My college graduation should be a joyous event, but for me it is foreboding. I find events of this sort to be embarrassing since the accomplishments of mine being lauded are so meager. I have celebrated birthdays, graduations, and other milestone parties by leaving in tears. I have tried counseling to little avail and have been like this for as long as I can remember, and believe it is simply a quirk of my personality. I have found it best, after making the minimum required appearance, to be by myself to work out my emotions away from the public eye. I attended a low-ranking university lured by a full-ride in a bad economy. I have excelled there, but I have not been particularly challenged or self-motivated. I’ve decided to work for a year or two before considering graduate school. The job I had lined up fell through due to budget cuts and I haven’t yet found another one. I’m moving in with my parents while I look. Without consulting me, my parents have invited my extended family and their friends to celebrate my graduation. I feel a great shame over how I have spent the past four years and do not feel I have thick-enough skin to explain my situation. This is compounded by the fact that my brother entered a highly competitive graduate program upon his graduation. I would rather spend the day reflecting. Am I being unreasonable to ask them to just let me do that?
You graduated at the top of your university class and attended tuition-free because you were the kind of student they wanted to entice to their campus. Sure, I had to cut my way through a thicket of self-loathing to get to this story, but count me impressed. I am against labeling every human variation and quirk as pathological, but I wish I could make you see your accomplishments as others do. It could be that another therapist or even medication could help in this. Tons of recent grads are returning to their childhood bedrooms, staring at their posters of the Backstreet Boys and wondering what’s ahead. But unlike most of them, your excellence means you don’t have to worry about chipping away at a massive pile of debt. No wonder your parents want to have a party! Sure, they should have checked with you, but the planning’s done, so please don’t make them cancel. By this time everyone knows you shrink away from being the center of attention and that sooner or later you’ll lose it, like House Speaker John Boehner. So what? Milestone events are good occasions for tears, and if they fall, just explain to all that you’re overwhelmed by their good wishes. Once you’ve given everyone a hug, then you can sneak away intermittently to try to restore your equilibrium. I think you should check out the work of psychologist Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. This post of hers speaks to just the situation you describe: comparing yourself unfavorably to others and having that overwhelm you with tears. Read it and weep with relief.
When scheduling dinner parties or other events with friends, some guests routinely ask for the attendee list before confirming their own attendance, as if my invitation is not enough of a draw. (I think this has been spurred by Evite, which has a feature to make it possible to see who’s attending.) Is this incredibly rude? Or am I being rude by not giving the list? Is there a more diplomatic way of responding?
I agree that the guest-list feature of email invitations has made this an expectation, along with the assumption that you will issue reminders of your event with the regularity of a metronome if you expect anyone to remember to come. Just as Evite can display who’s coming, the host can turn that function off, and I concur that getting a bead on one’s fellow guests before accepting is boorish. Feel free to say, “The list isn’t final yet, but I’m expecting a good group.”
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