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There’s a story that Heath loves to tell that makes me look like a truly horrible person. He actually uses this story to demonstrate types of people you don’t want in your life. So before he tells you and decide that I’m a complete jerk, let me set the record straight.
January 18, 2013
Heath and I were former classmates and neighbors, but not great friends. In fact, I would go so far as to label us as frenemies, if I knew what that word really meant. (We were friends publicly, but didn’t always get along. Is that what it means? I’ll never understand.)
Either way, we definitely weren’t close enough friends for him to let himself into my apartment without knocking. In retrospect, we probably should’ve been better about locking our door. As I heard heavy foot steps climb the stairs, definitely not the footsteps of my dainty roommates, I sat cross-legged on my couch with a blanket across my legs watching Pretty Little Liars, which naturally had me extremely worried, albeit petrified, about what crazy stalker-murderer was about to round the corner.
It was Heath and Jim.
Back to my show, which they were now talking over. Can’t they see I’m clearly in the middle of solving one of the most convoluted and fascinating thriller mysteries of our generation?
They were oblivious and continued talking, despite my lack of interest. I paused the show and walked into the kitchen while they jabbered about going out dancing with one of my roommates, who was upstairs still getting ready. I poured myself a glass of wine—because if people swing by the apartment, you’re not technically drinking alone—and grabbed a bowl of brownie batter out of the fridge. (Before marriage, I always had a bowl of brownie batter or cookie dough in the fridge to satisfy my sweet tooth. Now that I think of it, I don’t know why I don’t do that anymore…It’s brilliant!)
I plopped back down on the couch, pulling the blanket back over my legs before propping my feet up on the coffee table, and carved out a deep spoonful of chocolate decadence.
It had been a long week. A long month. A long few months actually. I had just graduated college in December, tiring feat in itself, and almost immediately started working full-time at the university. I quickly learned that working full-time is more exhausting, more boring, and more all-I-want-is-a-nap-and-endless-chocolate than college. Plus, to top it all off, I was sick! Of course, not so sick that drinking wine and eating brownies for dinner wasn’t permissible.
Listening to Heath yammer on about his hopes and dreams (and basically be his typical self) was the absolute last thing I wanted.
Which is where I maybe can understand why he makes me out to be the bad guy in this story.
“I’m writing a book, do you want to hear about it?” Heath asked.
My thoughts: Since I’ve made no real effort to actually have a conversation with you at this point, why would I want to hear about your book idea? Why are you even here, interrupting my PLL marathon?
What I actually said: “You’re writing a book?” Notice how I didn’t say yes to his question. I would’ve felt bad saying yes knowing full well that I was lying to the poor kid.
“It’s called Stealing Hope. It’s about…” He kept talking… I wasn’t exactly actively listening.
My thoughts: I have never hated Heath so much. Not even that time last month when he yelled at me for calling him a jerk. (I realize that sentence could make me sound like a jerk, but he would probably agree now that he was definitely the villain in that story. I’ll have to tell you that one another time, so you can have a higher opinion of me.) Who is he to write a book? He’s an entrepreneur who sells t-shirts. I know that because he won’t stop bragging about it. Like seriously Heath, I got the memo after your first Instagram. Besides, it’s MY dream to write a book. I’ve been dreaming about it since I was six. I’ve been blogging for over a year. Who does he think he is to just up and start writing his book?”
“Who are you to write a book about hope?”
Ah crap I just said that out loud. Try to think of something nicer to say…Um…Yep there’s no way to recover.
“What do you mean?” Heath asked.
“You’re just a 22-year-old kid. What do you know about hope? Why would anyone read a book by you?”
To be fair, any publisher would probably write out these same questions on his returned manuscript one day. I’m really just saving him the trouble of postage and hours of work toward a dream that will never be realized. Although judging by the look in his eyes, he really didn’t appreciate the disdain in my voice.
Our conversation spiraled downward quickly and Heath called me mean names, I know that because after he left, I tweeted this:
No one hate tweeted him with me, in case you were wondering.
They were probably right not to join my cause because frankly, I was wrong. (See Heath, I can too admit when I’m wrong!)
After leaving my apartment, Heath says he turned to Jim and said something dramatic like this:
“Don’t ever surround yourself with people who don’t believe in your dreams.”
That’s a pretty inspirational line, isn’t it?
I take credit for that, since it was my arrogance and vain conceit that created the opportunity for Heath to speak such brilliance to his best friend.
I was mean to Heath not just because we were frenemies (enemies? Semi-friends, mostly enemies? The level of friendship where we say hello in the hallways, but don’t ask how are you because we don’t really care?), but because I was jealous.
He was writing a book.
That was MY dream. Mine!
And he was living it.
And I was halfway through a bottle of wine with 1,000 calories of chocolate in my stomach re-watching every episode of a pointless television show knowing full well that I would never truly figure out who A was on my own. Basically, look up “lame postgrad life” and you’ll see a picture of me on that Friday night.
Jealousy and living a life that didn’t meet my high expectations of the glorious thrill-filled life I imagined for myself after receiving my diploma made me cynical. Maybe Heath’s version of the story, the version where I look like a hater, or a troll who lives to crush the dreams of others, is more accurate.
In the past year while Heath and I have chased our dreams, we’ve faced our fair share of criticism. From mean Facebook comments, fake accounts created to spam us, and even threats of a lawsuit. While we traveled, it was difficult to keep these voices from getting to us and dragging us down, ruining what should be the happiest time of our lives.
At some point in your life, people won’t like you. This could be for one of two reasons:
1) You’re like me in this story and you’re the living manifestation of how to be a jerk to people who are doing cool stuff with their lives.
2) You’re like Heath in this story and you’re actually doing cool stuff with your life.
If no one hates you, chances are you aren’t doing anything with your life. Because why would people bother hating you if you’re not doing anything worthwhile?
Haters aren’t an indication that you should stop what you’re doing, but a sign that you’re doing something remarkable.
Even after you accept the fact that people only dislike what you’re doing because of your inherent coolness, I can’t tell you that it’s easy to not let criticism bog you down anyway. I find that I constantly have to fight against the urge to let comments by others drag me down.
Which is why I wanted to paint a picture of what a hater looks like–even if that hater was me.
Because when someone hates you, judges you, critiques you, it says more about them than it says about you. Odds are, they are jealous because you’re living their dream. Or they are hurting, so they lash out on you. Or they are just really lame and have nothing else to do on a Friday night but sit alone wallowing in junk food and posting negative comments about your success.
I think of that night often, because my husband is constantly approaching me with new dreams. It would be easy for me to discount his ideas, because let’s face it, some of them (like RVing across the country to work a job in every state, for instance) are really insane. When he told me that idea during our engagement, I told him it was the worst idea ever. (Goodness, it took me a while to get the hang of this supporting your spouse thing. I should write a book called Confessions of A Hater: What You Shouldn’t Say To Your Spouse if You Want Him To Like You.)
Obviously, he was right to withstand my criticism because this week, our story was featured in two big places:
CBS News: Road trip to find 50 jobs in 50 states
Boston Globe: What this man learned working 50 jobs in 50 states
The simple truth is, no matter what they are saying, what the haters are telling you is that you’re onto something remarkable. Keep working toward it.