Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I went to college at a big state university with a moderate-sized theater program. In this program, I did a good amount of work, both in the main-stage faculty-directed shows and in student-produced work. I thought of myself as a decent actor and I got enough positive feedback from people to reinforce that opinion. I wanted more than that, though. I wanted some kind of proof that I was good.
Our department had an award dinner at the end of every year. At the dinner, they gave awards that had been voted on by the student body which recognized outstanding acting. The faculty also gave out awards to graduating seniors, two to be exact, for outstanding work and for outstanding contribution to the theater department. From my freshman year on, I wanted an award. I was (pathetically) desperate for that kind of validation.
And, of course, year after year I would hear other people's names being called while I popped a forkful of overly-garlicked chicken into my mouth. I got a little depressed about it all. "What," I wondered, "do these guys have that I don't? Why the fuck can't I get just a little recognition that I do good work?"
Then, my senior year, two things happened. First, I helped tally the votes for the student-generated awards and saw that I'd gotten just a few votes less than the guy who won for Best Male Leading Performance. And I thought, "Hey! People liked my work!"
Then, at the award dinner, a housemate of mine--a guy who had been the department Golden Child since freshman year--got not one, but both of the faculty awards. And I thought, "Well, shit. These awards aren't a measure of someone's worth. It's pretty subjective, really. It just means that the faculty like him a whole lot. I mean a whole lot." I knew a number of people who I thought were just as good at acting as him. I knew people who'd contributed just as much to the department. But the faculty just liked him a lot.
(Let me pause for a moment here to state that this guy was--and is--in fact a fantastic actor and remains a friend of mine to this day.)
The thing was, I realized that I needed to stop looking for that kind of outside validation. I needed to stop judging myself by the recognition that other people got when I didn't. I needed to be happy for my friends' successes, because to do otherwise would leave me bitter and resentful for absolutely no good reason.
I bring this up because it applies to the infertility problems that have been haunting my wife and I for the last year and a half. In a weird universal irony, basically every other couple we know who aren't dead set against having kids is either expecting right now or has had a kid within the last year. (Sounds like exaggeration, I know, but there are literally nine couples we know who've grabbed the golden ticket.)
And it's easy, at times like this when you feel like the universe/God/Allah/Johnny Carson is playing some kind of sick joke on you, to begrudge other people their happiness. It's easy to fall into the "Why not me, dammit?" trap. But what the hell good does that do? What's the point in harboring a grudge because other people don't have a problem?
All it really does, in the end, is to keep you from enjoying your life. It drowns any optimism you might have and keeps you mired in self-pity. And that's an utterly shitty place to be mired. Despite the general theme of this blog--and despite the image I've done my best to project over the last, oh, let's say twenty years or so--I'm basically an optimistic person. I have hope. I know that there's a kid in our future, somewhere down the road. I don't know exactly how the road is going to get us there, but I'm sure of the destination.
So, to all of our fecund friends, I say congratulations. We'll be with you in a little while.
I think it's perfectly natural for you to feel a smidge bitter, especially if it's right there in your face at every turn.
And I also think it's very big of you to admit it.
Been thinking about you & the missus and this very subject.Post a Comment
I've been aching for and with you at each new announcement of the cross-country baby boom. I admire the grace with which you've handled it. Not everyone is capable of your generosity of spirit.
I have long been hoping you get what you've been wanting, and the string of painful disappointments comes to a happy end.