You Don't Always Have The Bigger Sh*t : Never Have I Ever
Within the first four minutes of Netflix’s hit show Never Have I Ever, the tragedies that strike our protagonist Devi are...a lot. Her father dies. Her legs stop working. She’s placed in a wheelchair for her freshman year of high school. Upon her return to school, Devi is determined to move past all of her trauma in the oh-so-traditional way many of us do : by not dealing with it and taking it out on the people around her. (Can I hear an amen for therapy).
Watching Devi disastrously fumble her relationships with her friends over a boy she was using as a distraction, was painfully relatable. All of the mess we sometimes create is just a way to not address all of the stuff that was truly bothering us. Instead of tackling problems head on, we prefer to imagine they will disappear on their own. So, we create other problems, problems about a boy or a girl. Problems that perhaps we think we can handle, but in the meanwhile become someone who tells their friends in the midst of their emergency that we have the “bigger shit”. Someone completely unrecognizable to the people that know us best.
Which is exactly what happened to Devi. After ditching her friends in one of the most difficult moments of their lives, to go help said boy with a photoshoot (I mean....damn Devi), her friends rightfully confront her about the way she’s been acting. They communicate their feelings in a loving but disappointed manner, and tell her that they need a break from the whirlwind that is The Devi Vishwakumar Show. For a show that’s handling teenagers, Indian culture, grief, trauma, and more, it handles this particular moment between teenage girlfriends with incredible care. Eleanor and Fabiola are in this moment more hurt by Devi more than anything else. They know more than anyone about Devi’s struggles, and how hard it’s been for her since her father died. But even in this show where they play supporting characters, they have enough self awareness to know that they aren’t there to carry Devi to her supposed end goal. They have their own complicated lives and problems that deserve attention and support too. If Devi can’t at the bare minimum, just show up for them, then she doesn't deserve their friendship.
In the midst of your own problems it can be hard to remember that the world is moving along without you. That everyone else has their own stuff going on, but it often feels like the only one that matters is your own. In this case, Devi did have a really good reason to be acting out, but it wasn’t an excuse for her behavior. Just like in real life, we all have our own issues going on, but we can’t continuously expect our friends to stretch the lengths of their boundaries to accommodate us.
We all go through Something, a period in our lives where a pressing problem eclipses everything else and steals our minds away from focusing on anything that isn’t that Something. It happens. And while we struggle, many turn on auto pilot and curl into ourselves in order to survive. At Devi’s age, it feels like you are the first person on Earth to ever encounter this problem and everything is crashing down on you. But it’s also fair to acknowledge that during our Something phase, we may not be in the best place to be there for other people. While we make efforts to survive, our actions can come off as selfish and distant. That’s something we have to acknowledge and communicate, before we push people too far away for them to ever want to come back. Devi was painfully unaware of how her actions were affecting the people around her. In that moment all she could think about was how badly she didn’t want to think about the real problem, her grief. But eventually, we all have to grow up and we remember that everyone’s got pretty big shit going on too.
Going through something isn't an excuse for the way you treat people. Sometimes, if they love you, they'll overlook it because they know you’re better than that. They know that the way you're acting and the words you're saying in that moment are uncharacteristic, and they'll lovingly give you a pass. But when you abuse that leniency, there is no rule in friendship that says they have to tolerate it. At some point, like Devi, you can become harmful to them and in that moment, they have every right to protect themselves. Always remember, we all have our own shit. And yours isn’t always the biggest.