All Sorts of Envy
I am becoming a jealous, bitter wreck. I am in my mid-30s and have several life goals that I have not yet attained. Some of these are personal (having a baby), some financial (paying of student loans and credit card debt), and some are professional (getting a job in my chosen field). I feel like I have a pretty healthy attitude towards these goals and am working slowly towards things within my control (applying for jobs, living within a budget) and trying to come to peace with things that are beyond my realm of influence (infertility treatment sucks). But the problem is, I am surrounded by people who are attaining these elusive goals and feel like I am becoming increasingly jealous and even at times bitter towards these friends or acquaintances. I want to be happy for that friend who got a job interview or for that couple who just celebrated the first birthday of their daughter, but… damn! It is hard when I want those things so badly for myself. Facebook is really the devil in this struggle, but I find that my jealousy only lessens when I avoid FB, rather than going away completely.
Envious of Everyone
First, your feelings are completely understandable, and I want you to let go of any ideas you might have about becoming a “better person” who doesn’t feel jealousy. You don’t begrudge your friends happiness; it’s just hard for you to witness, because you’re in a low place.
I advise two things: First, you must find friends and people who share some of the same difficulties you’re struggling with. You might find these friends in person, online, in a support group or by reading books they’ve written. The other side of this coin is that it’s both okay and advisable for you to distance yourself from the friends whose lives are causing you pain. It is really difficult to be faced with a friend’s happiness over a new job when a not-even-dream-but-entry-level-in your-chosen-field job seems almost out of reach. It’s hard to be around these friends, and it’s hard to be a good friend to them.
I am emphatically not telling you to say something hurtful to them or refuse to congratulate them or burn bridges with them. Just gradually decline invitations to spend time with them and interact with them less. This will save you the pain of seeing them and give you a little more time to think about the goals you have for yourself.
Second: the goals you have for yourself. You’re right that you’re not in control of whether your fertility treatments are successful. You are in control of how long you pursue them, how often you pursue them and if or when you consider other options like adoption. You’re in control of giving yourself a break from the physical crucible of the treatment and the tremendous emotional toll of wondering if this round is going to work. I’m not trivializing your desire for a child; it’s because I know that that want is so powerful that I’m telling you to be on the lookout for the time when you need to give yourself some respite from chasing it.
Reducing your debt, on the other hand, is completely within your control. Your debt is a leech that is sapping your energy and resources, but you can get your arms around it much more quickly than you’ve been led to believe. A pernicious idea has sneaked into the consciousness of the American borrower: the idea that it is both inevitable and harmless to be in debt for decades. Student debt is expected to take 10 or more years to pay off. Paying a mortgage for 30 years is thought to be unavoidable. Many people give up on the idea of paying off their credit card balance in full, instead “working on” paying it down whenever they have extra money. None of this debt is inevitable, and I strongly suggest you adopt an aggressive attitude towards eliminating your consumer and student debt. Doing so will require some changes in your mindset, which will then lead to some changes in your lifestyle, but none of those changes will ruin your life. Some of those changes—like looking for a new place to live and/or a new job—may align with your other goals of finding work in your field. There are two items I want you to look at online. One is the story of a business school graduate who paid off his student debt in a year. You can find his story at nomoreharvarddebt.com in a post called “Mission Accomplished.” The second is an article on the blog MrMoneyMustache.com (not an awesome name, I know) called “Your Debt Is An Emergency.” You will quickly get to the point where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel of your debt. And that will give you tremendous relief and freedom.
The thing you can do today to lessen your jealousy is leave Facebook entirely. I suggest committing to staying away for one full month. No little peeks. Change your password if you have to. Put an X on your calendar for every day you stay off Facebook. After 31 days, if you’re dying to sign back on, go ahead. But I think the DTs will stop before then, and you’ll be glad for the freedom.
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