We Meet Again, Green-Eyed Monster

This week on the Deb Ball, we’re talking about the green-eyed monster. I may not be a master of how to deal with envy, but I’m sadly a master of feeling it, by definition: the resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

(Please tell me I’m not alone.)

I’m pretty sure it’s an emotion linked with some of my earliest memories, and many other memories speckled along the way to present day. And, now, also in present day, though I try to eliminate the word resentful from that definition.

Many of my childhood ones are associated with my older brother. He’s only got me by nineteen months, but every month seemed to matter while growing up. I’m talking beyond the normal “he’s older so he gets to do things first” sentiment that sparks jealousy. I remember vividly being upset with him during a family trip to Niagra Falls because he was twenty and I was eighteen. The legal age to drink and gamble was nineteen. So, while my dad took my brother out for a fun night of things we’d never otherwise be allowed to do, I wasn’t allowed to go. My mom offered to take me out for a special dinner and to go shopping, but nope, I chose to wallow in my own misfortune of being too young. And I chose to be pissed at my brother, as if he has any control over how old he was and how old I wasn’t, along with anger toward my parents, as if they set the drinking/gambling age themselves. I hoped for my brother to come back grumbling, saying he had a miserable night that went terribly wrong (he didn’t). And, ultimately instead of having an equally fun night as my brother (just in a different way), I sat in a hotel room with not-so-great room service and watched TV, sulking.

Looking back now, I shake my head at eighteen-year-old Jenni. I remember my mom saying, “you’re only punishing yourself.” I get that now. But even while recognizing that I was a brat, I still sometimes struggle with feeling envious of my friends, family, and peers. It doesn’t help that the publishing industry, with so much out of our control (and frankly, with so much happening because of timing and luck), provides ample opportunities for jealousy. Someone else got an agent faster, someone else sold a book faster (or at all), a friend’s book was well received, someone won an award, someone got a life-changing advance, someone’s book is actually going to be made into a film (like for real, not just thinking about doing it, but doing it), and on and on.

But where I think I’ve grown from eighteen-year-old Jenni is that I don’t hold resentment toward my peers. I’m not upset with them, like I unfairly was with my brother, cause that’s just harmful and, quite frankly, doesn’t make sense. I’m legitimately happy they’re smiling like goons and I want to smile with them. While I made that small discovery and stride, I feel like I’d be a fraud to provide any real advice on how to deal with our green-eyed nemesis. So I’m going to borrow the words of people far wiser than me.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.” – Harold Coffin

I think that’s a good one. My publishing journey has been blessed many times. Maybe not in the same ways as my peers, but in my own way. So I’ll try to listen to Harry and focus on the good stuff that’s been thrown my way.

“Our envy of others devours us most of all.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I’ve been candid in this post, so I’m going to keep going with it. I’ll admit there were dark days for me while watching others succeed and while I was struggling to get out of those slush piles. I allowed myself to be sucked into a dark hole, and started to feel really poorly toward myself. In the end, it’s myself I hurt the most. Kinda like how my mom said, “you’re only punishing yourself” all those years ago. So I think it’s good to remember…

“Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.” – Jean Vanier

And maybe the understanding that our experiences aren’t meant to happen the same way as others. What’s that old adage about things tending to work out? I believe that, when you put some elbow grease behind it. Like so many other authors, my debut isn’t the first book I’ve written. I was on sub for a year with a former manuscript and a former agent. It never sold. And while that was a very painful year of watching others around me succeed, now I can’t imagine a book other than BECOMING BONNIE being my debut. I’m happy with how things worked out, even if it took much longer than I had hoped to get here.

Lastly, writer and editor Joseph Epstein once said, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” 

So there’s that, I suppose 🙂

Author: Jenni L. Walsh

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years ​chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia's countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni's passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. BECOMING BONNIE (Tor Forge/Macmillan, 5/9/2017) is her debut novel that tells the untold story of how church-going Bonnelyn Parker becomes half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo during the 1920s. SIDE BY SIDE, telling Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree story, will be released in the summer of 2018. Please learn more about Jenni's books at jennilwalsh.com.

4 Replies to “We Meet Again, Green-Eyed Monster”

  1. Fantastic post! My first book is in agent piles, waiting, waiting, waiting. I forgot how miraculous that is—a finished novel, great response, and I’m finally at 50 something doing what I love. Instead, I allowed comparisons to swamp me into stuckedness, stasis, and, you know, a whiny self-pity song playing non-stop in my brain.

    OKAY! Back to novel #2! Time for more queries! Thank you, and I can’t wait to read your book. What an awe inspiring group you all are.

    1. Oh I am very familiar with the whiny self-pity song! haha. But it sounds like you’re doing things exactly right and you’re writing the next book while waiting and waiting! Sending you so much luck and well wishes on both your WIPs!

  2. Such a great post ! I think back to times when I’ve felt envious of others too, and you’re right that it only hurt myself by holding me back from appreciating what I already had worked so hard to achieve. It’s easy to fall in to that trap of comparing ourselves to others, but truly we each are on our own path — and staying focused on that is where it’s at.

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