You Only See the Grill

I’m not sure I’ve ever spent this much money in such a short amount of time. Increased rent, buying a bed, sofa, dining table — furnishing adds up fast. Of course, there are also the treats one might afford themselves after finally graduating to a new lifestyle. I haven’t owned a TV in 13 years, but now, I definitely want a big one. And since she loves BBQing, my girlfriend also bought us a new grill.

“My god,” I sometimes think when sharing these genuinely exciting updates with friends. “They must think I’m indulgent.” I’m even more hesitant to share such purchases online. Friends and family usually have an okay understanding of why we do things. They know our backstory, and it’s easy for them to be happy for us. But if and when you perform for an audience, well, they only see the grill. “That’s an expensive BBQ! Why does he brag about that? Meanwhile, I just lost my job!”

It’s much harder to have empathy when you only know the result, not the path someone took to get there. What makes friends happy for us might make strangers envious. When I tell you about my new BBQ, you can’t feel the ten years of hard work to get there. You don’t see the long hours, fiddling with tax calculations, or even the painful assembly process of the thing. All you see is the outcome: a shiny new grill, ready for some delicious steak action.

Of course, we are all the audience at some point or other. You only see my grill, and I only see my favorite car Youtuber’s garage. That’s normal. The effort worth making is to try and have empathy regardless. To try to at least imagine the long road it took to get there. That way, we’ll feel a little less envious, and a little more like a friend.

Don’t overshare when context is lacking, and don’t judge a book when you’ve only read one page.