I picked up a magazine the other day and was surprised to see an article by a friend that I knew in college a long time ago. At the end of the article, the bio said that this friend was now retired after a successful career as a professor and had recently published a book on his essays.
Before I realized it, I realized that I felt jealous. This was a guy who was admired and was seen as one of the “cool guys” on campus when I was there, while I was always one of the creative eccentrics that never quite fit in. And now I wished that the success that he was having was my success; the attention he got was my attention.
And then I realized how ridiculous the whole scenario was. I was in college more than 40 years ago. He was popular then, but that was a lifetime ago, and we had totally different lives now. There was no telling what his life experience had been over the past 40 years. I had so much to be happy about: a happy marriage of 45 years, two adult children who still liked to be around us, two loving grandkids, a great career and home, and lots of supportive friends. And I had to laugh: I was jealous that he got published when I have been published many, many times.
I’ve said here before that I believe writers are insecure by nature. We look for approval from our readers, our critics, our editors. And that’s not all bad. It’s how we grow. But it can border on paranoia. If you show someone a project that’s incomplete–or maybe even one that’s complete–and they start to pick it apart, there’s a tendency to start falling apart yourself. You have to remember, as a writer, that they might not like the story you’ve written, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you.
I have another friend that I have to admit I was jealous of quite a bit. He was a good friend, and even though he was always busy and very, very successful, he was always willing to talk to me. Years ago, we started as book editors at the same time. I left after ten years and went into college teaching, while he stayed and became a editorial vice president and published many books. While he had incredible success, I was one of the few people who knew that he wasn’t that happy. He worked incessantly, often well into the night. He had health issues, and eventually died from them. And he finally left his editorial position because of disagreements with management.
The point is in all of this that when we see someone that we are jealous of, often we are only getting a partial picture. The successful businessman who is making millions may have a terrible homelife, and may live only to work. The woman with a beautiful family may wish that she could have followed the career that she dreamed of. We don’t know. God gave us the path we are on, and we should do our best to live it as well as we can.
And stop thinking about what the other guy has.