s unfair. However, I’ve also got three incredible daughters, and an amazing wife. I did nothing to deserve these blessings either. My life is unfair… and over all, it leans toward being unfair in some pretty awesome ways. Thanks for this excellent reminder!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik

      It’s encouraging to consider being “the first” to introduce a topic to someone’s awareness in a certain way, so thanks for that feedback, Jed. It all does come down to focus, doesn’t it?

      I ran into an old neighbor working the check-out line at the grocery store. I asked him how he was doing, and he replied with the perennial standby, “Can’t complain. No one would listen if I did.” I did my usual thing and countered in a light-hearted manner, “Oh, you most certainly CAN complain; and there is always someone who will be happy to listen.” And that’s the truth. A big part of staying focused on the “great unfair” parts of life is surrounding ourselves with people who do the same. Both positivity and negativity are contagious.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jed Jurchenko

        So true. It’s easy to complain and to put others down. Years ago, when I worked as a camp counselor, I remember the director warning us that we would be repeatedly insulted during the jr. high camps. He reminded us that insulting someone is easier–and sometimes feels safer–than saying “I really like hanging out with you.” To this day, I continue to agree with the director. People often complain and put others down, when they want to connect with others, but don’t know what to say.

        People most certainly can complain, and they do. It takes energy and creativity to bring out the positive in people and in others. Erik, you always get me thinking 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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