Remember when you were little and your whole class was invited to birthday parties? I do too, but what I especially remember is when you’d be at a birthday party with the rest of your class and then all of a sudden a kid would show up that you had never seen before. The birthday kid was somehow best friends with this kid you had never even seen before. You, if you were anything like me, were jealous of that other kid. This kid was coming in from the outside and was still the bestie.
When I was in about fifth grade I attended one of these class birthdays. It was for one of my good friends and I was really excited to go shopping for her present. When my mom took me to the store I remember wanting to get her one of those best friend necklace pairs. My mom warned me not to, but I did anyways. I remember being at the party and watching my friend open the gift and love it. I also remember her later asking another girl at the party to take the other half. My heart hurt, but I pretended it didn’t because I didn’t want my mom to be right. I should have been happy that my friend loved the gift, but that wasn’t enough.
By the time I encountered another similar situation I was a lot older. I was college-aged. This time I was on the other side of things. This wasn’t a position I’d wished to be in. Instead my friend was struggling with one of my new friends. After a couple years of having the same consistent friend group, I had met a new friend and I was hanging out with this new friend more. I was making sure not to leave my former friends behind. I set aside at least two days a week for only the friends I had known for so long. And often I invited my new friend to hang out with my longtime friends so we could all be together. But it wasn’t enough. My dear friends got angry at me and grew distant. I didn’t understand until I sat down and talked with one of them. She told me she was jealous of my new friend. She felt like she was losing parts of me.
She wasn’t, but she felt like it. Just like I felt like crap when the girl gave the necklace to someone else, or when the new kid showed up at the party and stole the show. It’s so easy to be jealous of our friends’ friends. For so long I wanted to be my friends’ other friends, and to a certain extent, I still can’t wait to. When my childhood friend sends me adorable postcards calling her my best friend, I hope her newer friends hear her talk about me and I hope they’re jealous.
These aren’t nice thoughts, but they’re human thoughts. We’re human and to some extent, we’re flawed. Jealousy comes with life. There will always be someone else we want to be, whether it’s because of professional or personal success. It’s how we handle the jealousy that matters. If we come to terms with it, if we deal with it and move on, our lives can continue to grow. Jealousy is really only something to hide behind. We can become so focused on other people that we lose sight of ourselves. We lose sight of what’s good in ourselves. So the next time I find myself wanting to be my friends’ other friends, I’m going to take a step back and think. Then I’m going to remember something that makes me proud to be who I am. I’m going to focus on that and move on.