My phone buzzes as I receive a Facebook notification from an old school friend that I’ve unintentionally drifted apart from. It’s an invitation to her engagement party. My heart stops for a split second as I scour her Facebook page in the same frenzied manner that I empty old handbags for coins as payday painstakingly looms.
Plastered all over her newsfeed are her immaculately manicured fingers adorned with a sparkly diamond ring and accompanied with a grossly sentimental caption gushing for her new fiancé. This is the girl who used to sit in the corner of the classroom sobbing upon the discovery that her then-boyfriend had cheated on her yet again. The girl who used to meet up with totally inappropriate boys from different parts of the country against the advice from all and sundry. Now she is engaged.
It’s hardly shocking; her and her fiancé share a dog together, own their house and are in the process of purchasing a second property. Yet still I’m shocked. Shocked that this friend of mine has ticked off this milestone. Shocked that this is a perfectly natural and perfectly normal thing for someone of our age and standing to do. Shocked that I’m nowhere near this point in my life.
And that’s the bite.
I genuinely am happy for my friend. I’m happy that she’s found the one, that she’s successful and that she’s making the life for herself that she had always wanted. What hurts is the inevitable reflex reaction that makes me look at myself. It’s easy to bumble through day to day without actually stopping to reflect on your own life. But then a friend will get married, have a baby, purchase a property or set up a business and the news is sobering. It stops you in your tracks and compels you to take a long hard look in the mirror. Perhaps it’s the automatic response of a selfish and narcissistic millennial to think only of themselves when someone else speaks of their success.
Whoever said that comparison is the thief of joy was on to a good thing. It’s not that I am jealous of her engagement, I’m not even sure that I’m ready for that stage in my own life. The problem is the fact that I’m not there and not ready for it. It’s almost as though I lost my way somewhere along the line. At some point, whilst I was making poor choices, my friends were making the right ones.
I’m not being an entitled, petulant brat- I like my life and I know that I have a hell of a lot to be grateful for. I have an unrivalled girl gang around me, a lovely boyfriend who I wake up next to every day, a family who love me unconditionally, a job I enjoy and a flat that I am so lucky to own.
Every rational bone in my body knows that I’m doing okay. I don’t have it all but I have a lot. My success has, and will, never be defined by a man beside me or a baby in my arms. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wonder how different my life could have been though. On rainy Sunday afternoons when things feel a bit bleak, I can’t help but wonder if there are goals I should be pursuing or milestones I should be reaching. As I trawl through Instagram I can’t help but question if my life could be a bit shinier, a bit warmer or a bit prettier. I know that social media is essentially a highlights reel. I know that real life can’t be filtered and that we’ll never see how many hours of hard graft paid for brunch at The Shard…but even so. It still doesn’t make it any easier to plough through the online wedding albums of not one but two ex boyfriends’. It still doesn’t stop you from questioning your life plan as you become godmother to your childhood best friend’s baby daughter.
I could be travelling the world and getting tattoos of crescent moons all over my body. I could be settling into married life with a lovely partner and raising offspring of my own. I could be pursuing a dream career and dedicating myself to progressing up a career ladder. I could be doing any of this but I’m not. Maybe I am just dawdling through Limbo. Ultimately though, I am happy. Surely that’s the end goal for us all, however we derive that happiness? Surely, that’s all that matters?