Sunday, December 17, 2006

...The Unstated Competition

Is there a name for the psychological condition that causes you to be perfectly happy when good things happen to complete strangers, but makes you secretly wish people you actually have a personal connection with never have anything good happen to them that could possibly be construed as doing better than you?

This is one of those topics I hesitate to talk about, not only because I’m sure it reflects poorly on my character, but also because it is the type of topic that tends to lead people to spew out the worst kind of hippy-dippy, artificial, feel good, “Just Be Happy With Who *YOU* Are” positive self-affirmation bullshit that may sound good on paper but never really makes you feel any better in real life.

Back in September I learned that Yul Kwon, who graduated from my high school two years after I did, was going to be appearing on this season’s contest of “Survivor”. At the time I thought it was kind of cool to see a hometown boy represented, even if I honestly couldn’t say I had much recollection of him beyond somewhat recognizing the face when I looked back at an old yearbook.

I have to admit I beamed with pride throughout the season as Yul was consistently portrayed as one of the most intelligent Survivors ever to play the game; thinking this somehow validated my own intellect as a graduate of the same educational institution. Even though, to be fair, he graduated valedictorian of his class, while my grades were more of the “just good enough to not get held back” variety.

From everything I’ve heard and read about Yul he seems like a perfectly ethical, smart, charitable, civic-minded individual destined to make a positive impact on humanity. So why was I sitting on the edge of my seat tonight with clenched fists and a rapidly beating heart, desperately praying for the final tie-breaking vote to go in Ozzy’s direction? Because Yul’s victory caused me to acknowledge a topic I know ultimately is silly and unimportant, yet nags at me constantly: “How Successful Am I As A Grown-Up Compared to the People I Went to School With”. In Yul’s case, objectively, the answer would have to be, less
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