Hey, jealousy

A few months ago, on a field trip to the districts, I posed the above photo to my Instagram. It was my first time out of Dili for work, and, secretly, I was totally on edge for the entire three-day trip: nervous that I’d screw up, worried about not knowing what was coming next (where can I pee?!), intimidated by the borrowed camera I was lugging around. Self-consciously, I captioned the photo with something I thought was humble; flippant: At a tara bandu cultural ceremony today! I don’t know how to use the camera and the only words I understand so far are “hemu kafe”, to which I said an enthusiastic yes.

This week, a dear friend in Dili posted something eerily similar on their Instagram: a lap shop of a DSLR, documenting a trip to the districts to capture stories from farmers. A dashed-off line about the camera’s intimidating sophistication.

Nearly identical to my post. Nearly identical to my life. And yet, when I saw it, my initial reaction wasn’t to laugh: it was to feel revoltingly, bitterly jealous.

Why not me, I thought – why are they the one doing something cool like this? Here I am, just sitting alone in my sad office, typing in a Word document, sweating in the cloying afternoon under fluorescent light, counting the minutes until 5:30pm hits and I can crunch my way home.

Then, I caught myself.

That is my life. I am the one doing cool things like that. I’ve got the Instagram evidence to prove I’ve done the exact same thing, and a thousand more photos demonstrating the myriad other incredible – life-changing – opportunities I’ve had since landing in Dili just five months ago.

At the time I saw that post I was messaging friends to plan a sunset trip to a white-sand beach. My Instagram feed is littered with brilliant blue tropical skies. Photos of me looking coy with coconuts. Group shots of my Timorese colleagues with in-the-know Tetun captions. Close-ups of $3 speciality coffee served to me by a barista who knows my name. I don’t think Dili’s had a sunset in the last five months I haven’t captured and posted.

But I forgot all that, as I looked at my friend’s picture.

And, of course, this is about more than just Instagram.

I can’t tell exactly what my life looks like from the outside, but I’ve got a fair idea it looks pretty good. If you read my emails home and looked through what I post on social media, you’d think I spent every weekend drinking cocktails at sunset, going on dive trips, cooking organic local produce with witty new friends, basking in 12-hour-long sunshine days – and every working week producing captivating, creative content, networking at high-end hotels, and exploring windswept mountain villages for Manatuto’s finest hidden coffee beans.

I do have those things in my life – to an extent – and I’m definitely not trying to say my life isn’t great. I’m not going to talk too loudly about the things in my life that are less-than-average, because the truth is, my life is good, and I don’t really think it serves anyone truly suffering to pretend it isn’t.

But even people with beautiful, glossy-looking lives feel lacking; feel like they’re missing out. Feel jealous.

Jealousy comes from insecurity, right? And trust me, I’ve got  a lot of that. I’m not confident with my photography skills. I’m worried I’m not contributing enough at work. I’m constantly on edge about being accidentally inappropriate here, and as a result I second-guess everything I say.  Half the time, I think my friends like me; the other half, I’m convinced they’re only putting up with me because it’s too late to back out now. Every Instagram post from me undergoes a severe vetting and editing regime, and then I enjoy several hours of wondering whether it was obnoxious and perhaps I should just delete it.

I’ve been anxious and unsure of myself for a long time (and I wrote about my anxiety this time last year, in a post I remain quietly very proud of). But this week was the first time my inability to appreciate what I’ve got has been this bad: never before have I been jealous of something I identically have, too.

I’m a communications volunteer who occasionally gets sent to the districts to take photos of farming villages. I’m a nervous photographer who shoots 600 frames to find three decent ones. I’m a self-conscious but narcissistic Instagrammer. I’m a terrible Tetun speaker who rehearses simple sentences 15 times before saying them aloud. I’m a smiling freckled malae living in the tropics, who gets to see the sun set over the ocean and make brief, intense friendships with other well-intentioned neurotics. I’m healthy and have money and am capable at my job and feel deeply unsure of myself and have beautiful friends whom I often talk over but they don’t seem to mind and it’s all spinning round and it’s a beautiful, fun, difficult, but easy sunstreaked life. Purple dusk and margarita salt.

Life is, of course, much more complicated than the Instagram version. But it’s also better, richer, deeper. Saturation nudged up.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s