It’s hard to be happy for your friends when YOU FEEL LIKE A FAILURE
By Florence Lacey
We don’t share feelings of jealousy enough, perhaps out of fear it will make us seem resentful and self-absorbed. But Florence explains how recognising and talking about jealousy can help us overcome post-uni anxiety.
The post-graduation “lost year” implies a specific period of fog. For many it comes as a much-needed break after the prescriptive order of school and university. For some, it is not lost at all; they fall seamlessly into grad jobs or somehow scrape together enough money to go travelling to far-flung places. But for many of us, the uncertainty of the “lost year” can stretch beyond twelve months, as those around us seem start boarding a bus to their dream careers which has no seats remaining.
When I started observing friends moving on and getting their lives together, while I felt stuck and directionless, it was hard to avoid comparisons. As the months have passed, the success gap only seems to grow wider, with friends gaining more experience in their chosen fields.
You start to wonder why you can’t seem to get your foot in the door, any door. That's when fear and jealousy start to worm their way in.
A year-and-a-half ago I threw my mortarboard into the air, beaming towards the future with a shiny, hard-earned and expensive degree. I didn’t take a gap year, as I had always known that I wanted to travel before deciding on my next step. When I returned from my trip at the end of last summer, it dawned on me that while I’d been away, others were getting their heads down and making progress.
Although I am now employed in two part-time jobs, I haven’t got closer to working out what I want to do.
The time and space I initially craved after uni has stretched beyond my anticipation. I have applied for a handful of internships and entry-level positions, but I will admit that my approach has lacked the gusto and determination I see in others.
For a time, I would meet up with similarly unemployed friends, laptops in tow, to “work” in cafes. This “work” was defined by half-heartedly scrolling through job pages, searching synonyms of motivated/communicative/organised for a never-finished CV, and eventually laying our heads on our keyboards and admitting defeat in the guise of a bottle of Sainsbury’s House White. Cue the descent into a drunken fug of self-loathing, wondering if we were terminally unemployable.
Gradually, many of these friends would reveal news of job offers. Amazing opportunities that they truly deserved.
More and more people I knew were swallowed by the 9 to 5 which I wished for, but still felt out of reach. Some are lucky, they have contacts or just struck gold first time. Some worked tirelessly to gain the experience they needed to get where they want to be. Some started from the bottom now they’re there. Even those that didn’t have traditional employment appeared to have purpose: a masters they were passionate about, a clear set of skills or even just a path they knew they wanted to pursue.
The life coach that is Dolly Parton taught me that this wasn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. But in comparison to erratic shift work and solo midweek boozing, doing something engaging which offered progression was a dream - “takin’ and no givin’” aside.
I am proud of my friends; feeling jealous of them is not something I like to admit.
The women in my life are creative, intelligent, wonderful and truly deserving of every success that comes their way, but it was hard to hear about the progress they were making, and even the strains they were facing, when I desired what they had.
With the prevalence of LinkedIn and the increasing utilisation of Instagram as a career aid, the compulsion to compare is heightened.
“Congratulate [that girl you sat next to in a seminar once] on her new position at [really glamorous/exciting company]” induces a twinge in your stomach. Seeing Instagram stories of people you know at fashion shows or work trips can force you to question why you haven’t found something you love. It’s important to remember that LinkedIn functions largely as a self-promotion network, and people are going to publish the impressive experiences and achievements rather than the struggles and rejections that came before. Likewise, I will not be the first nor last to say that social media is a curated highlights reel. The people you follow aren’t broadcasting the dreaded Monday when the alarm beeps at 6am, imposter syndrome at work or eating the same shit sandwich every day.
Seeing someone achieving something you want proves its possibility. Opportunity and success are not denied to anyone, and just because someone else is doing well doesn’t mean that there is no space for you. In our twenties, we are still forming identities and working out where they will lead us.
Everyone is moving at their own pace, and each experience, loathed or loved, contributes to where you will end up.
We don’t share feelings of jealousy enough, perhaps out of fear it will make us seem resentful and self-absorbed. But when I hit up my Babesquad group-chat, it became immediately apparent mine was not an isolated experience. My friend Ella, who I think of as easy-going with tonnes of media skill, told me that she’s been having a quarterlife crisis for the past six months. Phoebe, an amazing scriptwriter and director, also said she felt this way. They told me light-heartedly that “life is meaningless, our existence temporary, so why get bogged down by stupid social expectations?”.
Speaking openly about jealousy will often reveal that those around you are not having the easiest ride either, and help you pinpoint where this stems from and what you want to do.
The wise man Aristotle once said that “jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy”. It may feel as though your achievements don’t match those of others, but recognising this can be the very catalyst you need to lead a happier life.
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