There’s this Girl, see. Ever since high school, I’ve had this weird love/hate relationship with her, mostly based out of my own insecurities and jealousies over the fact that it looked like she always had everything I wanted. My envy started during my freshman year, when she was cast as the lead in the school play, won the school’s annual beauty pageant (it’s a Southern thing, I think) and started dating my first ex-boyfriend (while I was still unabashedly madly in love with him, of course.) She was the smartest girl in the class, blonde and perky and freaking adorable, and seemed to have the world on a silver platter. She was one of those annoyingly perfect types, the kind that teachers love and men crawl over themselves for and was president or vice president of every possible school organization and pretty much made dowdy, overweight, insecure brunettes like myself completely sick. During my sophomore year, she continued to make me seethe with envy as she got the lead in yet another school play and giggled her way into more popularity, more general perkiness, more gaping windows of promise and possibility. God, I hated her.
(Yes, I realize this is all evidence of me being a selfish, insecure, horrible person in my younger years. I’ve got that, thanks. No need to rehash.)
When I left my public school during my junior year to go to a local arts school, I heard through the Great Southern Smalltown Grapevine that she had wandered astray, dyed her hair black and run off with a college boy to the other side of the country. But, when I went to see my then-boyfriend graduate high school, there she was, leading the class, giving her valedictorian speech with confidence and pride like nothing had ever happened. Her successes seemed effortless and again, I was filled with bitter jealousy.
Long story short, I went off to college, went more than a little nuts, found myself stuck back at home, attending a university in town because of my appalling grades elsewhere. My first semester as an English major, I sat myself in a classroom to study the movements in Contemporary Literature. Moments before class was due to start, the door swung open and there She was. Awkwardly, we gave each other a “Hi?” before settling in to our seats, all the while cutting sideways glances at each other as if to say, “What the hell are YOU doing here?” During a shared cigarette after class, I finally just blurted this obvious question out, only to learn that she’d hit a bit of a rough patch in her collegiate career too and, like me, was back at home recovering and trying to finish her education. I was stunned that someone so confidently assured and successful was literally in the same exact spot as I and, in the next year we bonded over this and many other mishaps.
A few years later, things have changed between us pretty drastically. In our transition from youth, we still managed to beat a little drama out of each other from fear and our own insecurities and, in my staggered attempts at sanity and sobriety, she was witness to a few of my very worst moments. Over time we managed somehow to exchange romantic partners, exchange Christmas gifts, give each other generous favors, call each other in desperation, love each other, loathe each other, and still come back, interested in the middle ground. How one defines such a relationship is anyone’s guess, but these days we’ve resolved ourselves to the fact that there may always be some strange bond and caring between us, wherever we happen to be in our personal lives.
After a few years of keeping our distance from the other, we’ve recently spoken of getting together like adults, going out for karaoke and maybe trying to see what the other is actually like with a few more years under her belt. I sent a text yesterday to ask if this proposed evening was something she’d like to do in the near future and received a reply that she’d had it with her job, she’d quit and was moving out of state to chase her dream of going to a decent university for post-grad work. While she’d thought about it for a while, she had just decided to do it yesterday, had suddenly called her job to tell them to get bent, was packing her bags and leaving today to stay with some friends that she knows far from here. At first I was sure she’d lost her mind, possibly fleeing something she wasn’t ready to deal with here or running because she was confused or having a meltdown.
And then I realized I was, again, aching with envy at her courage and freedom. Since my last year at university, I’ve longed to throw my belongings in my car and get away to chase my dreams in a better town than this. I had a new life all planned out for my life in post-graduation, planning to move to Asheville or Portland, working in a coffee house by night and going to classes at a small, liberal arts university to earn my Masters and start teaching English around the globe. If Greg had wanted to join me in this quest, I wouldn’t stop him, but I loved the idea of being young and not tied down to any one spot for any reason. Naturally, the news of my daughter’s imminent arrival put a small damper on these plans and Greg and I hurriedly made a comfortable life in which to welcome her without a moment’s hesitation. The Universe graciously handed us a number of opportunities to help us get on our feet and we were so busy being scared and nervous about this new life that we never stopped to think about anything else. As the excitement from the wedding and the new baby has gradually slowed down, change is something we think about constantly. We think about applying for new work, moving to a new city with better education and better demographics and more culture and art and life, both of us embracing our talents and being active parts of a growing society. I, personally, daydream of the days when Chloe is old enough for us to get out of the house more, when I can delve further into my education and pursue one of my dream jobs instead of sitting at home, stagnant and unimportant to this big world swirling around us. Selfishly, I long for the freedom to see the world, to chase after my dreams, to precariously pursue a dream lifestyle with nobody to worry about but myself. Never have I wished that Chloe and Greg were no longer a part of my life, but I often wish I’d spent my youthful freedom taking more chances. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy encouraging my responsibility-free friends to do this and, even though I loudly applaud her efforts, I am selfishly aching with jealousy and desire to do the same.
Naturally, like all my personal conflicts these days, this lead to a little introspection. (I know, what a shocking change of pace for me.) Why was I jealous? Because I don’t have the freedom to go and chase my dreams or because I haven’t actually mustered the courage and initiative to put some change into motion? And then, once again, here I was looking myself dead in the face and realizing that I’ve fallen short of my abilities and need to start making some changes, dammit. (At this point, it seems like personal change is RELENTLESS.) Sure I have a baby and a husband in tow, but there’s nothing really holding us to one place except my fear of putting myself out there. I’m afraid I won’t be good enough. I’m afraid I can’t hold down a job. I’m afraid nobody will hire me because of my lack of work experience in the last couple years. I’m afraid to build a resume because my life won’t look all that impressive. Wah wah wah, so on and so forth.
I could sit around, battling this depression and living up inside my head for the rest of my life, wondering what I possibly could do to make myself happier and promising to make big changes once I reach that Elusive Bliss for the rest of my life OR I could start aggressively working to give myself my dream lifestyle rightthisminute and never regret that I didn’t try. What an amazing notion.
So, I’m laying out plans and starting real work toward change. No more wasting my time on side projects or sitting around waiting for the depression to dissipate before I live a respectable lifestyle. I’m filling out resumes and applying for jobs and seeking out part-time childcare. I’m building a portfolio and looking at post-grad night classes and setting some realistic goals and timelines.
And, the whole while, I know I’m doing this because I’ll kick myself if, when I get to be 50, I hear from Her again and feel a great envy for her even still. I’m ready to live a life I’m proud of, instead of making excuses for living in fear and stagnation.
Okay, yeah, it’s admittedly a little sad/pathetic that a weird, one-sided, high school-reminiscient rivalry is what lit a fire under my ass to start making changes in my life, but, from where I stand, I’m just chalking the whole thing up to inspiration. This is a pathetic high school jealousy that I’m actually grateful for. (Oh, the irony.)