Of all my faults (and I have a few), the one I seem to grapple with the most is my tendency to compare. Now I’m not talking about arrogance or superiority here, although I manage to pull those ones off pretty effectively sometimes. No, the real fault I struggle with is jealousy: comparison from the bottom looking up.
My first real encounter with this so-called green-eyed monster occurred not long after my husband and I were first married. It started when, a few months later, we discovered we were pregnant. But it didn’t become a problem until, exactly nine days after that, we lost the baby.
Another month went by, then two. We started trying to conceive again, but nothing. And nothing. And still nothing. By the time six months had passed, my insides started twisting whenever I spotted a pregnant woman--and let me tell you, I was a professional pregnant-woman spotter by then. By the time a year had gone by, my insides stopped feeling altogether.
I don’t know why I held onto the jealousy so long. It’s pointless, exhausting work, after all, and I was hurting no one but myself. Thankfully, my pain--and with it, my envy--gradually did begin to mellow. I realized that I could look at expectant mothers again without wanting to scratch their eyes out (horrible of me, I know, especially since pregnant women had been involved), and I remembered this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a leading authority in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a beautiful writer to boot.
Despite their religious overtones, his words apply to a large number of life circumstances, including baby craving. They reminded me that, in the grand scheme of things, another’s success is not my failure. That even when we seem to be competing against each other, we are really just competing against ourselves.
Now I’m having to relearn this lesson in my quest for an agent. It’s so easy to read about another aspiring author who’s just landed that dream agent, or placed seven partials instead of six, or sent a full manuscript to the same agent who only requested my partial (notice how each one of these is becoming more pathetic), and think, “What makes them so special?” or “Why can’t that be me?”
But the fact of the matter is, that success is not my failure. In fact, that success should only give me hope. Because I am not of the opinion that agents are only looking to fill a fixed number of slots on their rosters and turn everyone else away. They are simply looking for great stories, and I just have to find the one who thinks my story’s great. If Aspiring Author Number One can do it, then so can I.
Easier said than done, I know. There are definitely days--and sometimes weeks and months--when all of this feels hopeless, when I’m positive I’ll never see my words in print. But those days and weeks and months eventually pass, and hope returns. That’s what’s so great about being human: We’re generally hopeful creatures. And hope is a powerful antidote to envy.