A thief called Comparison…
The other day Gen and I had the privilege of visiting someone’s home. They are new acquaintances and we were there for a casual little get-together. At seventeen, and dealing with so many major life things, it made sense that Gen was pretty quiet and filled with anxiety. After heading home though, she opened up about how beautiful their home was, (it really was of HGTV caliber) and how she felt stupid that we lived in an apartment.
Let me stop right there… We live in an apartment. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you wouldn’t really have caught on to that. In June our house sold to a really lovely younger couple and we are renting an overpriced but nice apartment. We have a beautiful poolside home complete with a fitness center, in the heart of everything. I am not feeling the least bit sorry about the lack of lawn care, no home repairs and no gigantic commutes… Seventeen year olds do not always get it though.
For her high school years, up until we separated at Thanksgiving, I was always hearing how the majority of her friends parents were divorced and how proud she was that we weren’t. Looking back over the years with her, I do believe that’s the only thing we had ever done right in her eyes and that is beyond tarnished and torn now. She hasn’t gone to school with the same kids since Kindergarten. We don’t, at 40 years old, have a big and beautiful home. We are not debt free. We do not take lavish family cruises. I think a lot of these unrealistic comparisons to which she holds her daddy and I against are due to the area we live in. This area is money. A lot of it. These kids are often known to blow wads of cash on drugs in the high school highway and then drive party after school in their Mercedes. So when she asks me to take her clothes shopping because she’s visiting a new youth group and so she needs new clothes to impress them, I want to feel empathy over this very unfair reality which her peers live in. Mostly though, I fall short. I roll my eyes internally and remind her that we are knee-deep in legal fees and medical debt and that she still needs a work uniform that I have to magically come up with.
But it goes beyond her. When someone asks what neighborhood you are in, and you explain the location and name of your apartment complex- there is an odd silence. For a beat or two the other person wonders if they heard you right, and then what is wrong with you…
What is wrong with me is that my journey is different. Apartments exist to live in, and I am not any lesser of a person for doing just that. They are not simply for foreigners and newlyweds. Granted, it was a gigantic challenge getting my kitchen to be a functioning on in the shoebox it fits into… But I’ll survive. Life’s not about my kitchen anyway.
I don’t want my daughter to feel shame over where we live. I don’t want her to be afraid to meet people, make friends and bring them over. More than that though, I don’t want her to be a snob. I don’t want her to be disappointed because we don’t fit the agenda of where 40-year-old parents should be. Is there a manual somewhere that says we should have a beautiful McMansion and a $12,000 vacation over the Holidays? If there is, I never got a copy and it’s probably too late to live the cookie cutter life now anyway. I love to help people. I love to touch lives. I love people in my home, and laughter and conversation and sharing… I love these things. I don’t care where I’m living, I will always love these things. And so I’ll just sit by and let Gen sort that all out. I’m very happy for the people I know with beautiful homes and more “successes.” My successes look different because I am different, and someday I hope Genny realize she is on her own journey and unless you pay a fee and/or choose it to be- it’s not a competition.
(also, if you haven’t entered my awesome giveaway yet, PLEASE do!)