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Last Sunday, I attended a housewarming party that made me feel inadequate. Up until the point where I stepped into the foyer of this large two story home, I felt that I did a pretty good job of not judging myself against other people’s accomplishments.
That’s unhealthy behavior and, as a rational person, I know that success comes for people at different times. I know that a lot of my friends make more money than I do and have nicer things and that doesn’t bother me. However, the level of success that was put on display at this housewarming party last weekend was unlike anything else I had seen before. No one my age has their shit together quite like this woman and her fiance do.
I’m not a wealthy man by any means but I get by. I can afford to go out on a Saturday night and not wince when I check my bank account the next morning. Sometimes I’ll even buy a pair of shoes that I don’t need because I want them and I can. What I don’t have is an aesthetically pleasing apartment, and that fact was made all too apparent when I sipped sparkling water next to an expensive gas grill and sat on patio furniture that wasn’t stained with cigarette ash and Miller Lite.
I’m not joking when I tell you that every inch of this couple’s place that I was in on Sunday was Instagrammable. The soft, warm sunlight invaded the living room through sliding glass doors that let out onto a balcony overlooking one of Chicago’s iconic public parks. The guest bedroom, complete with a wooden bedframe straight from Restoration Hardware, looked like something out of an idyllic Norman Rockwell painting. I snooped through every crevice of that place, taking mental notes and scolding myself for not being as successful as these two people.
A stocked bar cart, expensive paintings (at least they looked expensive to me), and a hi-fi stereo system fit in perfectly with a brown leather couch and matching recliner. In a refreshing twist, no television was centered around all of this stuff. “They probably host dinner parties and elegant pre-games all of the time without using a sports game as a crutch for the rest of the evening,” I thought to myself.
I must have commented on the trappings of the apartment during five or six separate conversations with partygoers, pointing out crown molding or the fact that they had copper cookware hanging from the ceiling just to drive the point home that they were, in fact, successful.
I had woken up that Sunday with a smile on my face. I got a subpar bagel from my favorite deli in the city and got my bike tuned up and ready to rock for the summer. And then I stepped into that housewarming party and started to feel like someone who didn’t have things all figured out. All of those unnecessary kitchen utensils, entryway tables, and antique armoires that littered the property really got under my skin. I went home that evening completely dejected, feeling pressure to have a place similar to the one that I was just in.
I headed out a few hours later and unlocked the front door to my apartment. I stepped into my own kitchen (complete with mismatching cookware, no crown molding, and wood floors that are long overdue for a cleaning) and cracked open a Miller Lite. The temperature outside was in the mid-60s and the sun was just beginning to fall down into Lake Michigan as I stepped out onto the back porch of my apartment. Pictured below is a beautiful view of my current “rooftop.”
I put rooftop in quotation marks because as you can see it isn’t exactly a rooftop. It’s a back porch with some really shitty couches, an ashtray for cigarettes, and a grill out of shot on the ground floor that gets the job done. I know how shitty this spot looks, okay? I understand.
But something peculiar happened as I sat out there enjoying my Miller Lite. In that moment, as I watched the sun set over the city and I sat on a couch stained with beer, liquor, cigarette ash, and all manner of bodily fluid, I realized that I don’t need to keep up appearances and neither do you.
You’re on your own path and maybe you’ll have a sick ass house one day and maybe you won’t. But to judge yourself against another person who has more than you is doing yourself a disservice. As long as you have a Miller Lite (or any other domestic beer that suits your palette), some semblance of a back porch, and a sunset, you’re doing just fine, my friend. Don’t let a friend’s really nice apartment get you down. You’ll get there one day. Or maybe you’re doomed for eternity. I don’t know, I’m not a mind reader. .