I love it when friends come to me with problems. Whether they come seeking advice or just wanting a listening ear, it’s a good thing to feel needed. And appreciated. What I hate is that my friends have these problems.
Sure, there are the simple cases when someone’s freaking out because they failed their math test or they missed curfew and they just need to be reminded of what matters–a little reality-check and things calm down. Or when my sister comes home from dance, talking a mile a minute about what dramatic episodes happened today. I’ll chime in every once in a while with a helpful tip or a comment to supply as some sort of comedic relief, but the reason she comes to me is because she just wants to rant. And she wants someone to listen.
I can handle those situations.
But how do I tell a friend that it’s going to be alright when they’re not allowed to pick their own college, choose their own major, or even live on campus? When they break down on decision day because, while all of the other seniors got to make their own decisions, regarding their own futures, my friend didn’t get to make theirs.
Or when a friend comes to me, stressed and distraught because both of their grandparents are dying. I can’t say everything’s going to be okay because, eventually, they’ll both die. But I can’t say that either because that is extremely insensitive and unnecessary to mention. I can’t tell them that I’ve been there, because I haven’t, and I can’t say that I know what they’re dealing with, because I don’t. So is it all I can do to say, “aww that’s sucks,” in as many different variations possible?
Or how about when a friend comes to me with money problems? Stressed out of their minds because college is expensive! And is it worth it? To be in debt years after graduating with a degree that in no way guarantees them a job after the thousands of dollars are spent. How can I answer this question when the answer is so different for me?
How do I help my friends?
I try so hard to be a good friend to these people who don’t deserve these hardships, but there’s got to be more that I can say! More that I can do to help them deal with these problems.
And maybe I’m just unprepared. But how awful is it for me to sulk because I am privileged and blessed with so many wonderful things in my life? My college years are practically paid for and I get the freedom to study what I want. My grandparents are (touch wood) alive and well and I did nothing to deserve this. Just like these good people did nothing to deserve these unfortunate circumstances.
And maybe I’m not given these burdens because I can’t handle it. After all, I get stressed enough worried about petty problems involving over-scheduling and battling laziness. I still despise having to take ADD medicine every morning, while there are people out there dealing with much worse illnesses.
In no way am I trying to sound like I want these awful things to happen to me–I am truly thankful for everything I have and everything that I don’t have to worry about. But when I talk to these friends, how do I empathize with real life struggles while I, myself, hardly know the half of it.
I don’t know what the point of this entry is. It just all seems wrong to me. Even me, sitting here in my room, writing about how I’m sad that I can’t help my friends. Meanwhile, my friends are sitting in their own rooms, being sad for much better reasons.
I just want to help them. I want to say the right things to make them feel better and, if they fall apart, I want to be able to pick up their pieces. Sure, I want to empathize and lead by example and be strong enough for all of us, but I shouldn’t spend my nights practically wishing things had been harder.
Because I think we do that sometimes–wish things were a bit harder.
It’s like that line from “Birds” by Chef’Special: “I wish I was from a broken home to explain the fact that I’m cold and alone. But my family is golden so it’s probably just my own fault again.”
I think we’re all a bit messed up, and we’re looking for any validation as to why. And those of us who can’t find any can’t help but wonder where we went wrong.
And then I think the media tends to glorify these stories. Stories of struggle and triumph and strength. Jim Carrey and Oprah Winfrey and all these fictional stories of girls and boys who are depressed or ill or scarred. But they become these great characters, and they’re given happy endings.
Well, I think I’ve strayed far enough away from the point I was trying to make. And it’s too late and I’m too lazy to do anything about it now. So I’ll just reiterate what I’ve been trying to say.
I’m sorry that bad things happen to good people and I’m sorry that I can’t always help in the way I’m supposed to. But I’ll keep trying.