Monday, December 30, 2013

Being happy for others

Let's face it: we live in a competitive and superlative society, full of titles like "best," "biggest," "prettiest," "largest," "thinnest," "smartest," and so many more that it's actually kind of unbelievable how long it would take to list them all.

Add the concept of trying to come out on top to a world of ABCDFs in school, standardized tests, high unemployment, few jobs, siblings, scholarships, and parental/peer/sociatal pressure, and you've got a world of people perfectly bred to reach for their own ambitions without a thought to others' success--people who spend so much time tunnel-visioning their way through their own lives that they can actually grow to resent anything positive going on in the lives of those around them.

I'll admit that this is something I've struggled with throughout my upbringing. It's really hard to find your niche when you're a middle child, and you feel like you have to fight for your position among your siblings and peers. Yes, it seems unbelievable to some that birth order can have that strong of an effect on your psyche, but I'm here to tell you that it can...and very often does. I hesitate to say it, but unless you're a middle child, it's likely hard for you to empathize enough to fully grasp how middle-child-ness affects all aspects of childhood to the extent that it begins to shape your self. (But that's another story, and it's not one I harbor any resentment towards, in case your mind has gone there.)

So, on to my point. It took me up until the ripe old age of about 23 to begin to see the light. When I was pregnant, someone who has had fertility issues made a really snotty comment to me that was laced with jealousy and resentment and even undertones of "I don't feel you deserve to be a mother because you are unmarried, and your pregnancy was unplanned--HOW DARE YOU GET PREGNANT AND GET TO BE A MOM WHEN I'M STRUGGLING TO DO SO?" Even though being a mom has been a life-long goal for me and has made me the happiest person alive...and even though I'm a damn good mother because I love the living snot out of my child. (And, also, even though that person is now a parent.) No, I never called this person out; that's not in my character. But, I haven't said much else to them since that incident because I didn't appreciate having my success attacked.

I learned something, though. Something deep and profound and meaningful that has taken me to very happy places since it dawned on me. It doesn't matter who is better or smarter or faster or more successful. It doesn't matter who accomplished one of your goals before you got around to doing it. It doesn't matter whose kid learned something first. It doesn't matter which of your young-professional friends got a higher starting salary or a better job title. What matters is this: we're all on this journey of life together. We all have struggles. We all have hurdles, hoops to jump through, life transitions to maneuver, and, I'll say it, failures.

It matters how you treat other people's success. It matters how you talk to people. Because one day, all those people you supported and congratulated and were truly happy for...will do and be the same for you. They will make you feel validated, uplifted, and, beyond all, loved. And here's the kicker: those types of people--the ones who support all the positive in your life--will also be there for you when you hit rock bottom, without question or judgment. I don't know about you, but that's the type of person I want to both be and have in my life!