Bonus Post: I Got to Ride in a Military Plane

My long-time readers will have seen other posts about my adventures in military-spouse life. It’s hard a lot of the time, but sometimes it’s really, really cool, and today was one of those days.

I completed a class/networking event on the base we’re at called HeartLink, and as a reward for attending, I got the opportunity to go for a ride in a C-130 military cargo plane. How could I possibly say no to that?

We met at the Airlift Squadron’s office (it’s probably called something else; if you’re here for exacting military jargon you are sadly mistaken; I do my best but that’s about it), and I settled into a conference room with a taxidermied giraffe in it.

“Holy crap, that’s a giraffe!” I said as I sat down.

Oh, did you think I was joking?
“Oh yeah, that’s Limpopo,” remarked the man in the flight suit who was setting up the projector. “The last time I saw him was at a base in Texas.”

“So he’s…a traveling…giraffe?”

“Yep. It was cool to see him here.”

I was truly down the rabbit-hole now. Or, giraffe hole. Giraffes don’t dig holes. Moving on.

The rest of the spouses going on the flight filtered in, and we were treated to a briefing about all the cool stuff the squadron does, how all the other units (that our spouses are in) help this squadron and others out, and someone very important told us, “When they open the back hatch, do not unbuckle.”

We all exchanged a look. We’re opening hatches on this flight?

The Base Commander’s wife got up and told us, with a very loud, high-pitched laugh, that she wasn’t on the list to go with us on the flight, and that she ‘had an opportunity to fly back in spring, so ENJOY! HAHAHAHAHAHA.’

Oh lordt.

We bid farewell to Limpopo and headed out to the flightline, where there was a big fat plane waiting for us.

See? It’s just ponderous.

We got to walk all around it (although not under the propellers, as apparently those might turn on their own without notice…), and then we went around to the aforementioned back hatch for a safety briefing, I assumed to make sure none of us broke this very expensive aircraft or our necks.

The Load Master giving us the safety briefing pulled out a green pouch and said, “If we happen to need oxygen, it’s not like on a commercial flight. You’re going to open this green pouch, pull out this plastic bag, and put it over your head.

“Um, I’ve heard that’s the opposite of what I want to do if I’m trying to breathe.”

“It sounds counterintuitive, but oxygen will start flowing as soon as you open it up, so don’t worry.”

“…what if it doesn’t???” One nervous lady asked.

“Oh, we’ll notice, and we’ll be right on top of you getting it fixed. I PROMISE, we’re not gonna let anyone die on this flight.”

I looked around at the crowd and noticed that we had a pretty even mix of ‘reassured’ and ‘what have we gotten ourselves into’ going on. But the dudes in the flight suits just look so darned trustworthy! They’ve all got these big cheese-eating grins, and they shake your hand with their gigantic bear-paw-looking ones and say ‘Hi I’m Chad,’ and ‘I promise we won’t let you die on this flight,’ and you kinda have to feel better, because clearly the guys working the airplane are not nervous – so why should we feel that way?

So we got onto the plane and settled into some seats lined with red canvas, our backs resting against more red canvas in the form of cargo netting.

“How do I work this seat belt?” One lady asked.

“Oh, if it the buckle doesn’t work, just tie it in a knot,” said one of the crew members, laughing at his own joke. He went on to show her how it connected, saying, “We’ve transported Army guys before, and they couldn’t work the seat belt, so they just -” [makes whooshing noise while gesturing as if tying a knot] “- tied the thing together and said, ‘Yeah, I’m good!'”

They gave us presents for the flight (a pair of earplugs and a barf bag), and one of the guys passed out gum and mints to help our ears pop. Honestly, I’ve gotten worse service on Spirit Air; these guys are pretty good.

I like how it tells us not to be embarrassed if we need to hurl.
Just like on a commercial flight, we waited a while before we took off. Unlike a commercial flight, we actually got to see the crew running around and doing stuff while we waited.

After a bit, the propellers started turning, and we all put in our earplugs. Trust me, they were necessary – a C-130 is a very, very loud plane, and there’s no sound insulation on the inside, so we heard the full effect of those gigantic engines.

We started to taxi out to the runway, and someone opened the back hatch. This type of plane has a gigantic opening on the tail, to put in cargo and people and whatever. So they opened it partway, and one of the load masters laid down on his stomach with his head hanging out of the plane.


“Wait,” I asked my friend. “Is he…helping the plane back up???”

“I guess these things don’t come with backup cameras,” my friend chuckled.

Sure enough, the guy hanging off the back of the plane was talking on his headset and gesturing occasionally, helping guide the plane through backing up so it could get turned around properly. Later on, my husband would confirm that not only was that guy telling the pilot where he needed to go to back up, but there were probably people standing on the ground helping with this process too. Considering the sheer size of the plane, it must feel like you’re having to parallel park a double-wide trailer. A multi-million-dollar double-wide trailer. No pressure.

But they managed it with pinpoint precision, and in a few minutes the engines got even louder, and we took off over the base and into the Germany countryside.

You guys.

It was so beautiful.

We flew really low, so we could see all the gorgeous scenery. Bridges, foggy valleys, forests all turning orange for fall, little farmhouses tucked into their little fields – we saw all of it through the windows, and it was absolutely stunning. Once we got off the ground, the crew let us unbuckle and walk around the plane. Over the roar, we could ask them questions about the plane, their jobs, etc.

We got to see the cockpit:

Man, that’s a lot of buttons.
And then they had us sit down and buckle up again. A couple of dudes put on helmets with big goggles, and one guy strapped himself into a jump seat that was bolted to the wall of the plane near the back.

And then they opened the hatch.


They literally opened up the back of the plane while we were flying! It was so cool! And also terrifying, because the two guys wearing helmets were just standing back there (with cables hooking them to the plane) like they were not 1,500 feet over Germany right then. One of them came around and took the phones of those of us who offered them, and zipped them into the pockets of his flight suit before returning to the open hatch to take pics for us. Despite the terrifying mental image of all our phones streaming out over Rheinland-Pfalz like so many Luftballoons, it was SO COOL that they were taking pictures for us, mainly because that meant I didn’t have to be near the car-sized opening on the back of a plane that was in the air at the time.

Both guys sat down on the back hatch like they were chilling out at a tailgate party, knees pulled up and facing the open sky. We all watched them in awe; they handled it like they do this every day…which they probably do. These guys are cool AF.


Pictured: Cool AF.
None of our phones left the plane without us, and as they passed them back to their owners, one of the crew came around with a case of ginger ale for anyone who wanted it. A few people did, but I didn’t see any barf bags come out, so hooray for us.

As we were getting ready to land, the pilot did make several sharp turns to get us facing the right way, which is the one part of the flight that was actually a little scary. For a big giant hippo-plane, that thing could turn, and turn it did. The ground and sky dipped in and out of the windows, I grabbed onto the cargo netting, and we all wondered if the pilot just thought the flight had gone a little too smoothly for us.

The landing was excellent, and we all thanked the crew and wobbled our way off the plane. Oh yeah, apparently walking around on a plane like that makes you feel a little drunk when you get onto solid ground again, so that’s fun.

Am I glad I did that? Oh. Hells. Yes. That was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I am so glad that I took the opportunity. If you get the chance to do something awesome, you don’t sit around and risk it passing you by – you jump at that, and you get on that plane, and you hold onto the cargo netting and pray you don’t barf or have to stick your head in a plastic bag that allegedly helps you breathe.

Being a military spouse is really hard sometimes. But other times, it is a truly epic adventure that I’m continually grateful for.



Goo Hoarding and How to Stop


We’ve all been there, right? You open your bathroom cabinet or drawer, and you think to yourself, “How did I acquire this much goo???” Moisturizers, serums, hair product, perfumes, it all just piles up as you find a thing here or there and add it to the cabinet.

Since I’m getting ready to move, it’s time for me to look at the parts of my life that tend to get cluttered. For me, that’s clothing and skin care products. I’m doing well on the clothing at the moment, because I put a moratorium on buying new seasonal clothes since we’re moving somewhere with a different climate. The only things I’ve added to the closet are wardrobe basics, and when I add something new, I put something old in the donation pile.

But I hadn’t really looked at my skin care in a bit, so I figured it was a good time to address that. There’s no point in shipping things I don’t need, and risking them leaking or breaking in transit.

Here are my favorite tips for keeping your goo-cabinet from getting out of hand.

  1. Use bins. They’re a life-saver. Whether it’s shoe boxes, cute bins you bought, or the smaller boxes from a Lush shipment, use some sort of containers to compartmentalize your things and help keep you in check. If everything is supposed to be in a container, then you know it’s time to throw things out when it doesn’t all fit in said container. The other great thing about using these is that I know exactly where my products are. One box is only hair and bath stuff, one box is only skin care, one box is only essential oils, etc. When I need to go rummaging, I pull down the appropriate box, find what I need, then put it all back in the box and re-shelve it. Even if it’s just tossed in there with no order to it, my products *look* organized when I look at the shelf, because they’re contained in boxes. Personally, I like to reuse small boxes that I get packages mailed in, so that I’m staying organized and creating less waste.
  2. Go through your goo periodically. A quarterly goo-purging is probably all you need. Set a reminder on your phone, or put a sticky note on your bathroom cabinet with the date on it. When it’s time, pull ALL your stuff out onto the counter, take it all out of the boxes, and survey your collection. Do you love and use every single one of these products? Chuck anything that you were underwhelmed with, that’s mostly empty and you’re not using anymore, or that you bought on a whim because it looked cool but realized you’re never going to use it. If you bought a new toner that’s the best thing ever, you can get rid of your old, less-awesome toners. When are you going to use the mediocre ones in place of your new fave? Is anything in that box broken or leaking? Toss it; you don’t need puddles of dried stuff all over your cabinet. If you have a friend who’s into skin care, see if they want to give those ‘good but not for me’ products a test run instead of throwing them out. It can be your good deed for the day.
  3. Try to use up a product before replacing. This is hard to do, but it will save you money and space. If you’ve got a cleanser that works well for you, use it up completely before trying a new cleanser. Sometimes, I’ll get overwhelmed with products and I’ll have to stop buying things until I can use up some of what I have. I hate to waste product, especially if it works well, so to regain control of my cabinet, I take buying breaks where I just use what I have for as long as I can. Sometimes it’ll take me several months to use things up to the point of needing a replacement. That’s several months of not spending money on new products, and several months of slowly freeing up space in my bathroom. The products you’re already using must be working – if they made you break out, you wouldn’t be using them – so keep using them until you get the full value of what you bought. Don’t throw good money away if you don’t have to.
  4. Shop with space in mind. If you’re trying out a product for the first time, especially if it’s an expensive one, get a travel size or sample first. It will take up less room in your cabinet, and if you hate it, you can throw it away without feeling like you wasted a ton of money on a full-sized product that turned out to be a bad fit. Probably 90% of my Sephora purchases come from the little stands of travel products, because unless I know for a fact that a given product is going to work great on my skin, I don’t want to pay full price for it. That’s a big gamble; some oil cleansers can cost $50 or so. I don’t want to realize that was a mistake.
  5. Take advantage of return policies. One of the many good things about Sephora is their return policy. You can open up and use a product, and if it doesn’t work for you or makes you break out, you can return it. Their policy says products have to be ‘new or gently used.’ So don’t try to return something you used half of, but if you tried it once and hated it, and you still have your receipt, you can take it back and get a refund. Check the return policies of other places you shop as well; don’t keep products sitting around that you don’t like.
  6. Know your skin type. Buying products that are made for skin like yours will save you a ton of grief and money. If you don’t know your skin type, you’re basically just guessing every time you buy a new product, and hoping it will work. That’s got to get expensive after a while, not to mention leaving you with a cabinet full of failed goo purchases. I just learned a great way to find your skin type: get a piece of blotting paper, and pat your face with it in the middle of the day, well after you’ve washed your face. If the paper comes away soaked with oil and almost completely translucent, you have oily skin. If you have a few translucent spots but not enough to cover the blotting paper, your skin is combination. And if the paper comes away from your face like you hardly did anything to the paper at all, then your skin is dry. How easy is that? You can also ask your local skin care store rep to help you suss out your skin type before you start spending money; they know their stuff and are usually happy to help.

As Alton Brown says, organization will set you free. Nobody wants to open their cabinets in the morning and deal with a crapalanche of old products – we need our mornings to be easy, because sleep is good and digging through a packed cabinet just starts our day off on a frustrating note. When your products are easy to find, appropriate for your skin, and have intact packaging, your morning routine will be infinitely easier to pull off, so that you can leave the house looking and feeling fab.

BirdFashion Road Trip Essentials

I don’t know about your part of the world, but it certainly feels like summer here in Texas. What better time than now for a good old-fashioned road trip? It’s a summer staple in America; we have books and movies and songs about the event, and to my mind, it’s an excellent chance to experience something new without ever having to get in a TSA line.

I just got through with a wonderful road trip with my parents and sister. We drove from Texas to Massachusetts, and it was incredible. On this trip, I not only saw some gorgeous sights, ate amazing food, and talked to friendly people, but I was inspired to blog about what I wore and took with me that made my road trip even better. If you’re hitting the road this summer, here are some suggestions on what you can bring along to enjoy the journey just a little bit more.

  • Clothing that isn’t restrictive – It wouldn’t be a road trip without hours spent in the car, so your clothing choice is going to determine a lot of your comfort on this trip. Structured waistbands are probably not your friend here; opt for sundresses, maxi skirts, or leggings and tunic tops. Nobody looks good after ten hours in a packed car, so embrace it and get comfy! For undergarments, bust out your comfiest sports bra or t-shirt bra. You don’t need underwires trying to shank you while you’re napping against the car window. When you consider shoes, consider the weather, but have one pair of slides or flip-flops that you can wear while you’re actually in the car. Sitting for a long time makes your feet swell, so you need something you can kick off. You can pack your comfy or cute shoes in the trunk for sightseeing once you stop for the day.
  • Some way to be alone – This sounds counter-intuitive, since you’re going on a road trip to go somewhere *with people* right? But let’s be realistic here: after a couple days on the road, you’re gonna run out of things to talk about, or people’s normal habits are going to get annoying. You can create some privacy for yourself even when you’re crammed into a vehicle together, but it takes some preparation. If you like to read (and can do so without getting carsick), pack a novel or two to get lost in, or bring your Kindle. Does music soothe your soul? Bring an external charger for your phone and some comfortable earbuds so you can get your groove on without a dead phone ruining your day. Coloring books (like my personal favorite) or small craft projects are good options too, as long as you have plenty of sealable storage options for your supplies. Losing a 64-pack of colored pencils under the seats wouldn’t go over well with the driver.
  • A way to record the journey – You’re going to want to celebrate and remember this epic trip you’re taking, so bring along a way to memorialize it! Ditch the phone-camera and bring a legit video camera along if you have (or can borrow) one. Or if you want to travel light and aren’t going for an HD movie experience, keep your phone and post some good moments to Facebook Live or Snapchat so your friends can follow along. Of course, if you’re feeling lo-fi and a little artsy, you can always go for a journal or a sketchbook. Bonus with those last two: you never need to charge them.
  • Car-appropriate skin care – Long car rides to places with different elevations, weather, and allergens can do a number on your precious skin, and leave you looking like the road you came in on when you disembark. In addition to your regular morning and nighttime skin routines when you get to your AirBnB, consider an in-car skincare pack. You can use this for skin emergencies, or boredom emergencies (car spa party for the passengers?). Pack a small bag with moisturizing face mist, sheet masks, cleansing wipes, body lotion, and a travel-friendly refreshing eye cream. Depending on what your skin does in the car, you’ll have a chance to address it on the go without making a mess. Don’t forget to put that sunscreen on everyday!
  • A sense of adventure! – There is no such thing as a perfect road trip. You might get lost, have a flat, get into an argument with your car-mates, or find out when you get there that the art gallery you really wanted to see is closed for renovation. It’s disappointing, and it’s *completely* okay to feel bad when things go wrong. But road trips are about having an adventure, and those disappointments can either be just disappointing, or they can be part of the adventure. Getting lost may take you through countryside you wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That argument could end in one of those deep, soul-searching conversations you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Your favorite gallery might have been closed, but what else is in that town that might similarly blow your mind? I can’t guarantee you road-trip success, Fledglings, but I can say with some certainty that if you practice optimism and gratitude the whole way, it will be much easier to roll with any surprises that come your way, pleasant or not-so-much.

Safe travels! Comment with some photos or stories about your own road trips and what products you can’t leave home without.

In Defense of Ritual

Hey Fledglings. Let’s talk about ‘busy,’ and why it’s not doing us any favors.

We all try to pretend that we can go full-throttle through life, reacting to whatever gets flung at us, and that this tactic is both sustainable and a path to real happiness. But how many of us are happy, and how many of us are just stressed out? Sure, we feel important and needed when we schedule every second of our day, but what’s all that ‘busy’ getting us, other than a stress headache?

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, I’m busy *now*, but eventually things are going to calm down. You know, when I’m more successful/make more money/replace my car/finish school/etc.”

Is that true, though? Think really hard about this. Is your compulsively-busy life in pursuit of a specific goal, after which you have a concrete plan to change your habits? I’m betting that, like so many before you, you’re more likely to be using your busy life as an excuse to not deal with some things. I know I’ve pretended to be ‘too important/needed/busy’ to face down my negative thoughts, bad relationships, or horrible finances before. Take my advice; that’s not a sustainable plan. Life catches up, whether you want it to or not.

If we have goals in life, doing everything we could ever do ever, is not the way to reach them – it’s a good way to wind up on blood pressure medication, but it is not a good way to reach your goals. To achieve the things we want to achieve in life, the main thing we need is FOCUS. Remember how we talked about SMART goals a while back? Well, taking on All The Things, whether or not they serve our goals, just because we want to feel needed, does not fall in line with the theory behind SMART goals.

So what’s a lady to do? How can we better achieve our life goals, actually feel happy right NOW, and become comfortable with looking at ourselves and our own thoughts?

This is where ritual comes in. I’m not talking about religion, although if that’s your thing, by all means make it happen. I’m talking about the kind of ritual we can build into our daily lives, the kind that gives us time to focus on our own thoughts and goals and how we can improve them. If you’re constantly on the run from one thing to the next thing, you don’t have time to do that. So, are you reaching your goals? How would you know? You haven’t sat down in a month and a half; where are you even at on your way to those goals?

This is why I love Korean skincare. Yeah, it makes my face look and feel amazing, but it also comprises about twenty minutes of each day where I do nothing but take care of myself. During that time, I can let my mind wander. I can ponder things that are stressing me out, or things I’d like to change. I can think about my goals and if I’m doing enough to reach them. Taking time to just think is absolutely crucial to being successful in life – if you slow down for a bit, you can choose your path more carefully, and the ritual of a full skincare routine forces you to slow down.

Embrace your thoughts, even the negative ones – they’re there for a reason. If something is not right in your world, you have an opportunity to change it, but only if you know what’s going on. Paying attention to how you think and feel for a few minutes each day, maybe while you moisturize, is a good way to acknowledge that things could be better for you, and then take steps toward making things better.

I try to relax in the bathtub for a while at least once a week. It’s where I can let my mind wander for a bit, relax my sore muscles, and just be silent. Yet again, this ritual is great for me feeling grounded and able to take on the rest of the week. I usually put on a sheet mask while I’m at it, because I might as well do it up right! Heck, just making time to blog today is helping me put my own goals into perspective. I need to do that sometimes, and you do too. So let’s build a little more ritual into our lives, so that we can use that time to focus ourselves and be more successful during the rest of the day.

Here are some suggestions for time you can take to be quiet and focus:

  • Morning and evening skin routine (get that sheet mask going, you literally can’t do anything for fifteen minutes)
  • Religious services, if that’s your jam
  • Yoga/meditation class
  • Working out
  • Bath or shower time
  • A meditation app, like Headspace

No, that last bit isn’t getting me any money; I just downloaded the app about a month ago, and it’s kind of changed my life. It’s a series of ten-minute mindfulness meditations to help you focus and be aware of yourself and your surroundings. It’s fantastic.

Ordering your day so that you can include a ritual or two can open up so many possibilities. It doesn’t have to take a ton of time – the things I suggested take between ten minutes and one hour – but adding in some you-time will help you reach your goals more directly. If you feel like you’re flailing around trying to reach your goals, or even trying to figure out what those goals are, try and put some more rituals into your daily routine. Get used to moving from one thing to the next as you get ready for bed, or when you come home at the end of the day. See how it feels to relax your mind a little and just be with your thoughts.

I’ve gotten some good results from this. I bet you will too.

Making Friends as a Grownup

Remember making friends in college, Fledglings? It was so easy. You’d literally just walk into the dorm-hall lobby or the cafeteria and sit down next to someone, and you’d make a friend. Forging new friendships in college required nothing more than physically leaving your room.

Well, thirteen years on from starting college, I’m here to tell you that that will be the absolute easiest time you will EVER have making new friends. Making friends as a grownup with a full-time job and relatives that need your time and attention and a partner you want to spend alone time with, is ridiculously hard to pull off. This is mainly because all the people you could be friends with right now – they also have all those demands on their time. It’s not easy out there, guys.

When I moved to west Texas from the DFW Metroplex, I knew I was leaving behind friends I’d had for at least a decade. I was sad about that, but I was also excited for a new adventure, and let’s face it, the whole ‘too many time constraints to hang with your friends’ thing was absolutely still a factor in my life in DFW. We just didn’t hang out as often as we had when I was 22, single, and functionally unemployed.

So what’s a busy birdie to do when she finds herself in a new place and in need of people to hang out with? I’ve lived here about a year and a half, and I think I’m getting the hang of it now. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Be Where The People Are. Yes, just like Ariel, you wanna be where the people are. If you’re looking for new friends to do things with, it behooves you to show up to places where people are already doing things you like. That way, even if you don’t make new friends, at least you’re getting out and doing something you think is fun. If you enjoy yoga, sign up for a yoga class – other people who like yoga take yoga classes! If you’re an artist, see what the local museums are up to and set yourself up to run into other art-lovers! If you love animals, see if your shelter takes volunteers for adoption events and hang out with other people who love animals! Going through something with other people is how friendships are forged – it’s why college is so great for forming friendships. But taking the same class or volunteering for the same organization can have a similar effect on people.
  2. Be Forthcoming. If you’re new in town and want to make friends, tell people that. I know it feels like you’re coming off as a giant dork, but it’s so easy for grownups to assume that people they meet already have social lives, and we forget to initiate those friendship-having things we all want to do together. If you’re the one wanting friends, you’ll have to speak up. Ask someone if they want to grab dinner, or share a ride to the next cat-adoption event – after you get to know them a little, obviously. They probably didn’t even know you’re short on socializing, so you suggesting something is the best way to make it happen.
  3. Be Patient. This is a big one: remember how I mentioned all those obligations we have now? Remember how I also mentioned that the people we want to be friends with also have those obligations? Yeah, scheduling a meetup is going to be hard. Schedules change, nobody has the same free evenings, last-minute work/child/home situations happen to scupper best-laid plans. Don’t get disappointed or assume people don’t like you because they keep having to reschedule – just keep trying. Give it some down-time in between, so you’re not annoying people, but if something fell through, try and reschedule as soon as you can. If you don’t put the effort in to make it happen, it becomes all to easy to end up at home every night for weeks on end. I wish events and happenings would just materialize like they did back in college, but I’ve found that it’s not nearly that easy anymore. The only way I’ve been able to make it work is to keep scheduling things, and then scheduling them again when they fall through. It gets tedious and frustrating sometimes, but so does sitting at home all the time, and at least rescheduling gives you a chance of doing something fun with your day.
  4. Be Flexible. Your hangouts may not look like you’re used to them looking, and it’s important to roll with it and focus on having fun. Your friend might need to bring their kid along on your Starbucks date. You might need your friends to come to you because you’re waiting on a delivery. Your friend’s wife might be switching to a night shift, so they can’t hang out before 7PM. These things happen, and it’s important to adjust your expectations so you can still get your social on, rather than canceling because it’s not going to be the exact hangout you wanted to have. Don’t pass up on seeing friends just because the venue/guest list/activities have changed – your friends are still there, right? Go to the thing to see them and to catch up on their lives. If you’re with good people, you’ll probably end up having fun anyway.

It’s so easy to get used to our socializing being an epic event where everyone can do whatever they want for however long they want, and all that fun is just free for the taking. The reality of being out of college and in the whole employed/partnered/responsible world has been a big change for me, and it probably is for you too, because we all have SO MUCH going on. Fun is still necessary, but now it has to be scheduled, and everyone is going to need to compromise at least a little, and it might not work out the first time you try and get together. That’s okay, I promise. When the stars align and you do end up having a fantastic time with your friends, you’ll remember why you put in all that effort, because it will be 100% worth it.

Success Backlash

What is this thing that happens when a person gets or does something great, and the people around them decide to be hateful about it? I’ve seen it when someone loses weight (“You’re *too* skinny now, you look sick”), when someone buys a house (“You’re stuck up and think you’re better than me”), even when someone gets in a serious relationship (“You’ve *changed* and you spend too much time with them”).

Why can’t we be happy for each other, Fledglings? I see this more among women than men, so I think it bears asking. Why can we not be excited when people achieve good things for themselves? I see that burning resentment on people’s faces, and I definitely read it in Facebook comments, and guys, it’s a problem.

I have some theories here, but please bear in mind that none of these are excuses for rage-quitting a friendship because the other person became successful at something. They’re more like jumping off points so that we can collectively ponder how we can stop shitting on our friends’ accomplishments like jealous, bitter middle-schoolers.

The first theory that comes to mind is that our friends’ successes throw our own failures and insecurities into sharp relief. Wedding season has been a hellish one for me in years past; seeing my friends get the happiness and love they so richly deserved came with a twinge of self-reproach, because I wanted that too and couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have it. That hurts. It’s a deep, crushing, soul-level hurt that took years to get past. I was blaming myself for not being in a relationship that was going anywhere, and in hindsight, I should have been more gentle with myself. I met my fiancé at the exact perfect time in my life – but if you’d have told me that five years ago, I’d have told you to stuff it. My current misery blocked out any hope of future contentment, so all I could see as my friends walked down the aisle was that they were happier, farther along in life, and more ‘together’ than I was.

I can’t tell you why that feeling of being a giant screwup in the romance department didn’t coalesce into a bunch of sneering resentment toward my lovelorn friends – hell, maybe it did for a while and I didn’t notice – but I’ve maintained all my friendships that were worth maintaining, so I’m thankful I didn’t sabotage myself too badly.

The thing I’ve taken away from that dark time, and subsequent (substantial) improvement, is that it was never my friends’ intention to hurt me by being so obviously happy in front of me. For one, they’re not responsible for my happiness. For two, expecting them to pass on love or success to keep me from feeling crappy about myself, is not an act of friendship. That’s an act of selfishness, expecting someone to hold off on succeeding until you’re ready to do so yourself. I wouldn’t be friends with someone like that, and I sincerely hope (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to ask) that I wasn’t That Guy in my deeper points of ‘why me.’ That would be pretty embarrassing in hindsight.

Don’t invent a villain just so you have something tangible to be angry at.

Listen, Fledglings, if you’re feeling that nasty resentment that’s telling you how awful you are because you have to stand by and watch your friends be happy while you struggle, it is okay to take a step back. Better to put some distance and be with your thoughts, than to lash out at someone and wreck a friendship because they’re happier than you. That’s not their fault. Don’t invent a villain just so you have something tangible to be angry at.

Here’s another thought I’m having about this issue: do we feel like we’re in competition with our friends? Because my therapist would say that’s unhealthy. Are we thinking that our friend has ‘won’ and therefore we’ve ‘lost’ when they close on their gorgeous house in the ‘burbs?

Our friends don’t take anything from us when they succeed – unless you’re that other guy who helped found Facebook, I guess – so why do we feel that sense of loss when our friends embark on something new and great for them?

Maybe it’s because those big milestones often come with a lot of change, which any business manager will tell you is a hard thing for humans to grapple with. When I got engaged, I chose to move four hours away from nearly all my friends, and it’s definitely shaken my friendship tree and shown me what fruit needed to fall. But a friendship is like a business, Fledglings – if it’s too flimsy to handle change, it’s probably not supposed to exist. That’s harsh, but I’m sticking to it.

I think it’s human nature to worry what kind of changes our friendships will go through when one party makes some huge change, like having kids or starting a new career. Obviously, they’re going to live differently after this, so how do we friends fit in? Are we even a part of this new life they’ve gotten, that seems to make them so happy? Tell me that wouldn’t keep anybody up at night.

Like Billy Joel says, it’s a matter of trust. Don’t assume your friend intends to leave you behind – that’s feeding that fear and telling it that it’s real again, like when we talked about packing. Don’t do that thing, you’ll go all Don Quixote over it, chasing windmills thinking they’re Giants. There’s no need for that, when you could just ask your friend for reassurance that you’ll still be friends through all this new Life Stuff. Yeah, you have to be vulnerable to do that, but aren’t we all vulnerable, like, all the time? You asking your friend what this means is just you introducing that vulnerability and acknowledging its presence. Be brave, I know you can do it. Isn’t it better to know where you stand, even if the answer isn’t the one you’d prefer? Rejection fucking hurts, not even playing. But realizing ages later that you were more committed than they were, hurts a lot more. Odds are, your friend will have every intention of still being your friend (maybe with different schedules or conversation topics), but if they don’t, you will not physically die from it. You will move on from that weak friendship and find strong ones. And that’s you becoming successful.

Let’s be kinder to ourselves, Fledglings. We’re not competing against our friends. They’re not achieving things to spite us or to hold it over our heads (and if they are, why are they your friends?). Strive to own your own life and your own happiness, no matter where you’re at right now. That’s the best way to make sure other people’s wins are cause for celebration.