Welcome to the first installment of Dear Vinvan, Capsule’s resident advice columnist and source of empathetic truth, tough love and honest opinion by former Nadia editor Vanessa Marshall. If you have an issue you need some help with – trivial, serious or somewhere in between – email t[email protected] with ‘Dear Vinvan’ in the subject line.
Is it small of me to admit I might hate her?
Dear Petty AF,
Look, I’m not going to tell you whether or not to put pants on. We all know we can work perfectly fine without them so until you have to go back to the office I suggest anything goes in the clothing department. If you feel like wearing a Carrie Bradshaw-style tutu one minute then not changing your outfit for 14 days straight, far be it for me to question your sartorial choices. I can however share a thing or two about envy. You might say you live alone but I think you already know you share your space with a green-eyed monster.
More than a decade ago, I left my comfortable magazine job to study for an MA in Creative Writing. I moved to Wellington. I bought a new laptop. I was going to write the ‘greatest novel the world was waiting for’. I had zero experience in novel-writing but I was an expert at making shit up. Isn’t that what writing is anyhow? I mean how hard could it be? I was actually deluded enough to believe this until Eleanor Catton showed up in my workshop. I wasn’t there to interview her because she wasn’t famous then. She was just another student except she wasn’t. That she would go on to write the Booker-winning The Luminaires (currently screening on TVNZ) was an achievement so obvious it was clear to everyone from the first time she opened her mouth to read. Oh, and did I mention she was only 22?
Which brings me, Petty AF, to the delicious feast that is jealousy. Go grab yourself a fork and knife. Or better yet, if you’re still in bed in your PJ’s – I give you permission to dig in with your hands. I’m not saying it might not taste a bit bitter or get a little stuck in your teeth. But that’s not really the point. What matters is that it’s ok to admire someone and feel envious at the same time. Yes, it turned out the world was waiting to hear from Ellie whereas I wrote one draft of a mediocre novel and once I had my masters I went right back to writing about royals and face cream and celebrity bust-ups. But it’s also true that when she took out the coveted Booker, blushing in her Kate Sylvester custom-made frock, I stood in my newsroom and just about burst apart with pride knowing how hard it is to be a writer. And a female. And young.
The one thing I wish I knew then that I can finally wrap my head around now, is that it’s ok to not always be the best. One person’s talent doesn’t make you a fraud. All it does is make you human. May I suggest then, that you get cosy with that emerald monster inside of you. These gemstones are rare after all, more precious and fragile than diamonds and the fact that they are also deeply flawed only adds to their beauty. Your work-wife is not even remotely your nemesis. She’s just a freaked out mum who is baking the shit out of bread and pounding her way through the workouts and plucking the twang out of chords because she’s Scared AF. She probably wrote that book because she can’t get her toddler to wash their hands and it’s her only way of responding to a world that wants to grab that kid and rip them away from her.
So how about instead of beating up on yourself for being jealous and lazy try welcoming these uncomfortable feelings so you can really see what is standing in the way of you finishing ‘all the things’ that need to come out of you. Be kind, dig deep and do some mining. I promise it will be worth it. You might just find you’re not so petty after all and that instead of being small and hating on your colleague it’s a whole lot easier to be big and to love yourself (and your monsters).
Disclaimer: Vanessa Marshall is a former magazine editor and writer who lives with her teenage daughter during the week and her husband on the weekends. This situation pleases her greatly. She is a follower of radical empathy and if you write to her she will answer with honesty and care. While she may not have been there she will definitely have been somewhere.