Having only recently rejoined the land of the unattached, I was referred to a super-exclusive members-only mixer series by my always in-the-know girlfriends. I happily viewed the extravagant e-vite and clicked the links to fill in my information to be considered for membership.
Flowery language has always been my forte, so I swiftly filled out the personality profiles, describing my love of the arts and food, my most enriching experiences abroad, and which classical compositions most inspired me (yes, this indeed was a real question). As most “exclusive organizations” believe you are only as good as the company you keep, I was asked to provide a bio of my two closest friends. I gushed so long on their accomplishments that I had to go back three times to hit the word limit. I was in.
That is, until the “professional accomplishments” section came up on the last page. After I’d finished waxing poetic on my friends’ extensive credentials, my two sentences looked…anemic. I took a big swig of my wine and, with a heavy sigh, clicked ‘cancel’.
I should probably backtrack with a quick confession:
I have GREAT taste in company.
While I am far from a social butterfly, my close circle includes some of the smartest, accomplished fashionable and driven women I have ever met. I am proud to say I know them, and humbled that they are my friends. We share common interests and speak the same language. So what’s the problem, you ask?
I’m also guilty of quite a bit of sister envy.
See, in America, your worth is defined by professional notches on your belt. A far cry from the Hispanic culture I was raised in where you “work to live” and conversations are centered on family, common interests and passions; the third question in every initial interaction here is “what do you do?” Mixers generally dissolve into shared stories on college hijinks, ladder-climbing horror stories and corporate commiseration (“my intern is soooo lazy!”). My friends usually chime in, and I wait for the circle to get to me, where it generally goes:
“So, where did you graduate?”
“Oh, I went to [Random Institution], I didn’t finish, though.”
“Ooohhh…[awkward pause]..well, [insert random platitude where everyone’s special]!!”
I am the professional equivalent of the “Fat Friend”.
And, like any token friend, it is my lot in life to be the “happy one’. I’m the goof, the one people call when they need a laugh or a cheer or to vent. “Girl, be happy you don’t have a house. This roof!!” “Girl, my husband is getting on my nerves again.” “Whoo, all these accounts have me stressed! I can’t do my job unless they do their job!” “Just be happy you don’t.” “Just be happy.” “Just. Be. Happy.”
It is absolutely not an issue for my friends to lean on me for support. It’s that being the token does not make room for the reverse (you ever complain about landlord issues to a person with a mortgage? Try it. It’s fun). I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes hear them go on about their business (I have two failed ventures and counting), husbands (two failed attempts at the altar and counting) or houses (you get the idea) and want to scream,
“If all you’ve done can’t make you happy I guess I’d better just fling my non-pedigreed self off a roof, huh?!?”
Listen, I am well aware my friends work till their knuckles bleed. I’ve been around for the best and the worst of times. There is no such thing as greener grass. But I’ve worked hard, too. And that’s where the disconnect occurs. Why do I have to be the happy one when I have yet to see the fruit of my labor?
Of course, the Universe always interrupts my pity-party. While researching an article on work satisfaction I came across, of all things, a Bible verse.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
I know what you’re saying-“what does this have to do with friendship”? Well, a few things. First, my happiness is not dictated by my situation. There shouldn’t be any external circumstance that increases or decreases my happiness, because Happiness is a Choice. I’d learned this hard lesson a while ago. And with this came the realization that maybe my lot in life is to be the happy one because, well..I’m Happy.
Everyone has a burden to bear, and just because someone has the life you want doesn’t mean they have the life they want. Projecting how I’d feel in my friend’s situations just isn’t fair, because I really don’t have a clue if I’d actually be better. Besides, it may not look as impressive on paper, but I have a lot going for me, and I’m sure somebody somewhere is pissed that I’d have the audacity not to be happy with it. My time will come.
While normally I’d have a snazzy closing to sum up the lesson, this one’s a work in progress. So, I’m going to leave it open. How about you? Have you ever had to take a step back from a friend, or group of friends, or social media because it was giving you a complex?