A few months ago, while at the going away party of a very good friend of mine who was moving to her dream city, Sydney, Australia, I was introduced by her to someone she thought I might like to get to know. According to her and everyone at the party, this friend of theirs was “amazing, family oriented, funny, trustworthy, and so nice!” Apparently, he was “so good-looking, too”. That said, the introduction was slightly in jest (she saw it as a ploy to get me to visit Oz over my planned trip to Barcelona where I had planned to meet Enrique’s twin) but I was intrigued just the same.
My friend and I had known one another since sophomore year in college and she’d never once thought to introduce me to anyone under the pretense that I was too picky and had too much of a type (tall, dark and handsome, preferably with a Latin-based accent). A text and a couple of photos were sent to the stranger on my behalf, and I went back to crying over my friend leaving, not giving him or Sydney much thought. Though he was handsome and from New York, he now lived in Sydney. I mean, how serious could I take this?
A week later, she was texting me that she hoped we got married and I moved out there. But a few weeks later when texts, calls, emails, secrets and smiles were being exchanged with someone with whom I shared a striking amount in common, I was thanking my girlfriend and sprinkling that special “I just met someone new” happiness into our frequent WhatsApp conversations. Her response wasn’t only surprising, it was nonexistent. I realized that she was literally ignoring anything related to my blossoming relationship all the while discussing her growing anxiety over hers. I took it as a sign to focus only on her move and her needs as a resident of a new land and let it be.
When my special someone and friend both returned home for a visit over Christmas, we met up with friends and I wrapped my arms around her, asking her thoughts about her new home which she excitedly shared with me, but when I thanked her for my introduction to my now very special someone, her face went blank and we both got caught up in the conversations with others at the table. The next day, I called and got no answer. Finally, I texted her that I had planned to visit Australia in March, and she responded with “I should be around.”
At that point, I knew I had to say something. ”Have I done something to upset you?” I asked. It turned out I had not, but I had.
I was stepping on her dream.
After decades of aching to live in Australia (her dream location) and hoping to be with longtime crush (who lived out there) she was finally where she had thought she wanted to be. Unfortunately, things were not working out as seamlessly as she had hoped (and I believe, she deserved and deserves). Here I was enjoying a blossoming relationship that seemed to get better by the day and planning to visit her country. It may sound petty to some, but it made sense to me. I would not have approached it the same way, but I knew this was important and painful to her, so I tried to understand it as best as I could.
Initially, she said that she ignored my happiness to temper it out of concern, but our conversations proved that not to be the case. It became clear there was no real “reason” for her to be upset, and she got upset at my pointing that out. Finally, she had a reason to be angry and reacted somewhat relieved.
I thought about all of the wonderful heart-to-hearts we had, the gorgeous memories, the birthday parties and late night visits to the diner. I thought about how thrilled I was for her that she was in her favorite place and how excited she was for me to visit her until there was someone else there for me to see. This was unlike her. Aside from one silly cocktail-induced outburst over my being the only one flirted with at a bar, my lovely friend (and she is lovely) had never behaved this way. I wanted to get to the bottom of things, but the more I pushed to openly talk with her about things, the colder she became. Eventually, we had a real argument and my olive branch was brushed away, leaving me to wait for her to come around.
This whole situation got me thinking about how destructive envy and projection can be, not only to our relationship with others, but to ourselves. While I tend not to feel envy too often (the only thing I truly want that I do not have, most people have, which means I would be in a constant state of anguish had I not learned to deal with it at an early age) I am certainly guilty of projecting my fears and worries onto others.
Time has proven this to be an ineffective way of navigating towards happiness.
When we look over at someone and assume what they are thinking or feeling, that they have something we want and that their having something means we will have less of of it, we are setting ourselves up for heartache and failure. Happiness begets happiness, but envy, anger and misery? It infects every aspect of our lives at a rapid rate. When we cannot accept that we are all on individual journeys and are not extracting our joy and success from a shared well, we become frozen, and cold. We have all had pains and experienced unhappiness. We have all worried and wondered and had our hearts broken. We have all been anxious and deceived. But when one of us finds happiness for a moment, however brief, or more profound, one learns how to be happy in spite of the heartaches of life, it is the truest source of hope, a beam of light from the universe. It is “proof” that we can do it, too.
To my friend, thank you. I love you.