Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful

A few months after my move to New York, adjusting and calibrating to life at my new company, in my new neighborhood, I began an informal book club at work. I had connected with a colleague, in another department, on reading, on writing; she used to live in Crown Heights and we cemented our literary friendship over cheap wine at a monthly reading, hosted by a local bar. The book club was essentially the two of us, joined by another colleague and dear friend, discussing the text in tangents, always ready and willing to be distracted with other nuggets, cultural, professional. She and I, outside of the club meetings, began to discuss our work, workshop structures, frustrations, triumphs. We never consummated any discussion by swapping stories, poems, offering our services in polite but constructive criticism. Ultimately, I am both glad for this, and regret it deeply. For me, writing, technically something I do for a living, is a struggle, at best, a distant memory, at worst. Something I clung to, spoke of like an aging cheerleader, grasping desperately for those four years from the past, pretending nothing has changed, time has stopped. I identify with being a writer, no matter how many days, weeks, months, years have marched along, a ravine between me and the last time I sat, diligent, focused on this vocation.

After applying for a position at a renowned writing camp workshop, this year, she was finally rewarded a spot. I said my congratulations, mediated by my phone and social media, teeth gnashed and feeling desperate. I have been moving without purpose, without focus, and thus without challenge and satisfaction, for quite some time, with no one really to blame other than myself. It has been said before, and will be said again, that one of the most insidious effects of evolving social media platforms is the incitement of furious envy, of fear. Either that fear of potential, of what could be, measured by the curated lives of others, or the fear of lacking, of not accomplishing, not experiencing. Such meditations, such wallowing, is nearly always, always defeatist. To sit and compare, the truth of my life, with the shallow facade of the other, is peel away the skin, be disappointed with the striations beneath, to be angered at the pain and the blood. Successes are not finite. Enrichment is not finite; if you indulge, gorge, I can have my share as well.

To write, be a writer, is not merely to think, to feel, there is effort, so much trying and failing and trying again, defiant or maybe stupid in the face of it all. Angst and sadness and joy and contemplation and love must coalesce, take shape, be shaped. This is an important lesson. Toiling for hours in my cubicle, pushing my boulder to the top, dropping it on the ground and kicking it to the bottom for another pass, hard work after hours, in my house, repulses me. Hard work used to thrill me; I was motivated, craving more, knowledge, experience. Now, I feel perpetually exhausted, and need to pull my own body up and out of the tar trap that a steady corporate job sets. But I feel so hungry.  

(image taken from Poetry Dispatch)

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