Sunday, September 16, 2018
When Your Friends Succeed and You Don't
This post mostly concerns writers, but it's universal. What do you do when your friends succeed and you don't? Now, I'm not saying when your friend succeeds in something that you don't have your skin in the game in. For example, my best friend works on Wall St., and if he makes a million dollars tomorrow I'll be over the moon for him. I'd tap him on the shoulder and say, I know you don't need me to buy you this, but this Bud's for you, buddy. Congratulations. Because if he's doing something totally different than what I'm doing, then success is neutral. It's just a thing. Good for him.
No. I'm talking about success in your own field. As a writer, I have a friend who just had their book published to rave reviews. It's called Severance, and I'm sure it's going to be an amazing book since the author, Ling Ma, is an amazing writer. I met her years back at a Journalism fellowship in Chicago and have been impressed by her work ever since. Definitely check out her book. It looks and sounds amazing.
I myself bought the book, but get this. I'm terrified to read it. it's not because of the subject matter or anything like that. It's because I know it will be better than anything I've ever written in my entire life, and it brings me to a place of shame that I've been writing for so many years now, and still haven't reached my goal. Sure, I do have books out, which you can find here and here, but that's not the same thing, and I'm painfully aware that it's not. It's because my books are self-published, and my friend's book is not. She earned her spot on the bookshelf, and I kind of elbowed my way there. It's clear as day.
Not only that, but my coworker's son co-wrote the screenplay for BlackkKlansman. And even though I'm not a screenwriter, that emotionally impacts me, too, since it's still within my field of writing. I really had to force myself to go see it because I knew it would be good (which it was), and watching it really made me view myself as a failure.
So what then? Am I just going to post about how inadequate I feel? Well, while many bloggers do just that, I can't just leave it on that note, and here's why. Even though seeing my friends succeed makes me feel like crap (I'm just being honest), it still doesn't mean I'll just lay down and die on the side of the road. What it does, is that it makes me really consider why I write in the first place. Of course a part of me writes so that one day, somebody will email me and say, "Your book changed my life" (I actually HAVE had somebody say that to me. So that's worth something). But the main reason I write is because I'm a writer, plain and simple. Just like a painter is a painter, or a race car driver is a race car driver, writing is not something I just do as a casual hobby. It's what I identify as. There are people who say, I'm a gay man. Or, I'm a person of color. And while I am the latter, I can honestly tell you that I identify more as a writer than as a POC.
It really makes me think about that famous quote that it's all about the journey, and not the destination. Sure, I get really depressed when I see people I know do exceptionally well (And I feel even more depressed when I realize how petty I'm being), but I also get pumped up, too, since I think, you know what? If they can do it, I can do it, too. And I will do it. When I initially got serious about writing back in college, I was hoping that I would be famous by my mid-20s. I'm currently in my mid-30s and have had middling success, if that. But I've also come out of it with a new perspective on life. Now, I don't really care as much for myself, as I do for my parents, who I hope are still around to see me succeed. For me, it really is all about the journey at this point, and seeing others succeed is just another internal hump that I have to get over. Because anybody who has succeeded earned it.
And seeing them do it means I can earn it, too.