Hi, my name is Adam Oster, and I am an envy-holic.
Okay, so, I know my life is pretty darn awesome. I’m fairly certain there are folks out there who envy it. And I’m definitely happy with the majority of it.
But…I have so many friends who are doing things I wish I was doing or wish I was capable of doing.
Or, so I think sometimes.
Alright, so, to start, the inspiration for today’s post comes from a moment last week when I realized that a friend from high school is starring in the upcoming season of Big Brother (yeah, I didn’t realize it was still on the air either!). My immediate thought was, “(whining internal monologue) I wish I could be on Big Brother!”.
Which, for the record, isn’t true one single bit. Not only am I certain I would kick myself off the show within the first few seconds of dealing with the manipulation I’m fairly certain is a strong part of the show, but I’m really not one who wants to be on camera constantly. Although I love the creative arts, the fame which sometimes comes with it has never been a highlight of that love. I sometimes find myself appreciating my relative obscurity because it allows me to just be me.
And I don’t think that initial response I had is necessarily all that different from what other folks might have for a response. It’s the basic grass-is-greener mentality that all too often becomes our initial thought process when seeing that other people have something we don’t. And, I want to note that this wasn’t a long period of wishing I could be the one to be in the Big Brother house (or whatever term it has…I think I watched one episode once…). It was an immediate response which was followed by an immediate laughter at myself for the absurdity of the thought.
But, that immediate, albeit fleeting, envy got me thinking about other Keeping up With the Jones’ moments I have in my life. Quite particularly would be how I spent two weekends ago at a local music festival called Eaux Claires watching people like Chance the Rapper, Francis and the Lights, and Paul “Freakin'” Simon play music a few minutes from the town I have spent the last 20 years of my life.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I remember going into the event with a bit of a dark cloud hanging over me. Not a huge one, but it was there. You see, this show was organized by a fellow many might know as Bon Iver. A local to Eau Claire who managed to hit it big in the music scene (well, you know, big enough to partner up with folks like Kanye West and have a couple of Grammys to his name).
Inside me, not overtly, there was this thought of “(whining internal monologue)I want to run my own music festival!”.
Which, for the record, I don’t.
So, slight background here, Justin and I, for a brief period, ran in some loosely connected circles. I don’t remember him at all from any of that, and have had to be reminded multiple times by my wife of how we did cross paths. It’s not like I know the guy or anything. Heck, when we went to his debut album release party (the one he happened to win a Grammy with), I kept asking my wife why we were going to see this guy I didn’t know at this bar the two of us never liked going to and she would remind me of how we had seen him playing in a different band with one of our friends on a number of occasions. When his song showed up on a tv show a few months later and my wife noted it excitedly, my response was “Who?”.
I note my obliviousness only to highlight how little my connection to Justin was/is. Yet, when heading into that music festival, that green little envy monster wanted to scream about how this guy I was loosely connected with had achieved all this success.
I’m proud of Justin. I really am. It’s amazing to me that anyone I have any connection with could have reached the level of notoriety he has.
But here’s the thing, I get the same feeling with many of my friends, many of whose success levels aren’t nearly as great. Like the other guy I saw playing music in that same basement so long ago who has a thriving arts magazine/community development center(Not entirely certain that’s an appropriate label for what his organization has been up to, but I’m sticking with it). Or my brother-in-law whose effects pedals and synthesizers are used by folks in Nine Inch Nails and Beck and so many other world-renowned bands. Or another friend of mine from high school whose animation work has ended up being used by Kevin Smith. Or the —
The list literally goes on and on, because not only do I find that I have some incredibly successful friends, or at least friends who are doing amazing things, but this green monster comes out whenever I see someone doing well. Heck, just seeing that a friend of mine has released another book causes that monster to crop up again.
Each time the little monster appears is just brief before I realize that it’s my response to people achieving their goals, or at least getting closer to them. There’s a pride that comes up immediately after, which is followed by my own motivation to push myself further forward. People who are “less-successful” than me still cause that same response.
Because it’s not actually about success. It’s about creativity. There’s this ripple effect that shoots through me (not unlike a disturbance in the Force) which reminds me that I’m part of this same creative force and I haven’t been pulling my own weight.
I have some amazingly talented friends and I am so incredibly proud of them. But the response to seeing their talents and their successes is not entirely envy, but inspiration.
When I watched Justin on stage with John Prine and…well, he kinda brought every single person he could up on the stage including his sister, my thought wasn’t actually that I wish I was in his place, or that I deserve it better than him. It was this feeling of how much more I could be doing.
So, friends and family and minor acquaintances, all of you, keep pushing me forward. It really really helps. Even if it might cause me to be thinking of my next project while you’re listening to a love letter from Michael Perry on stage with every musician you could cram up there.
But the reality here is, fame is not what I’m envious of. It’s your creativity and your ability to focus it into whatever art form you’re using. And envy is really a terrible word to use, because it’s more just a wish that I could dedicate my energies even more to my own creative pursuits. While also being damned proud of what you’ve done with yours.
Have fun out there and keep being awesome!