Here’s a great essay from Salon:
“We bought a new house,” my older sister said a few months ago, in one of our rare phone conversations.
“I’m so happy for you,” I said, though I’m sure the octaves and intonation were off. “You deserve it.” And she does. My sister has worked tirelessly ever since I can remember. Unlike me, she’s always been responsible, never leaving a job before accepting another, and certainly never leaving a job and then, instead of finding new employment, flying to Southeast Asia and staying for three months.
“We’re finally going to live in a grown-up house,” she continued. (By “we” she meant her two girls, ages 4 and 7, and my photogenic, equally successful brother-in-law.)
I loved this piece because it unpacks what we sometimes feel but rarely say out loud: I’m jealous, dammit! I want your life(style)/income/husband/wife/house/country house/cottage/car(s)/job/body/wardrobe/kids.
I want to feel like I’ve made it!
And I don’t.
House-sitting for a friend was an eye-opening experience: a lovely, huge rear garden shaded by towering pines; a large swimming pool; multiple bedrooms; a home office; enormous closets; a washer and dryer unshared with others. I’ve never lived in a house with so many accoutrements.
She makes more money than I do, and I’m certain her husband significantly out-earns mine.
So, it’s comparing apples and oranges, right?
I’m hardly lazy, but I don’t work nights and weekends and really don’t want to, even if (which it could) it doubled my income. I take as much time off every year, and travel as far away, as I can afford.
I also chose the wrong industry for big wages — journalism — which pays, at the very top, in print, what 24-year-olds earn in their first year in corporate law or their Wall St. annual bonus. If you make it as a writer, you can make some very big bucks.
But if you don’t, you wonder what you did so wrong…
I avoided sibling rivalry by not having any, then, as the only child of my parents’ 13-year marriage. But I also have two younger half-brothers, one 10 years my junior, the other 23 years younger than I.
My 10-years-younger brother drives a very sexy shiny new car and owns a large house. He also lives in an airplane, traveling the world selling the arcane-but-popular software solution his company created.
Jealous? Moi? Well, yes, actually.
But my brother has a totally different skill set and works in a burgeoning field. He’s also been willing to risk his savings to build his business and has also won a ton of VC cash.
My much-younger brother also travels the world, doing policy work so sensitive he needs a security clearance from the American government.
My father’s partner, a woman I really like and admire, has super-accomplished adult kids a bit younger than I am. One is married to a gazillionaire and speaks fluent Chinese. Oy.
I like feeling I’m doing OK. But, by many conventional measures, I’m not. People my age own and run major corporations or universities. They boast about their kids and grandkids; we have neither. They look like grown-ups while I often feel (and am, happily, mistaken for) a decade or so younger.
So — which is it?
Life is cool? Life sucks?
It’s too easy to look at other lives and find the flaws in our own.
My 10-years-younger brother, when I was once — as I often do — flagellating myself for my relative lack of success, pointed out that my generation had a hell of a lot more competition for jobs and a lot worse economy within which to get one, or several.
It’s all relative…given that millions of people in this world survive on less than $1 a day in income. The challenge is to remember this, not to focus on the in(s)anity of the material wealth flaunted before our eyes, by friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, let alone the mass media.
Times are tough, and with growing income inequality — with American CEOs typically pulling in 475 times the pay of their least-paid workers — it’s getting even uglier.
Do you find yourself feeling envious of others’ success?
Do you compare yourself to more successful/settled siblings?