Auntie SparkNotes: College Envy
Dearest Auntie SparkNotes,
This might make me sound like a horrible person, but I'm not! Okay. So. I have three best friends. We are all smart kids, we get really good grades. We're seniors in high school and we've been applying to colleges. Here's my problem: I get really depressed/jealous/irritated whenever they mention college because they all got into really amazing schools and I got into only average schools! UGH. They're getting into schools like Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, and Brown. It depresses me so much!
What makes it worse is the fact that my friends are SO NICE TO ME IT HURTS! I got into an 5 year nursing program and they can be thrilled for me, while I can't be thrilled for them. It sucks. I'm so mean-spirited. They all got into the Ivy Leagues and I got rejected. R-E-J-E-C-T-E-D. I am a reject. Blehhh. Why can't I be as nice as them? I really want to stop being so jealous and angry at my friends, how do I stop being such a jealous mess? I honestly don't know what to do anymore. They talk about college everyday. Daily! It bugs me so much. Please help me not be jealous, I don't want to resent my friends for their accomplishments anymore. I want to be happy for them, I really do. But I can't!
Oh man, Sparkler, do I feel your pain. I mean, back when I was applying to schools, I got rejected by Vassar. Vassar! And not a day goes by that I don't spend hours and hours sobbing over all that could have been.
...Oh, wait. No I don't. And, more importantly, neither will you.
Because while college is an important and formative time, it's also a blip on the radar as compared with the rest of your life—and that goes double for the brief, passing pain of the application process. Which is why this is one of the few times that I really, fervently wish I could throw you guys into a time machine, project you a few years into the future, and show you just how much your 22-year-old selves will not care about some of the worries that consume you now.
But since I can't do that, let's do this, instead.
First: Air out your feelings. Right now, you're growing a big, nasty ball of resentment—a ball which, if not acknowledged, will fester and metastasize and eventually eat you (or at least, your sense of well-being) alive. The key to stopping it: spitting it out before it gets any bigger. So when your friends start talking about college, make with the honesty; say something like, "I hate that I feel this way, but I'm so incredibly jealous that you guys got into these schools and I didn't. I want to be happy for you, and I am, but hearing you talk about college still makes feel like a reject."
Say this, and you'll accomplish two things: first, your resentment will vaporize the moment that it's out in the open (though not your jealousy; we'll get to that in a minute.) And second, your friends will be aware that their favorite topic of conversation is having the unintended effect of making you feel like crap—at which point they will either reassure you as to your awesomeness, or tone down the college-related crowing, or both.
And then: Put your rejection in perspective. Once upon a time, we talked about jealousy—and how comparing your weaknesses to another person's strengths is a warped, unproductive, ridiculous thing to do. And that's especially true in this case. I mean, if you and your friends took all the same classes, got the same exact grades, succeeded in the same exact activities, and wanted to go to the same exact school for the same exact course of study... well, okay, then you'd be entitled to some brief bitterness over being shut out where they got in.
But that's not what's happening here.
You and your friends are different people. You want different things. Particularly: you're going to school for nursing, which means that your strengths, skills, and goals are likely to be in an entirely different sphere than theirs. So while it still sucks to get turned away, you must realize that being rejected isn't just about you not being right for those schools. It also means that those schools aren't right for you. You're headed for the career you want, in a program that's perfect for you, at a school that's thrilled to have you. And when you put it to yourself that way, jealousy should take a backseat to the sense that you're exactly where you want to be. (And if it doesn't, then the solution isn't to envy your friends; it's to examine what it is about your own plans that's making you feel so dissatisfied.)
Between that, and the cathartic effects of not bottling up your feelings, you should be able to get through the next couple months with minimal resentment. By the time graduation rolls around, you might even be feeling genuinely happy for your academe-bound friends. And next spring, when you're well on the way to The Rest Of Your Life, you can look back on this letter and wonder what you were so worried about.
Do you have college envy? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related post: Brag About Your Acceptance Letters!