Earlier tonight, I found a blog post an old friend wrote. We’ll call her Rose. I called Rose my best friend and even lived with her for a little over six months. When we stopped being friends, we stopped being friends hard and loud. I’m still trying to recover my sense of vulnerability in my current relationships (and hell, in my life in general) largely because things ended so painfully with her.
Every now and then, I creep on her Facebook because 1) I’m a creep and 2) I want to make sure everything is okay. My intentions are good (for the most part; I really don’t want her to be in any danger and I know that she isn’t the most stable person, but also I want her to be leading the life she wants to be leading, whatever that may look like).
So earlier, I took a look at her blog. She wrote this:
I’m not a blogger. I only started this because a friend at the time thought it would be “cool”. Now he and I don’t even talk anymore and what’s really sad is that his life has turned out to be much better than mine.
I’ve gotten over the fact that people write about me on the internet, but what has gotten me thinking about this little snippet (and the rest of the blog post, where she talks about how sad she is and complains about her life, in a lot of the same vein as she did when we were in high school) was the fact that my “success in life” was always a main point of contention between us.
Basically, she was upset about the certain “privileges” I had over her being that she and her family were wealthier than mine, and generally more well-off than my family. At the point that I moved in with Rose and her family, it was because my mom had gotten so sick that we couldn’t afford to pay rent on a place of our own and my mom had no choice but to move in with a friend in a suburb across the city from my high school. Seeing that it was my senior year of high school, I didn’t want to relocate to somewhere brand new. Rose lived in the district and was my rock through a really difficult summer that included a lot of screaming matches and a sense that my mom didn’t love me (something Rose often agreed with and helped perpetuate at times; this was by no means the healthiest relationship I’ve had in my life, trust me).
This hardship (which, might I add, pushed me into a very existential and dark place that made any “privilege” that gave me over her not worth it at all) afforded me better financial aid prospects and a better situation in applying for scholarships.
This made her upset, like I imagine a lot of people in her situation would be. We all lived (and continue to live) through a recession that has taken anyone as their prisoner. For a lot of upper middle class Americans (which is where her family falls in the income bracket), paying for college education has been a burden that isn’t easy to shoulder. I get that.
But for a lot of our friendship in that last year, Rose made me feel terrible about all the “handouts” I got, all of the special perks that came with a parent who was disabled and living with what would end up being a terminal disease. We had countless screaming matches where she would insist that it was people like me that made it harder for her to get financial aid (despite the fact that she was planning on going to Tulane, a school that is stratospheres away from the art school I go to—and more than double the cost). She also didn’t take into account the hard work I put into my studies, my scholarship search and my life. If anything, during my senior year of high school, I worked much harder than her in trying to lay down a solid foundation for my future because I knew that I couldn’t expect to get anything.
Anyway, so fast forward two years, when we are no longer friends. I know very little about Rose’s current life, and what I do know comes secondhand from a mutual best friend we still share. And I’m sure the same goes for her and her knowledge of my life. What sparked all of this was the fact that still she puts a certain level of blame on my “success.” My first instinct (like so many things) was to feel guilty. But then I stopped myself because I remembered something very crucial about my life.
I am incredibly proud of my accomplishments.
In the past two years, I have done many things that most people don’t do in ten, all with crazy circumstances coming against me. Hell, in the past five years, I’ve done a lot of things with crazy circumstances coming against me. I’ve moved across the country, moved into two apartments on my own, become a tutor in my department’s competitive tutoring program, and now I have started as an Orientation Leader at Columbia, another crazy competitive program where I am literally one of the first student leaders new students will interact with. All with dealing with my mother’s death, a bunch of anxiety and depression, ridiculous roommate and friend drama and a million other things I put myself through everyday. I have been incredibly lucky and blessed to have been able to do what I’ve done and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve always been ambitious but never in my wildest dreams would I have expected that I have taken the steps I have to secure a solid future for myself so early in my college career. And I’ve had fun doing it.
So Rose’s blog post would have fazed me before, but tonight, I realized that I should not feel bad about what I’ve accomplished. It’s taken hard work, a lot of sweat and tears and anxious glances at my email; I’ve gone through a lot to be where I am professionally and emotionally. And of course, I have a long way to go. There are things I still don’t like about myself, a lot of things I want to accomplish. And there are days that I hate my life, myself and everyone around me because I am young and irrational most of the time.
Overall, I’ve wasted too much time feeling bad about myself and my “privilege.” I maintain completely that your privilege is not something you can change easily and it’s certainly not something you should be blamed for. What you should be blamed for is using your privilege to hurt others, to make them feel bad about what they have in life. That’s not what life is about. We are all trying to make something of ourselves and bringing each other or ourselves down about things out of our control will not solve anything and is not beneficial to anyone.
Of course there are a million of other things I could say about privilege and recognizing where you have it (which I can do now, but won’t). I guess what I’m trying to say is that tonight I realized, once again, the importance of counting my thankfuls (like Sarah, so often says). And more to that, allowing myself to count among those that I am no longer in a toxic friendship, that I let positive, rather than negative, energy rule my life (for the most part). For letting myself breathe. And most importantly, I remembered the importance of patting myself on the back and giving myself gold stars when I need them. Because I am alone in making sure that I live the life I want to live and if I make myself feel bad about those choices, I will get nowhere.