Saturday, 1 December 2012

What's adjacent to schadenfreude?

When good things happen, I think it's my tendency to feel guilty about them. Isn't that silly? I think I've grown very accustomed to trying to be humble and reminding myself how lucky I am in comparison to most people. Those aren't bad traits, exactly, but they can really diminish major accomplishments. 

I used to work with this girl who would make snippy comments whenever I took time off work to travel. She didn't have the money or resources to travel (and it's not like have an excess of those things, but I had a lot of good opportunities that year) and I felt terrible every time I asked for the time off. When I was in high school and got an iPod for Christmas, I couldn't tell any of my friends about it. For fear of what? I don't know. It was guilt, I think, that I had something that other people didn't. Finally, I had realize that while I couldn't chalk my opportunities up to my own hard work or intelligence (as it's sometimes easier to justify, than accept, privilege), to deny myself those opportunities just because other people couldn't have them would have been inordinately stupid. 

I think that this theme has continued into my twenties. I really want the very best for the people around me, and when people tell me things like "You should be proud...you've worked so hard!" it's my  impulse to reply with "Well, yes, but other people work hard, too." I know that good things come from timing and luck, as well as hard work, and I also know how hard the people around me work. That's one of the reasons I am friends with them. 

Here's the thing. The job I have waiting for me in January? One of my very best friends interviewed for the same job, and didn't get it. Rationally, I know that it's not my fault that she didn't get the job, but it's still hard not to feel badly about it. And then, while I'm feeling guilty, I'm also realizing how self-absorbed it is to worry about my own feelings while she is the one who is disappointed, not me. Which leads to more guilt. See? It's a terrible cycle. 

I need to remember that my opportunities are good for the people around me, just like their opportunities are good for me. They don't take away from each other, and if something good happens to one of my friends, that doesn't mean that there is less good available for me, and vice versa. 

It's just not easy, is all. And I think it's going to take some time to figure out that while it might soothe the conscience,  feeling bad doesn't do anyone any good.

1 comment:

  1. It really is important to remember that there is plenty of good available for all of us. Of course "good", like all other things in life, is relative... and it's definitely OK for each of us to be happy with what we deem good, and to share that happiness... and maybe we can all inspire each other to welcome & accept more good into our lives, too.

    Amen.

    XO

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