Everyone needs one ‘happy’ friend

How a college friend proved to me that birds of a feather do not have to flock together

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Feb 13 · 6 min read

I watched it happen in stages before I realized this seemed to be a pattern. Some people really don’t like it when you’re happy.

Photo credit: Shots by Priiincesss

I checked my phone and saw a family member was downstairs waiting on me. We were headed to a company Christmas party, and I was excited to see her outfit. I knew she’d look really cute and wanted to show her my new dress. Our company receptionist stepped off the elevator as I got on. My eyes lit up when I saw how pretty she looked in her Christmas attire, makeup and hair done. I told her I was getting ready to change, too, and it was great seeing her all jazzed up.

Her response? A scowl. “You know you are way too extra, right? Just doing the most. It’s just a Christmas party.” Just like that, my smile fell. I stared at her coldly and responded, “I just commented on what I observed. Trust me. It won’t happen again.” By the time I got downstairs, I was frowning at the family member and mumbled for her to follow me. I complained about my shoes not looking great with my dress and didn’t say a word about her attire.

If you are the happy friend in your crew and find yourself becoming the unhappy friend, this may indeed not be the flock you want to be with.

Photo credit: Shots by Priiincesss

I’d just gotten back from Maui, glowing and speaking to everyone. When I asked “How are you doing?” to passersby, I really wanted to know. I’d been on vacation for about a week or so and was still daydreaming of the West Maui Mountains, fishermen offering me beer while they waited on lunch, pedicure massages and sand between my toes. A boss walked by, glanced down at me smiling as I typed away on my computer, and said, “You look so … happy.” I looked up at him and grinned. “I am.” His response? “That won’t last long.” And then he laughed aloud and kept walking. I watched him as he walked away. Just like that, the visuals of island water fizzled from my head. By the time the next person walked by to ask about my trip, my response was “fine.”

Photo credit: Ivana Cajina/Unsplash

I’d just finished reading Gabrielle Union’s book “We’re Going to Need More Wine” and thought it was absolutely hilarious. I went to lunch with a co-worker friend and barreled over in laughter trying to tell the “Mariah Carey car” story. I could barely get it out because I was too tickled. And the co-worker stared blankly at me. By the time I finished the story, his response was, “Why are you laughing so hard about it? You’re not friends with these people and don’t even know her.” I wiped laughing tears from my eyes and looked over at him. I cleared my throat, ordered my lunch and switched topics. I saw no point in sharing more funny stories from the book or at all.

Photo credit: Charles Etoroma/Unsplash

My mother was coming to visit me in college, and I was excited to introduce her to a group of friends. While two of them greeted her with big hugs and immediately started snitching on things I did at college, I watched with glowing pride. A third friend came over to my off-campus apartment, and somehow she convinced my mother to teach her how to Chicago step. But it was the fourth friend who I remembered most. The fourth one rolled her eyes when one of the three others yelled out of a dorm window, “Monnie’s mom is upstairs. Come meet her.” And that fourth friend mumbled, “What the f**k does that have to do with me?” to the girl walking next to her. She did not expect me to be sitting next to the window, too, and overhear her. She came upstairs, giving my mother a polite handshake. Then she immediately covered my eyes in a hide-and-seek fashion, purposely smearing my eye shadow. I yanked her arms off of me and just glared at her. By the time my mother and I were headed out to tour the town alone, I couldn’t stop myself from giving one-word answers.

Too often people will take you to a place of uneasiness. Your interactions with them will change your own mood with the next person.

When people are unhappy, they can so easily suck the energy right out of you. And once they do it, they often play dumb or are completely clueless that they did. With the receptionist, my conversation changed to “hi/bye/do we have supplies” for the remainder of the time that I worked at that job. Meanwhile her response was to be suddenly more cheerful than she was in the entire year I’d known her.

The boss who made the snarky comment after my Hawaii trip soon after told me he wishes I was “more of a team player and enjoying your job.” The lunch co-worker remarked that I “complained about everything” and “always had an attitude.” And the oblivious friend changed the subject when I mentioned what I overheard from the dorm window, only to then introduce me to her own mother with much fanfare.

I was dumbfounded. Too often people will take you to a place of uneasiness. Your interactions with them will change your own mood with the next person. And their attitudes will cause you to have an attitude. You will think it is your imagination at first. You may give these folks several “passes” in hopes that the relationship dynamic changes. But eventually you will come to realize that you are unhappy, complaining and angry — but only when you’re around them.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was from a college associate, who pulled me to the side at a homecoming parade and simply said, “Be careful who you hang out with. Birds of a feather flock together, and this might not be the flock you want to be with.” My mouth dropped, caught a bit off-guard that he was ballsy enough to say that out of nowhere. It had clearly been on his mind from casual observation of seeing me on campus. I thanked him politely and let that advice marinate while I watched the rest of the parade. Although he and I only had surface conversations when we saw each other on our way to class, the fact that he told me that with nothing to gain was a pretty big deal to me.

While you cannot change supervisors — that is, unless you take control of the situation and resign — your social circle is one area that you can control. If you are the happy friend in your crew and find yourself becoming the unhappy friend, this may indeed not be the flock you want to be with. The same goes for the unhappy husband, the unhappy family member, the unhappy co-worker, the unhappy church member, the unhappy club member, the unhappy anything. If you know that you are a much happier person when you’re not around ___________, remove yourself from the situation. Don’t let anyone ruin your happy, only for them to turn around and be happy when they’ve made you miserable.


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Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; Wag! dog walker; Rover dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 4x officer; WERQ dance enthusiast; Visit Shamontiel.com

We Need to Talk

These heart-to-heart conversations challenge some unpopular views on family, relationships and activism.

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