The Competition of Poor Life Choices! It's a well-known game college students play on a regular basis where they compare how few hours of sleep they have gotten and how few meals they've had! The more drastic a state of utter disarray your body and mind are in, the more respected you become. It's an everyday, focused endeavor to achieve at higher levels in a worse state of being than everyone else because somehow, it seems like a better accomplishment if you can get through your life with one foot in the grave and the other on the pedestal.
It's hard to pinpoint from what depths this terrible collegiate game show has arisen, to be completely honest. It's hard to say how the stakes have escalated as far as they have, because oh yes, they have. It's a constant state of John Mulaney's summation of college living: "Do my friends hate me or do I just need to go to sleep?" Why have we let things get this bad, I have to wonder?
Possibly because we've been spending so long trying to get others to hear us that we don't hear them anymore.
When people begin to build off one another and worsen their own conditions for the sake of the prize, it doesn't always seem as though it is what they want to say. It doesn't seem like people want to be at their worst at all times, sleep-deprived and stumbling, just trying to find footing somewhere. Sometimes, when people express how much they are suffering, they're not looking for other people to chime in with worse conditions from past months of pain. Sometimes, they just want to hear "That sucks."
Donna Meagle from Parks and Rec said it best, loves. Some people just want to hear that what they're going through sucks. Some people just want to hear that the trials and struggles and issues of their lives are valid. That what they're going through is difficult. That the ways in which they are struggling are not easy, not by any stretch of the imagination.
I've seen conversations happen in which a person will bring up a particularly rough night. A night of no sleep and no food and little energy and massive assignments and imminent exams and sickness on the horizon and pain. A lot of pain. I've seen people mention what they're going through and I've seen a host of others swarm in listing off the difficulties they've been through as of recently. I've watched as the person who spoke in the first place defensively attempts to maintain that their evening was worse. And every time, they look hurt.
I haven't just seen. I've been the person to chime in second. I've been the person who has stepped over someone else's hardships simply to get the chance to show how my circumstances are worse. How I'm doing more with less. I feed my own ego and feed on my own issues until there is nothing left of what the first person said. And I've looked back at them as the group runs away with the conversation and I've regretted jumping over them. Because I can see how much they needed one moment for people to say "That sucks." So they could move forward.
So this article is more of a reminder to me. To me and to anyone who might need to hear this. Stop the Competition of Poor Life Choices by never starting it in the first place. When someone brings up what they're going through, tell them "that sucks." Tell them that you're sorry. Just let them rant and do what you can to support them. Promote a culture of seeing that other people are struggling and coming by to support them rather than beating them at their own game. A game no one wants to win.
You lovely people have my word that I'll start with me. I want to validate the people I love for the things they are going through. It's gonna be worth it.