Water on the jealousy inferno


My first boyfriend just got engaged.

Before you start squirming about what a stalker I am, allow me to point out that:

A) He was my “boyfriend,” um, 12 years ago (gulp. I’m old);
B) I use that term loosely given we mostly held hands and chatted on AIM;
C) We stayed friends far beyond that two-month relationship; and
D) We’re Facebook friends. And all this stuff is on the Internet.

I’m not upset about R. getting engaged. Though I cried my 15-year-old eyes out when we broke up via AOL Instant Messenger, that was approximately 10 billion years ago. I’m now in love with a man who knows me — really knows me — and have a job I enjoy, a family who supports me. A roof over my head. A little change in my pocket. I’m happy.

What I am upset about? The fact that everyone I know is old enough to be engaged. Heck, that many people I know are not merely engaged but married and starting families and making real, honest-to-goodness adult decisions. My own boyfriend is a homeowner, for cryin’ out loud. We all have debt and are more concerned with the state of our health insurance than what we’re doing on a Saturday night.

Or maybe that’s just me. Those books aren’t going to read themselves, you know.

I’ve drafted a post similar to this one a hundred times but never hit “publish.” Probably because you can find variations of this “We’re all growing up!” consensus on most blogs written by 20-somethings, and I know I’m not adding anything new to the conversation. But I think there’s comfort in solidarity. In another person shouting into the void, “I’m with you. You’re not alone.”

No matter your age, we all experience growing pains.

Life is messy. It’s complicated. It’s tough not comparing yourself to others, wondering where and how you measure up. Are you ahead? Behind? Stuck somewhere in the middle?

It’s impossible to know. And does it really matter?

I don’t think so. And Facebook isn’t helping me decide.

Lest this dissolve into a “Facebook is evil” rant, I’ll curb myself by saying this: I’ve had to work hard in recent years to cultivate confidence that life is unfolding just as it should. “All things in time,” as they say. Scrolling endlessly through a newsfeed — comparing, contrasting — doesn’t bring me peace.

In three weeks, I’ll be 27. The years pass too quickly . . . and I’ve had a frightening sense of that since I was a child. There’s just so much I want to do. And see. And experience.

And I’m not a little kid anymore. Neither is anyone I know.

But jealousy isn’t a good look on me. If I start to get the “comparing” bug, I pour water on that out-of-control inferno immediately.

Most of the time, anyway. I am only human.


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28 thoughts on “Water on the jealousy inferno

  1. Oh how I love this. Enough to go add it right away to my “Oh, and…” section of my post today. I think we have all experienced this, or something similar to this, and I applaud you for flipping open the screen, and being honest about it. Isn’t it fascinating that we can know so much about these things in the Facebook age? I for one am a huge Facebook fan, but there have definitely been times when I have seen an update and thought: “I really didn’t need to know that…” Anyway, bravo to you for writing this wonderful, and very real post. As you know, I’ve been reading you for a while, but this is an ADR fave!

  2. It’s funny how perspective changes things. 27 sounds young to me! You’ve got so much life ahead of you – don’t rush things and don’t compare yourself to others.

  3. Great post – I feel like this every so often, I try to enjoy the journey rather than the destination but we are all guilty of wondering ‘when did I get old!’

  4. Oh girl, I can totally relate to this!! I live in fear of the day I see that my (most recent) ex is engaged. I absolutely don’t want him, I want to never think about him ever again… but still, I know I will be a hot mess.

    Ugh!

    Growing pains. They suck.

  5. I know what you mean. I think that things like Facebook have made it really easy to fuel the jealousy fire if you let it (and I have to try really, really hard not to let it, let me tell you). You can instantaneously compare what you are doing with your life to what your friends are doing with theirs. And sometimes, it’s hard to not be frustrated when you see someone doing something or having something that you want. I also think that the 20s (especially for our generation) have become a time where everyone is at really different stages in their life. I’m married, I’m two years out of grad school and I’ve already put in 5 years with my current career (I’ll be 27 in October). I have friends who are just beginning the grad school process and have yet to have any sort of career. I know many people who are about my age that have been married a lot longer than I have. I know people who have been married shorter. I have friends with boyfriends and friends who are single. I think what I’m trying to say is there isn’t a set life track that we all have to follow.

    I try to remind myself that lives are not supposed to unfold in all the same ways (seriously, how boring would that be?) and that I’m doing exactly what I need to do with my life and that I already have way more than I need. I love Facebook and I love being able to stay in contact with people that I might not have stayed in contact with but it is definitely a double-edged sword, love.

  6. You have so much ahead of you. You are still a spring chicken. Life will unfold for you in the right time. Don’t rush it. He may be getting married now but could be divorced in a couple of years as you prepare to go down the aisle. Life is full of swings and roundabouts – one day up and one day down.

  7. Can relate completely. I am experiencing a similar growing pains fear, but I’m going to turn 39 in two months and while I am married, have health insurance and a house, I don’t have kids yet. And absolutely alllll of my Facebook friends from high school and college do. Combined with the onset of my midlife crisis, I need to have kids, too. Double-whammy.

  8. I feel ya. I often marvel at how fast time passes my self. Enjoy it now that. It only zooms by faster when a baby is in the picture.

  9. Oh my writerly soulmate, I hear you. I have spent all of my life feeling desperately behind everyone else, struggling to catch up. Facebook doesn’t make it easier. Just recently, I’ve been thinking differently, thinking that I am where I am meant to be. And now you’ve inspired a blog post, so thanks 🙂

  10. Every single person goes at a different speed. You and I are the same age and I’ve always felt really pressured to move to the “next stage” way too fast. My sister (2 yrs older) got married when she was 20! She already has 4 kids and most of my friends have at least one of two. I’m just really not there yet. Kids are terrifying to me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with feeling certain thigns when an ex gets engaged or a friend has kids, but always remember there’s no “right” way to live life. Embrace the stage you’re at and enjoy it! Your friends with kids probably sometimes wish they could have the freedom you have in your life.

  11. Wait till you’re 43 and start thinking about all this. I think it’s normal to examine our lives here and there. And this certainly won’t be the last big stage you pass thru…me either. I do always try to look forward more than back. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t.

  12. Meg, I found your blog ala Aidan. I love this post and am so grateful that you wrote it. Not just because I too am a 27 year old, questioning the different stages all my friends seem to be in. Rather, I thank you for sharing something deep and vulnerable to force us to remember there is no ‘right time’, only our time.

  13. I’m 46, so 27 does sound young. But I remember EXACTLY what I was feeling at 27. I had all these goals and things for myself, and would have near panic attacks at the fact that I had just gotten married but I wanted kids, and I wanted them by 30. Silly me. (Ha! God had other plans.) I don’t know why I felt like I had an agenda. Things happen when they are supposed to happen. But I am a type A overachiever, so I have to keep reminding myself to chill. It is getting easier the older I get.

  14. I have a different problem. Since I was 27 before you were born (ahem, don’t tell too many people), most of my high school friends aren’t even on facebook. And the ones that are there are bragging about their grandchildren! Sooo… don’t be in too much of a hurry to get to that point. It will happen and one day you’ll look up and say, “where did all the time go?”.

  15. I deal with jealousy stuff a lot… For me it’s the baby thing. I’m almost the only person I know without a child, and I’ve got issues which involves medical stuff needing to happen first. I had to delete a bunch of people off my Facebook because they were really just old acquaintances and I was feeling miserable whenever I logged in! I have felt much happier without those people on there but i sort of hate thats what i had to do. I’m turning 30 in August which seems crazy but it really makes me think about all the things I want and need to do in/with my life!!

  16. Yep, just have to put that fire out or it will engulf your entire life. The only thing I can keep coming back to is that the story of my life will be a good one, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on something integral to it because I was too busy wishing I was living someone else’s.

  17. Amanda, that’s really good advice. In the immortal words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” You’re living your life, and your first boyfriend is living his. Maybe one day your kids will all play together at the park or the library. Until then, keep dousing out those flames.

  18. This is why I stopped going to high school reunions. I don’t care what people I haven’t seen in 20+ years are doing with their lives…I’m perfectly happy with mine and don’t want to get sucked into that “what are YOU doing” mentality. The choices you make are YOUR choices…and if you’re happy with them and the people around you, then phttpt on everyone else. 😀

  19. Dear Meg, this is a really thought-provoking post. I understand the feeling- when I hit 24 all of my friends were getting married while I was working and I felt completely dazed and confused and would analyze every little relationship I was in. I got married 2 years ago. Now, I have a one-year-old son, I quit my job as a tv news producer and work from home. My single friends do stuff that I can no longer do; but I stopped comparing a while ago and chose to focus on what I had. Jealous is a really bad place to be, and we are all human…it happens to the best of us. But yes, as we get older, we can choose to be secure with what we have, enjoy it and really live and experience it. I think that is one of the perks of getting older 😛

  20. I’m right there with you, girl. I’ll be 27 a week from tomorrow, and it’s a strange feeling. I look back, at the “5 year plan” I drafted upon college graduation, and I look at where I am now, and it’s so very different…I had everything wrong, haha 😉 Of course, I’m not where I want to “end” yet, either. I’m still trying to find The Job, trying to break into something other than the part-time work that was supposed to pay for grad school and has turned into my safety net as attempt after attempt fails. And I have those moments, when I realize that everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – is pairing off, getting hitched, having babies…not just my circle of people, but kids younger than me – who were the kids in youth group when I was their leader, for Pete’s sake! :O Craziness. But you know what? If I had forced MY plan to work? It’d have been a disaster. I realize that, looking back over the years. So I may not be where I thought I’d be as I stand on this precipice, but I’m not in too shabby a place either. And my dreams don’t die, my hopes still rise, and I keep going. Because MY story is being written in its own sweet time…even if it does feel like Time is accelerating and the narration is lagging at times 😉
    Here’s to July birthdays and loving the pace of our stories! 🙂

  21. Oh I can so relate to this. I’m not even done with college but I’m already starting to get wedding invites from friends my own age! It seems like only yesterday I and all my friends were skipping around a playground :/

  22. It will get easier to be easier to accept where you are in life as you get older. The 20’s are hard for that feeling of time ticking along and you need to move along even faster. I got married at 27 but no kid til 39 and that was perfectly okay. Enjoy every second of your youth!!

  23. I couldn’t agree more with EVERYTHING you are thinking/writing/feeling. …and Facebook can really add to that anxiety. I keep telling myself to disconnect and yet every day I find myself scrolling through everyone else’s lives as they play out on FB…but I have to keep reminding myself that FB is the highlight reel of other people’s lives…not reality.

  24. I had a moment like this last night on Twitter. On Facebook, I was shocked to see how old the baby I used to nanny is. Then I realized that the picture I was looking at was a year old! He is almost 3. I held him in his arms when he was just a tiny baby! The first kids that I babysat outside of family are in the later years of high school now. They’re probably the same age now that I was when I was babysitting them!

    I know what you mean. This sentiment seems silly when we’re in our twenties, but I can’t help but be aware of it when everything is changing. When marriage and kids and house-buying aren’t really all that far off.

  25. The whole “we’re all growing up” thing still freaks me out, even though I am doing it right along with everyone. My little sister got married two weeks ago… now every time she says “my husband” I do a double take. And I am pregnant right now but honestly am still weirded out when I find out my friends are pregnant. I think we never really feel grown up (which makes me happy in a lot of ways).

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