college, Essay

IN MY LANE

I’ve been avoiding going on Snapchat. And when I do go on, I avoid the Stories of my friends and peers, preferring to stick to innocuous celebrities and “influencers.” I’m avoiding Snapchat because I’m jealous, and if I see one more “I’m employed” snap, I might crack my iPhone over my knee and use the shard to slit a jugular.

So staying off Snapchat is a way to protect me from me, and more specifically, my jealousy. It’s hard not to be jealous around this time. People are broadcasting their successes on social media—suddenly we’ve turned into our parents and narrate every goings-on digitally: “Insert Name is so pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a job at Such&Such! Message me if you’re also moving to (this place)!”—and those that aren’t are silently stewing or, in my case, broadcasting their feelings on their blog.

But jealousy is a complex emotion—particularly right now—because it’s hardly ever just jealousy. It’s jealousy mixed with pride for your friends and their accomplishments, soured by a seething monster named “Why Not Me” and reddened by anger at yourself for not just being blindly and simply happy. So you’re jealous and happy and resentful and self-admonishing and stressed and depressed and can’t stop eating French fries.

I realized I was becoming jealous but I wasn’t able to really verbalize why. Why was I gritting my teeth so hard bone shards were popping out of my mouth? Why were there half-moon crescents on my palms from my nails? For me, the most lingering of the emotions was shame—embarrassment that I have not gotten a job but the more pressing shame of being so jealous. No one wants to believe that they can get jealous, particularly over others’ success, but I think—at least for me, and I’m hoping others—naming it and saying it out loud can help process through it.

A friend of mine—someone who has made regular appearances on this blog, Nina—said something that’s stuck with me since I vented about it Saturday night.

“Do you want to switch places with them?” she asked as I took a sharp staccato breath after ranting until all air had been squeezed from my lungs. “Do you want their lives?”

I thought about it for a second. Everyone I was jealous of…I wasn’t particularly jealous of what they had achieved, only that they had achieved something. And the accomplishments I’ve made seemed paltry and invisible in the face of a tactile job offer, a definite plan.

“No,” I admitted. “I don’t want their lives.”

“So,” she shrugged and leaned back in her chair, “if you don’t want their lives, wouldn’t want to switch, then you don’t need to be jealous.” And just like that, the stoppered green bottle in my chest loosened and exhaled a little bit. It didn’t empty completely, but I felt some pressure alleviated.

I’m happy for them and in the same breath I’m anxious for myself. It’s not weird or bad or good—it just is. And if I can separate my own emotions and name them and recognize them, I can begin the process of staying in my lane. There is not a finite amount of success, especially not across industries. One person succeeding in this moment does not mean that my moment has spluttered out on the floor. Stay in your lane, and focus on your end-point.

On Friday, I found out that I’m graduating magna cum laude for my journalism degree and cum laude for my English (English, wtf, I’ve been speaking you forever). In the moment, I diminished it because I thought, “Hey, that didn’t get me any jobs, so what does it even matter?” But after telling a few people and having them be excited, I reconsidered. If you know me in real life, I’m constantly cutting emotion with humor and I have a chronic disability to receive a compliment.

But these Latin honors are more than just Latin honors. During college I started to grow (started—haven’t finished yet). I came to terms with my own depression and anxiety and went on medication. I went to London and interned. I started my blog, this very weird, wonderful blog, as a method for self-expression and honing of my own voice. I got two degrees in four years. I had an on-campus job and worked as a fashion writer and city editor and a radio DJ and a copywriter and blogger and did plays and organized events and gave tours. I started going to the gym and coming to terms with my own body issues. I made friends. I lost friends. I made new ones. I came into my queerness. I traveled to six countries and countless cities. I wrote pages and pages of articles, blogs, essays. Hundreds of Instagrams, thousands of Tweets. Walks in chilly night air and in hot summer heat. I was sad, I was happy.

These might seem small or big or extreme or obvious—but that’s kind of the point, no? I’ve had millions of experiences, kaleidoscopic and varied and sharp. And I’m here. I fought the good fight. We all did. I cried and laughed my way to the top (some moments had more of one or the other).

And the point is that these things shouldn’t be erased because I don’t have a job lined up right away after graduation. In fact, I refuse to them be erased. I became a more full and depthful and wide and colorful person. Every moment, good or bad or heartbreaking or joyful—these things don’t lose their meaning because I don’t know where my foot will land next.

I’m looking forward to the future, but this past has been great. Horribly, wonderfully, weirdly great.

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