What To Do About ENVY

According to R.T. Kendall, Jealousy: The Sin No One Talks About (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2010), in thirteen steps.

Step One: Admit it to yourself.

This is easy.  I know that I'm envious, jealous even.  It more or less defines my relationship with my siblings, and I have struggled for years with feeling envious of my colleagues and fellow fencers.  I am envious of my sister for being so beautiful, of my brother for his travels and his training in so many languages.  I am envious of my colleagues for the books that they have published and for their promotions to full professor, particularly those who have been promoted (unlike me) before publishing their second book.  You know, if you have been following me all these years on the blog, that I am envious of my fellow fencers, particularly those who have placed higher in tournaments than I have with fewer years of experience on the strip.  

So, we're done with this step, right?  Wrong.  Pastor Kendall says that we also need to admit the ways in which we may be making other people jealous.  Nope, I'm not going there.  Nope, nope, nope.  Nobody is envious of me.  Ha.  In Pastor Kendall's words: "But what does your gut tell you?"  Ah.  Maybe.  Maybe I have a few things in my life that would make somebody envious.  Like my dog.  She's gorgeous.  I have the most beautiful dog in the world, and she's mine.  (Or maybe I'm hers, I'm not always sure.)  But there are plenty of other Corgis in the world (even though some of them are Pems, not Cardis).  It's not like my having such a beautiful dog means that anybody has to be envious; they could adopt a Corgi, too.

Except, of course, for the fact that maybe they don't have time in their life for having a dog.  Because they are too busy working or have jobs that keep them away from home all day.  Whereas, except when I am at fencing practice or in the classroom, I spend pretty much all the time now with my dog; she is, as the saying goes, my constant companion.  Which makes me incredibly lucky, including with where I live.  We walk to work together every day.  Or, rather, every day I go to campus; some days I work at home and we take our walks in the park just across the street.  Yup, I'd be envious of me if I wanted a dog and didn't have the time or the money or the living conditions in which that would work. 

So that's one thing.  Um.  Yes, okay, I'll say it.  My job.  I am a tenured professor at one of the top universities in the nation, even, according to some, the world.  And I have been here as a professor since I finished my Ph.D.  If I weren't me, I would probably hate me.  Almost as much as I hate (read, feel jealous of) all of my colleagues who have come here from other places and so (typically) have a higher academic rank (and salary) than I do.  Never mind those who have left here to go to other positions with a higher rank (and, of course, salary, otherwise why would they go?).  But at a price: they don't get to live where I live anymore.  And I bet many of them don't get to walk to campus with their dog.  Maybe, even with their higher ranks, they are jealous of me because I get to spend so much time with my dog.  In, let's face it, my amazing office.

My son.  I know, I don't brag that much about him, at least not here on the blog, but I have an amazing son.  Really, truly amazing.  I'd tell you more about him, but it would embarrass him.  Suffice it to say that I wish my father were still alive to see him doing calculus.  He's been doing calculus since, oh, age 12 (at a guess; he left my math skills in the dust ages ago--and I did vector calculus and differential equations in college).  Even more impressive, he does math simply as a matter of interest, much like I, oh, read novels or fence.  He spent his childhood making things: comic strips (with characters in several different drawing styles from abstract to portrait-like) and stop-motion animation movies ("Snail Wars") and paper airplanes (of all different designs; think small kites) and Kapla structures.  Now that he's all grown up and in high school, his projects tend to involve computers more, so it's harder for me to know what he's doing (e.g. his optional project for this past year had something to do with AI.  When I asked him the other day what it was about, he waved his hands and couldn't say it in words I could understand).  But it's all incredibly cool. 

My husband.  Ditto.  Neither of them wants to feature as a character here on the blog, so I don't write about them.  But my husband is a genius, too.  You've maybe heard of him.  Or seen one of the exhibits that he's worked on.  If I weren't me, I'd be incredibly jealous of whoever was married to him.

So.  Um.  I suppose I can think of a few things.  Just, you know, off the top of my head.  And I haven't even mentioned my students....


  1. Wish I could have a dog too. I think it will have to wait until after I retire and have time to spend with it!

    I envy your hair! You've gone completely silver so nicely. I think I'm going to be one of those speckled/splotchy women whose hair can't pick one color or another :/

  2. @anotheranon: I envy your clothes! And your sewing skills. And your voice: it is very rich and calming. I always worry that mine gets a bit screechy and I hate hearing myself recorded, it sounds so high.

    I hope you can get a dog sooner rather than later!

    1. Thank you! [I'll be gracious and not protest about my nasal voice]

      You do not sound screechy!

      Re: dogs - I have friends with dogs. That's how I get my "dog fix".

  3. I used to be envious of you and others in my field who work at more prestigious institutions and who get recognitions and invitations I just never get. However, once I found a professional and personal situation that made me happy, jealousy almost magically disappeared. I still do not work at a super prestigious university for my field, and I still don't get invited to give plenary talks and the like, but now I don't really mind, because I love my work and my life in almost all its aspects. Finding my own happiness has made all the difference.

  4. @ntbw: Big fish, little pond vs. little fish, big pond? Or do the big fish only live in big ponds? I can think of so many "big fish" colleagues who teach at small pond institutions, I don't think that this is the case. The question is, what kind of pond is most productive of good scholarship? My big pond thinks it's the kind where the big fish eat the little fish, but what about a pond in which the big fish helped support the little fish? (Now my head's all fishy!)

  5. Isn't envy just the flip side of admiration? If I were so inclined, I would envy you because (1) you're fit and athletic; (2) you have first-rate technical skills; (3) if you were lost in Lothlorien, you would know the language.

  6. @Anonymous: I think that this is why it is so hard to believe that people really might be envious of oneself: it is so much easier to see one's own shortcomings than somebody else's. 1) Me, fit and athletic? Not compared to my sister, the yoga teacher and mud-runner! I am a dumpy middle-aged woman in comparison. 2) Me, technical skills? My techno-geek husband and son are giggling in the background. 3) Alas, no, another illusion: as much as I know about Lothlorien, I do not speak Sindarin. The question is, how much of what I envy in others is likewise influenced by my admiration of them?

  7. ... dunno... this whole thread has the evil eye all over it. I'll stop reading now.


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