When you struggle at something for a long time, and suddenly you get what you wanted, it often feels terrible. I thought of this when I was recently talking to an undergraduate student. This student had been trying for a full semester to get a department to start putting information about a specific program on their website. And it just seemed like she couldn’t get anyone to listen. Then she got into the right room with the right people, and suddenly everything was easier.
People had listened to her, they had seen that she was right, and they had done what she had asked. Why was that so hard? She should be over the moon. But instead she was bitter.
She was bitter because of all the time she spent trying to get people to understand. She was bitter because it was so obvious. It was the sort thing that had been a no-brainer for the department. When people looked back at that process, they would never again think about how that page once was.
There’s no word for this experience, so I decided to make up a word. It seemed like the sort of thing that might exist in the German language, so made up a German phrase: leicht wütend, or ease-resentment.
I know you should be happy, but you can’t be happy because you remember all the lost time you spent caring about that thing. That’s time you are never going to get back. You are never going to know what you could have done instead. Instead of trying to change a couple of minds, you could have been doing something else.
I think leicht wütend is something that is particularly a challenge for women and people of color. Most of the time you are just trying to get people to see something they should see. I know that some people will be surprised to find out that women and people of color do not want to spend all their time trying to persuade white men. They could spend that labor on something more important, like trying out new ice cream flavors, spending time with their family, or reading a good book. You will probably only think of that thing when you remember how hard it was to do that thing in the first place. When you get someone to understand their own assumptions, they often want to their change their behavior. But then you get ease-resentment: why was that so hard?
Understanding the range of emotions one has is important. I think leicht wütend is real and valid. Sometimes you feel guilty because you think that once you get whatever it is that you wanted done, you think that your life will be easier.
Some tips for dealing with leicht wütend:
- Look on the bright side. Try to focus on something positive that came out of what you did. For example, you might have been recognized. Maybe you are getting to do something now that you have been really interested in doing for a while.
- Don’t gaslight yourself. What you did really was scary and hard, you really did work on it for a while, and you should be proud.
- Let it go. It’s hard to do, but sometimes you need to pick your battles and understand that things are better now.
- Knowledge is power. Know that you are going to feel bad, and that’s okay. We have a culture that prizes happiness over all things. Sometimes you need more.
- Practice self-care.
- Be salty. You know, maybe if you do you’ll feel better. Go and bitch to a friend about it. You will probably feel a little bit better and less alone.
- Go find something else to be passionate about. The good thing about struggle is that here is always more of it. Go out and find anew thing to get involved in.