In high school, I was a huge fan of Disney Channel's live-action sitcoms such as Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Although I have fond memories of all three of those shows and some others, one Mouse House situation comedy has kept a hold on me like none other: That's So Raven! My friends might have a largely negative opinion of that show, but I've always liked it. Anyway, one episode that I often remember was titled "Dissin' Cousins," where Raven (played by The Cosby Show alumni Raven-Symoné) tells a bunch of tall tales, such as she is head cheerleader and in a romantic relationship with her best friend Eddie (Orlando Brown, Family Matters), in order to impress her cousin Andrea, who is visiting from Europe. When things go completely awry, the two cousins have this exchange of words:
ANDREA: I think we need to talk.
RAVEN: Why is that? Are you here to brag about something else to make me feel even worse about my life? Oh, no, here, I'll save you the trouble, okay? I lied. I'm not head of the volleyball squad I'm not head cheerleader, and I can't cook. So, congratulations. You win. Your life is better than mine.
ANDREA: Rae. Hold on. You actually think my life is better than yours?
RAVEN: You sure make it seem that way.
ANDREA: Well, it's not. I live in a different country every year. I change homes. I have to make new friends. Believe me, Rae, you don't know how lucky you are.
RAVEN: But I don't shop in Rome, okay? And I don't live in Paris.
ANDREA: Oh, I'd trade all that for this. Look, you were standing right here when you were two and four and seven and nine. I don't have that. I don't have a real home like you do. Oh, and you'll really love this one. I don't have a boyfriend, either. I made him up to impress you because I thought you had the better life. So, I don't win. You do.
RAVEN: You mean...we wasted 14 years of trying to impress each other when we could have been friends?
ANDREA: Want to start over again?
Some of you may think that's just sitcom stuff, but, actually, the reason I've been pondering that episode lately is because I often wonder if it isn't the same way between me and some friends of mine. I'm not accusing any friends of mine of making up accomplishments and such to impress me or anyone else; what I am saying is, I wonder if the people who I think have a better life than me actually feel that the opposite is true.
Being immersed in a social network such as Facebook allows me to know what's going on with my friends, as well as people I barely know, pretty much anytime. Whether they're going to the grocery store, getting married, riding their bikes around the block, getting divorced, watching television, or expecting a baby, I find out about it, even sometimes when I really didn't need (or want) to know. However, all that information has led to some frustration. I mentioned in my "To rejoice or to mourn? THAT is the question." post that I'd responded inappropriately to some happy moments my friends have had recently, such as getting engaged or married, but it goes beyond relationships. Other people, irrespective of their marital status, often have fun outings with their friends--which sometimes, but not always, includes people I also consider my friends--wonderful jobs, and great experiences that I can only imagine. I wouldn't know about any of it if it weren't for Zuckerberg's website, though. When I do find out about it, it can, but doesn't always, upset me. Even if I don't start throwing things in a fury, I still get bothered by it from time to time. You may think that's wrong, but I ask you this: How would you feel if your friends bombarded you with pictures and messages about what they did together, while you were stuck at home pretty much all day and all night with your parents?
Then again, just like Raven and her cousin Andrea, it may be that others think that I am the one with the better life. At times, I wonder why many of my friends around my age are already engaged or married, while I'm still single just like I've always been. However, I then stop and think about all the young married couples I've known over the years whose relationships ended in divorce. Many people have told me that relationships are not everything they're cracked up to be, and they're probably right. It's the same thing with the other areas I mentioned. The online albums may make the outings look fun, but would I really have a good time if I went? (If it involved alcoholic beverages, the answer is definitely no.) Someone else's job might look great, but so can dog food or baby food in the hands of advertisers. In many cases, those things may not be what they seem from the outside.
In conclusion, let me say this: I'm not asking you to leave me comments or send me messages saying, "Oh, Siobhan, your life is so much better than mine! You have no idea how good you have it!" Whether you've thought that or not is your own business. I once told some friends of mine, "You wouldn't last a week in my shoes!" and one of them replied, "Well, guess what? That road goes both ways, buddy! You have no idea what's going on with me when you call me, and you wouldn't last a week in my shoes, either!" A good part of my friends could probably say the same thing; I probably couldn't deal with what they have to on a daily basis. It's hard to know what someone's situation is like until you've actually been in it. That was proved back when my oldest sister was alive; many people came up with some (usually well-meaning) suggestions for how my mom could do things better...but all those folks just showed their lack of understanding of her situation, because, almost always, those "solutions" wouldn't have worked. Maybe people (including me) who think others have a better life don't really understand others' situations. I just have to learn to "bloom where I'm planted," as they say. I've learned how to make do with what I've got in more than one area: technology, shopping, etc. I should do the same with my situation...as should everyone else.