Editor’s note: The author of this column was granted anonymity due to the intensely personal nature of the events described.
Sometimes, I want to end it. Sometimes, life feels like a story where I'm not even my own protagonist.
Sometimes at Princeton, I had trouble sleeping, but I also had trouble getting up. I had a personal issue of pegging myself to others like a fixed exchange rate or something. If they went up, I had to sell all my reserves until I went broke, just trying to keep up. I thought I was evil for wishing people would stop rising so far above me. I kept trying to tell myself that I would have my friends be more successful than strangers, but those words rang empty in the face of the boiling rage and underlying shame I felt when people bragged about their accomplishments. Soon, I was feeling that even in the face of other people experiencing genuine happiness.
I had this notion of "strictly better than," like people were a basket of qualities that people could assign complete preference to. If a dining hall cake was strictly better than the untouched cookies, why did the cookies exist? And if someone was strictly better than me, why should I exist? There were just so many categories to lose in. And if I looked hard enough at my own subpar pictures on Facebook, or my increasingly hateable face in the mirror, I could make my mind believe I was a loser in everything.
The funny thing is, I remember back when I received the Orange Tiger screen as a high school senior – I thought my life was made. Now that I'm here, it doesn't feel that way. But when I think about it, I am so fortunate to even be here. Maybe my entire happiness range just moved up the scale, so that I think every relationship drama is the end of the world, whereas people at any other school may have to worry about how to cover food next year or tuition, without full financial aid.
So I try to remember that when things are good, it's good. When things are bad, it's good too, because it means I'm surviving. I'm a survivor. And I'm trying to find little things that used to make me happy, like going to the gym or seeing people laugh.
Maybe there really is no point to existing if I'm not the best at anything. But is anyone? Even if there existed the "strict" best person in the entire world – what reason do they have over the rest of us to deserve life? Maybe the best of the best can touch a million or a billion lives, but in the end, it's just transient souls easing this transient process for other transient souls. If life were a state function, it would be the same if I had jumped out my bedroom window in high school or if I died at 80.