Editor’s note: This post might start out normal, but it is somewhat of a rant.
Among the Downtown set, getting an evite to someone’s birthday dinner is met with a mix of both happiness and dread. Happy to be celebrating a birthday with a friend (extra happy if they’re turning a year older than you), not so happy because inevitably, the restaurant is expensive, you have to pay for the bday person’s dinner, everyone drinks like a fish, over-orders, someone forgets their wallet/leaves early/forgets to pay and somehow you manage to walk out dropping $80 on a $12 pasta dish and eight glasses of water. I may complain when the evite appears in my in box, but I’m always happy to go, celebrate with friends, meet new people, maybe discover a new restaurant.
this time is was painful. I reminded myself 8,000,000 times I was doing this for my friend. But that’s hard to remember when you’re seated next to the driest, most boring people in the world, across the table from a Library Science major (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you can guess the type), a textbook editor, and someone that works in “logistics” for a New Jersey magazine. I drank ten glasses of water to avoid having fits and starts of conversations with these people, which clearly, they couldn’t seem to carry. At first, I felt bad. But then I got a little annoyed. These friends of my friend were all around our age, went to schools that ranges from MIT to Trenton State, some were still in school (Masters, PhD, etc) and some had jobs. But NO ONE was interesting! I started by asking people what they did, and I don’t just mean how they were employed because most weren’t, but what they liked to do and were interested in. I received blank stares. I kid you not.
After two hours, the “party” started breaking up and I hightailed it out of there and walked through the East Village to my west side home. When I hit Stuyvesant Park, I started wondering what all those people I went to high school with (birthday friend included) were doing. I ticked through as many people as I could remember and came up with almost nothing. In its time, our school graduated philanthropists, entrepreneurs, diplomats, social rebels, policy makers, magazine founders, leading feminists, a few queens (real ones, not drag) and wives of heads of state. It was a pretty competitive environment both academically and socially. Graduates went to top-tier schools (except for some of us) and what are they doing now? Legal assistant, administrative assistant, medical assistant, assistant office manager, assistant to the President of (blah firm/hedge fund/office). And the general female consensus seems to be they’re whiling away the time until they either a) get married or b) have kids.
Where did the leaders go? My fellow classmates that wanted to be litigators, start non-profits, change society, make films, music, fashion, technology (OK, that kid did do something), run countries and corporations. Why work so hard academically throughout middle/high school and spend a ton on college, if you don’t plan on pursuing your career aspirations? I know I was one of the lucky ones that knew what she wanted to do (for the most part), but come on, they could have just tried to make some of the dreams happen … I know I did and still do. What went wrong? These are kids I believed in. I thought one girl would be running our country or at least be Secretary of State, but now she’s in Argentina, where she’s teaching kids English until she figures out what to do next.
I’m depressed and mad. I’m in a bit of a career rut now, but even in my rut, I had three former classmates say they’re so impressed with what I’ve done. Huh? What I’ve done? I’ve held up my end of the “future” bargain. I’ve worked, and when I didn’t like a job, I found another more interesting or more humane one. I stopped hiding behind the textbook and started living in the real world where we also learn things and meet people and make money. I still continue to further my education by taking classes, reading EVERYTHING, consider grad school and go to lectures. In a nutshell, I became an interesting person. I have cocktail talk. I can carry on a conversation and I have interests. But perhaps most importantly, I have interesting friends that reflect the various facets of my personality and background.
I think I’ve just realized something…
It all comes down to confidence.
If you’re not confident in yourself or what you want to do (like my friend) then you surround yourself with like-minded people — no confidence, career direction, etc.
I don’t always have confidence. Most of the time I fake it. I’m sure even my friends do too. I’ve been practicing the art of faking for so long, sometimes I forget I’m faking and actually believe it. And maybe that’s what it boils down to. Not how good a student you are, how much community service you’ve done, how many internships you’ve had, who you know, how much money your parents have or where you came from. Maybe it’s all about how well you can “fake it till you make it.”
And that revelation, my dear uptown, is no lie.