I’ll come clean: In my 26 years of working, I’ve turned many shades of green due to professional jealousies. It started in high school when I had the highest G.P.A. in my class…until a more diligent student worked her derriere off and sailed past me. Did I mention she was thinner and more athletic, too? I resented the heck out of her and believed her popularity swayed teachers to give her better grades–certainly not because she burned the midnight oil day after day for four long years. Decades later, I ran into my nemesis and realized that she was/is/and always will be something special. She worked hard for her success and is now master of her domain, as well as an awesome human being.
I’ve been that green monster so often I can spot a kindred spirit from a mile away, especially at writers’ conferences. I’ve seen those grimaces when one writer reaps rewards another hasn’t (yet). For some, support is easy to summon when a friend has a victory. Writers go through such a unique and emotional experience, the bond with other writers can be life-affirming and intimate–or intimate with a little grrrrrrr thrown in. For others, it takes a little longer to feel joy over someone else’s success. “She got the five-book contract, but I’m stuck at two books. Argggh.” “Her cover is so much better than mine!” “Did you catch her workshop? She thinks she knows everything…” “Her editor calls her every day, mine hasn’t called me in a year, grrrrr.”
I totally understand the bitterness.
In the past, I’ve tried very hard to let my sour grapes fuel my ambition. If she can do this, so can I. I’m smarter, more deserving and destined for world domination. I’d make a list, then vow to work tirelessly until I conquered my goal and planted my stiletto in the ground of victory–all while starving myself so that I could wear a bikini. Jealousy can be motivating, right? Well, maybe, but by Day Three, I tended to revert to my modus operandi, which wasn’t too shabby: I love Cheetos, I’ll wear a bikini anyway and stilettos really hurt my feet. I love to read, edit, and write. The people I work with are amazing. I’ve done well in my life. End of story.
I’m not sure if it was Elmer or Bugs that said if you can’t beat them, join them. I’ve learned that it feels so much better to just congratulate those who’ve also worked hard alongside you. Over the years, people’s lives change, others move to that bestseller list, and priorities shift. Given this evolution, professional jealousy seems pretty pointless to me, not to mention energy-sapping. There were some cold truths I had to face. Maybe my “rivals” had shined for a reason. Maybe they were just awesome and I had to accept it. I have my own talents. Don’t we all? That’s something to celebrate, too.
Nothing brought this home more than 9/11. My colleagues were seated around a conference table, watching the news, shattered and eating chocolate. What to do? We were at zero. No one was better, smarter, more entitled, more experienced, more deserving. We were all human. We were all together.
When I think of professional jealousy now, I try to embrace what/who I resent (unless pure evil). It’s challenging, but oh-so rewarding. Romance editors and writers are generally so likable, interesting, and entertaining. When you cheer for someone’s success, you release those unwarranted feelings of failure and accept that your turn will come. As corny as it sounds, you tend to make more friends that way–or at least I have–and it’s made room for better things. Not too shabby indeed.