“So excited that I get to spend the rest of my life with my best friend!”
“I’m excited to announce that…”
Before this gets deemed unequivocally cynical, I don’t want to seem bitter. Or jealous. Or angry. Good for those people. For all those people that have a lot to announce on social media. Honestly, I’ve been one of those people before too so it would be hypocritical for me to sit here and write my bitter blog posts about the disdain I feel towards social media announcers. It really hasn’t even been very long that those announcements started to feel more like jeering taunts directed right at me than the simple, excited status updates that they are. Let me back up…
Hi, I’m Brenda, I’m 23 years old, and I still live at home.
I hate seeing that written out in front of me. I hate seeing my age. I hate the implications that go along with that confession. Mostly, I hate that I still see it as this big confession at all, when logically I know it’s really inconsequential.
But in this world where we construct our posts for optimal likes and send our photos through multiple layers of editing (guilty as charged on both), it’s impossible for me not to wish I had more to contribute. Every time someone else gets engaged, or lands the impossibly cool media job that I dream about, or gets a new car (with their cushy salary from the impossibly cool media job that I dream about), I’m reminded that with every day that passes I’m more single than I’ve ever been, I’m living off of an assistantship stipend (which is so alarmingly low that I’m living in the same house that my prom dresses are collecting dust in), and that my poor 2008 Sportage has seen better days.
Yes, this sounds like jealousy, like I’m so busy examining someone else’s green grass that my poor yard is withering from a lack of watering.
I’ve thought about this. I’ve scolded myself for being jealous of everyone and anyone on my timelines when I have some accomplishments under my belt too. But with every diamond ring that I scroll past, I feel this weight that pushes me down lower and harder. It’s not jealousy. It’s disappointment. I’m so disappointed.
You see, I’m your quintessential Type A planner.
I had it all planned when I was a kid, and when I graduated high school it seemed that everything was getting checked off the list without any hiccups. I had the doting boyfriend, the honors stole on my graduation gown, and the acceptance letter to a top-tier university. Check, check, check.
And then, life was life and things didn’t go according to my adolescent plan.
I broke up with the boyfriend, changed my majors, and took a gap year after college. I didn’t land the dream job before college graduation. I haven’t dated since the rebound I mistakenly ran to after my big breakup (scarred for years over a guy who had a beard that resembled a chinstrap… WHY, BRENDA?!).
As a very mature adult of 23 (I kid), I understand now that these plans were bound to change. That’s just what life is, and plans change for everyone, not just me. But the disappointment comes into play when I see the other people on my timelines that are getting to live out the plans I carefully crafted for myself. It hurts seeing people live all of the dreams that I had, and actually still do have. This unsettled feeling came to a head this February when I was living in Peru. I did spend a lot of time with family, but I was living alone and boy, I. was. alone. I remember sitting at a cafe one morning, having an incredible breakfast (featured as this post’s image- I had to share this beautiful breakfast somewhere), and having no one to share it with. It suddenly hit me: wow, I never thought my life would be here.
And that was disappointing.
It’s disappointing looking at engagement pictures while I sit in the room where I cried all my high school tears. It’s disappointing setting the table to eat dinner with my mom and dad as if I’m still 12 (not that I don’t love my parents and feel absolutely grateful that they even let me move back home, but it’s a little demoralizing at 23). It’s disappointing to be back where I made all of those big plans and to see that they didn’t pan out like I expected.
So no, I’m not jealous or bitter towards those happy people on Facebook with their happy announcements. I’m just disappointed that I haven’t had any happy announcements of my own to share for so long now. It makes me question every decision I make, and it makes me feel inadequate.
All because of Facebook.
I can’t say that with this post I’m having some sort of revelation and that I’m cured of this disappointment. But I’ve finally had to acknowledge these feelings when I realized that I was dreading Thanksgiving. I was so anxious for all of the “So, are you dating anyone?” and “So, when are you moving to Atlanta?” variations that would come from relatives. I thought about having to stack up next to my brother, who’s only 19 but has quite a few more talking points to refer back to than I’ve ever had.
“Yes, hi, I’m living at home as an adult and I’m so single that my mom wants to set me up with her coworkers.”
Now that’s a talking point, isn’t it?
But in the days that have followed since a surprisingly painless Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about my path and how it isn’t what I wanted and why that bothers me so much. I think it bothers me because I feel like my worth is diminished by not checking those things off my list. I feel like I’m not as valuable as a human being because my life has taken a different path from many of my high school and college friends. I feel like my peers look at me with pity and older people look at me with impatience as they all wonder if I’ll ever accomplish those typical life goals.
And then I just feel frustrated because none of these things even matter. Those typical life goals are arbitrary, and they carry no more worth than the fact that I’m working towards a Master’s degree or that I made some really good bread last week.
I’m unsure of how to get through this vast sea of disappointment that I’m currently drowning in, but I’m starting to see that the sea itself is capricious. Maybe it feels like a sea but it’s really just a pond. I’m so preoccupied with these standards that I feel like I’m not meeting, but maybe when people ask me about my life, they’re not holding up an imaginary measuring stick, they’re just asking.
This is a process, and I don’t expect the weight and pressure I feel to magically disappear. But maybe it’s time to start looking at this sea of disappointment that I find myself trying to navigate as the pond that it is. Or maybe one day I’ll be able to navigate through a sea of satisfaction in my own accomplishments instead.