Last night I was lazily zoned out on the couch, trolling Facebook. Lex was asleep in my bed, Marc was at a Giants game, and I was killing time. I’d been feeling pretty good about things. Sunday night I went to a reading in the city and afterwards was chatting with two good friends who are also writers along with a book publisher and another writer I’d just met. We were chatting about writing and publishing and mutual acquaintances and I had this nice feeling of having a place in the world. There was nothing pretentious or annoying happening, no one was trying to compete. We just were.
So last night on Facebook I see that two–two!–people from my grad program have just been offered tenure-track positions at prestigious colleges. Did I mention I haven’t had anything published since 2011?
And so off to bed I went, grumbling. I was pleased for these colleagues, honestly. But I keep feeling a bit like the flunky cousin who just can’t get it together. Lately it seems like everybody I know is getting tenure-track positions somewhere or publishing a book, while I’m just stinking up the joint.
And as I lay there trying to fall asleep next to Lex, I had this image in my head.
It was a cocktail party.
And everyone was there except me.
If it wouldn’t have woken up Lex, I might have started to laugh out loud. Because I realized I’d had this image before. I’m not talking about a metaphor, here, like “everyone’s invited to the party but me.” I mean that I literally pictured, for a second, all of the wildly successful people from my grad program hanging out together, having drinks, changing the world. In some remote corner of my brain, I thought that this happened. They all get together–despite the fact that everyone lives in different cities, now–and have drinks every week because they’re all terribly successful and I’m not.
I’m so relieved I realized this was an illusion. Because laughing at myself completely diffused the situation.
Lots of work to do, I reminded myself. Lots to do. And I went off to sleep unfettered.
Interestingly, I noticed that one of the women who posted on Facebook about her great new appointment said something like, “I feel like this is the life I’ve always wanted, and it’s just beginning.” Seeing that in print made me realize how much that notion–that life will begin when I find success–has been with me. Later (at the time I couldn’t see this) it was lovely to notice how much this practice has helped me to see that my life has already begun. That this is all life.
In other words, the path, not the cocktail party.