ENVY, THY NAME IS THEA
We were busy at our laptops, working on our NaNoWriMo projects, when the atmosphere in the room changed. I looked up to see my friend Mavis* staring at her computer with a stunned yet hopeful expression. Her voice shaking, she said, “Would you read this? I think I’m near to getting a publisher and I want to make sure I’m reading this right.”
Another writer and I began to read the detailed email from a publisher in response to Mavis’ manuscript. And while it wasn’t a yes, it was a very strong “you work on these specific issues and you’ve got a contract.” When we confirmed that it was indeed what she thought, Mavis broke out into the widest, happiest smile you’d ever seen. She was radiant and teary-eyed. The rest of us were smiling and cheering too. It was so great that a good writer and a good person was getting close to the goal she held in her heart for so many years.
A few hours later, however, I wasn’t smiling as much. Oh, I was still happy for my friend, but new feelings began to flare as I thought, “When will it be my turn? Will I ever have a turn?” It was petty and selfish, I knew that. Mavis has been faithfully writing a lot longer than I have and her skill level is higher. We don’t write in the same genre. She’s the one who encouraged me to submit my work for publication. But I still was jealous.
Of course, this has happened before. I’ve read about classmates, acquaintances, and former co-workers who are doing very well, according to Facebook or LinkedIn. But those successes are easier to take when you’ve only read about them and not have them happen in front of you. I used to work with a woman named Cammy. We worked in the same position and became friends. Eventually, she left and I got a promotion. It was a position that no one desired, dealing with people who were penny-pinching and difficult. But it was one of necessity.
A few months later, Cammy realized she wanted to return to the company and she was welcomed back. I was glad. I’d missed her. When another co-worker decided to leave the company sometime later, Cammy was promoted. Technically, we were in the same position but hers had a higher profile and more prestige. I was kept at the other job because I was already trained for it. It was easier keeping me there than training someone else. I was the red-headed, stepchild of my department. I was hurt and angry. But not at Cammy who, while happy to get the promotion, felt bad for me and hoped I wasn’t mad at her. I hid how I felt because I didn’t want to rob her of her joy.
Yet, for a while I felt like that quote of Gore Vidal’s. “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”
Now it was happening with Mavis.
I realize that there is no point comparing myself to others. There are always going to be people who are more successful than I am and those who are doing worse. We each are traveling on our own paths and should not try to “keep up with the Joneses.”
The writer who read Mavis’ email with me said that seeing this great thing happen to our friend was proof it could happen to us, that we have to trust in the universe.
So, I will trust in the universe, be happy for those who are succeeding, and continue the work that I have to do in order to ensure my own success. However, I’ve heard it said that life is like a game of golf. Every game is different and you are ultimately playing against yourself, trying to make par or better. I can’t help but wonder that if this is true, then aren’t we actually competing against those Joneses who’ve decreed what the par of each hole is?
*Names have been changed