The thing about jealousy is that it’s natural. It’s normal. It happens to everyone.
But jealousy is your responsibility. What you choose to do with it matters. As I told my Toddler just this past weekend: you can have your feelings, just don’t hurt anybody with them.
That is to say, you feeling jealousy toward a colleague, or even a friend, is fine. You acting on that jealousy in a manner that’s harmful toward said colleague or friend is not fine.
If it seems like I have strong feelings about this, it’s because I know jealousy very well. Just in a different setting.
My wife and I have the Toddler now, but it took us a long time to get here. Anybody who has been in the TTC – or Trying To Conceive – community knows how quickly you can go from hopeful to worried to depressed, and how after even a few months – let alone years – a dear friend’s gushing pregnancy announcement can feel like a gut punch.
TTC and querying have a lot in common. There’s a kind of heightened awareness that after only a few months can become emotionally exhausting. Any day (or month) could be The Day, and it might only take one more query or one more cycle. And you cheer for your friends who succeed, for strangers who sign publishing contracts, but eventually it wears you down until you’re left wondering, Why them? Why them and never me?
I would say congratulations aloud, but inside I was hollowed out by jealousy. It’s a terrible thing, when you can’t even be happy for your friends.
But the thing is, the jealousy fades after a while, and then you can be happy for them. Honestly, truthfully, thoroughly so. In the meantime, though, it’s okay to pretend you’re happy instead.
The same is true in publishing. There have definitely been times when I’ve seen a friend’s book on a list that could have easily been my own or seen them get sent to a Big Event that I’ve only ever dreamed of and felt that sharp pang. But you let that jealousy exist in its own space and after a while it evaporates. And after a while, you also realize that every journey is different and you don’t know what that person has already been through to get there. The ways they might have been jealous of you in the past, or now, or, even, tomorrow.
After all, you never know what tomorrow will bring. For us, tomorrow brought the Toddler. For you, tomorrow might bring a full manuscript request, an offer, an award. And how would you want your friends and colleagues to feel when – not if – that happens?
So feel it, yes. Be angry, yes. Go scream in your car, go for a run, lift heavy, punch a punching bag, go to therapy – do all of that, and then –
Be generous. Be kind. And let go.