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In an apartment of five roommates, you learn to cherish the calm, quiet moments of solitude captured in the most unexpected of hours. It’s seven in the evening, and our common room is filled with silence, and its only occupant is me. A ruckus of clomping down the stairs and of voices pitched higher than normal pull me out of that calm moment.

It’s three of my roommates interrupting the silence to make tea. Two of them are going at it, back and forth.

“You don’t understand, though. Like, growing up, if I did a single thing wrong, I would get my head bitten off immediately.”

“Well. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t have… problems with my parents either. Trust me, I had plenty of issues with them.”

“No, but like, seriously, growing up was actually horrible.”

There’s a little force that’s pulling at my chest, begging to rip the words out of me. I wanted to jump in. Actually, my parents were super rough… But I keep my mouth shut until my third roommate interjects perfectly with: “WELL, MY MOMMY AND DADDY LOVE ME, GUYS.” And that shuts them up.

It’s a weird thing to be competitive about. Why are we arguing about who has the worst relationship with their parents? And this is not an isolated incident. For as long as I can remember, I would argue with people about, essentially, who had the tougher life.

“No, you’re way skinnier than me. I wish my hair was so easy to style. You’re so lucky you don’t have to …”

Why is this a thing?? Why are we so averse to bragging about the good things in our lives that we have to do it backhandedly by emphasizing the bad? Not only are we putting ourselves down, we are potentially belittling the feelings of others.

Maybe my roommate believes her relationship with her parents is a huge deal. If I jump if with a, “Well, it can’t be worse than my relationship with my parents,” then I’m discrediting her concern.

I don’t want to compete with other people over these kinds of matters. I want to learn to listen to and validate their concerns instead.