As readers of this magazine know (as does my boyfriend’s uncle, who recently told me that whenever I write something I think is thoughtful, he thinks, “here she goes again!”), I tend toward pessimism in looking at the world around me. This includes the way I look at my job and career prospects. So, alright Uncle Steve, I’ll admit it: I’ve been a Negative Nancy for as long as I can remember. I often don’t have high hopes for my future or for my happiness, especially after spending a year working four jobs to try to pay my bills. I gripe. A LOT. I complain. A LOT. It’s been frustrating.
But I was recently hired for a full-time job (yay!) and now, perhaps because I don’t like change and I am thinking about the upcoming changes that will happen, I’m feeling particularly reflective. And as part of this reflective mood, I’ve realized that I spent so much time this past year complaining about and hating my life. I — who am moving steadily closer to the grave as I now look backwards at my 25th birthday — wasted a year of my life being unhappy. And then I realized that I’ve spent not a year being unhappy, but many, many years unable to recognize or to revel in those blazing moments of joy with which I have been so blessed.
Some people spend large portions (or even the entirety) of their lives being unhappy. Some of them have good reason to be. But I didn’t, or at least I didn’t in the past year. I have a religion that succors me, people who love me, and jobs that supported me. The problem was that this past year I have been relentlessly devoted to comparing myself to others and comparing my “failures” to the “successes” of my peers. And this is a miserable way to live.
You all know people like me. Maybe you are one of those people yourself. If you are, I’ve learned that there’s hope for people like us. What I needed to do, and maybe what you need to do too, was to stop my vacillating gaze from moving ceaselessly from one person to another, stop being jealous of their lives, and start being thankful for my own. Someone is always going to be richer, prettier, smarter, thinner, wittier, and better than you are (and her name is Tina Fey). And that’s OK, because you’re great, too, and your worth is not relative to the worth of others. No, you are worthy because you are you, not because that you is in contrast with anyone else.
Life is not long enough to be wasted on needless misery and comparisons that never heal but only hurt. And it may be difficult to break the habit I’ve been in for so many years, but I’m going to fight for joy, even when I don’t feel it. Because if waking up at age 24 on a day in June and realizing that you’ve wasted time being bitter and cynical is bad, I don’t want to think about what it will feel like at 74. I sure hope I don’t have to find out.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Shared Narrative: An Interview with Melanie Penn and Kelly Jones
♦ Not Cool, CUNY and David Petraeus
♦ Let’s Hear It for the Food Trucks!
♦ Recently-Discovered Mayan Civilization Teaches Us Something About Ethics
♦ Julia Dale: A Young Maya Rudolph?
♦ In What World is This a “Plus-Sized” Woman?