on people continuing to feel like crap despite being awesome

Here I am at 5:12am drinking obscene amounts of water after a lot of drinking a lot of not-water on a Thursday. There may have been curly fries involved, as well. And I may have sounded just a little like I was dying from how purely delicious they were. No regrets (but actually so many, ow, my stomach).

I’m thinking about the fact that after writing an entire rant on job search difficulties, I’ve managed to set up two phone interviews for next week. It’s like the universe decided to throw me a bone or something. I have since then clutched the bone in my teeth like someone suffering from lockjaw and will be carrying it everywhere in order to maintain some semblance of hope.

Now to the thing I’m actually thinking about: my best friend heard from her first graduate school (she applied to two) and she’d been accepted to her program! Yay! Hence drinking, celebrating, revelry, etc. You’d think that was the tone of the evening, but you would be quite wrong. We spent the night first drinking at her house and commiserating, then at the bar and doing pretty mych the same thing. Partially because we both have moderate to severe depression we both find it a little difficult to “look on the bright side”.

But also partly because she wasn’t excited at all to have gotten her first acceptance. She had just received actual proof that her plans were going to work out, regardless of whether she got into the school she really wants to go to.

At first, I was a little shocked. A definite future? That sounds better than sliced bread to me right now. She could start planning! So I demanded to know why she was being so blase about this. And she told me it was because she didn’t know if she wanted to do the program she’d applied for. She didn’t even know if she wanted to go to grad school at all. She’d just been operating under the assumption that it was her only choice after college for someone in her major.

This made me start thinking. This smart, beautiful, capable girl was sitting in front of me not even acknowledging that fact that she gotten into grad school. She’d moved straight past that accomplishment to something of an existential crisis. I started to feel so pissed at the world that had trained her not to brag about the wins in her life, or feel proud of them. Regardless of whether she decides to go to that school or participate in that particular program, she has been recognized by a rather trusted source for all the work she’s put into undergrad. They’ve looked through her resume, her transcript, her personal statement and said “good job! We’d like to hitch our wagon to yours!”.

So I have something of a list (told you we’d end up with listicles) to remind people that when they succeed at something, they get to feel fucking proud for at least one week before freaking out about everything else.

1) An outside source has validated you.

Congratu-freaking-lations! I know we’re all supposed to derive comfort in our lives from ourselves, self-fulfillment, blah blah blah but it is an amazing feeling when someone else acknowledges you for what you’ve done. My friend has dedicated four years to her major—that’s countless hours of studying, stress, and a lot of money to something she loves—while dealing with a mental illness that basically tells you not to care about anything. She hurtled over that obstacle and was so successful in doing so that she has been accepted by yet another university to do that x10. It’s always nice to have someone notice all the work you’ve put in and reward it. On a related topic—

2) All your work and time and effort has been towards something.

Even if you’re no longer sure that grad school, or a PhD program, or a career path is right for you, please allow yourself to realize that everything you did paid off. Just because you might not take that road does not mean that all the time you spent building it has been worthless.

Those sleepless nights and freezing mornings walking to classes paid off. Your goal might have changed, but dammit, you reached it! I call that a win, especially when your brain has been telling you your hard work is pointless because we all die eventually (apologies for the downer…but also it’s true…).

3) You goddamn did it

John Mulaney has this great comedy special on Netflix where he basically thanks the audience for “doing something”. It is so, so, so much easier to just not do anything. To not do that extra credit, or to not help that professor with research. I think deep down my friend somehow thinks she’s lazy because she likes to nap. Maybe that’s your definition of lazy. If so, throw me down as lazy because dear baby Jesus sometimes the only thing keeping me going is that I get to take a freaking nap later.

But while napping and enjoying yourself (occasionally) you’ve also done something incredible, too! You did a thing! Things are hard, but you did them anyway! Not to mention that very story-specific fact that she had to take the GRE and fill out boring, long applications. It would’ve been so much simpler to just not do those things, but she took the actions she needed for what she wanted. Perhaps what you wanted changed—which, especially at this point of your life, is just fine—you know from experience now that you’re capable of taking the new steps for your new goal. You’ve done it before, you can do it again. Maybe even better.

I’m just really sick of people not feeling like they’ve done anything special just because the world expected them to do it. Graduate school may be the norm for her major, or her career field, but it is not a given. Not everyone has the opportunity to go, or the ability. You’ve done a thing, and that’s awesome. Acknowledge it and be proud. It’s not vain, it’s justified satisfaction.Feel good about it.

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