To Cheer or to Covet? writes author Liz Garton Scanlon of Liz in Ink about other people's successes. I added the question mark, even though I know the answer: cheer. Of course, you always cheer. "And yet," writes Liz. "And yet, it is another writer's success that can most swiftly and surely send us to the darkest little hole in our heart."
This post was in response to the good (i.e. great) news about author Sarah Lewis Holmes' two-book deal with Arthur A. Levine Books. Holmes herself acknowledges that, "that there is no hearing about another person's good fortune without a tinge of 'But what about me?'" Scanlon has a follow up post in which she is glad to discover that, "... It turns out that very few of those 'why not me' moments translate into 'why her (or him)' moments."
The "Why not me?" question is poignant. It speaks to the need for people to take turns being recognized and appreciated. There is so much emphasis on success in terms of being in the spotlight. People who were once famous but now are on the sidelines are disparaged as "has-beens" if they try to make come-backs and fail. In ordinary life, for the majority of us who will never be widely-renowned, it can smart when our best efforts are simply not deemed good enough for the prize.
In my senior year of high school, I threw my energies into the school paper, and strove repeatedly to write the editorial that would rock the county. The only problem was, the co-editor of the paper was already that editorial writer. The opinion pieces I wrote were well-written, but they didn't have that extra depth that made them compelling to print. Then, I wrote a news story about one of the state functional tests everyone had to pass in order to graduate. The writing prompt was to describe a "recreation center." The problem was that the students in the ESL classes came from cultures in which there wasn't a concept of a "recreation center." I have forgotten the details of what I wrote, but one of the newspaper contests to which I submitted the story ended up awarding the piece first place in the county.
The newspaper staff was surprised. I overheard a classmate say, "Alkelda won it?" My advisor was thrilled, as he was the one who encouraged the story in the first place and helped me with finding the sources to interview. He told me, "It's an important story, and I wanted us [the school newspaper] to be the ones to break it."
There was no fame, no great fuss afterward-- at the school awards ceremony, I accepted my 1st place certificate along with everyone else who had won awards in different areas of newspaper writing. Still, it was fine. After all of those fourth place prizes and honorable mentions, I got to be first in one thing, for a little while.
That is my wish for all of you-- that you have your moments where people recognize how hard you have worked and what you have achieved. May you have your turn to be appreciated, and then pass along that turn to someone else with grace and gratitude.