I have never been a jealous man. I once thought that this emotion just did not exist in me. After my first two girlfriends cheated on me I learned not to expect fidelity so I never worried about what the woman I was with was doing when I wasn't around. I just assumed she was cheating which gave me license to do the same. I never worried about who had more money than me or who had a nicer car or better clothes or a better looking woman. I may have felt a moment's jealousy when a guy walked into the gym with a better body than me but that just gave me inspiration to do a few extra reps or add a little more weight on the bar. If my best friend walked in with Ms. America I would have been genuinely happy for him and not felt the slighest twinge of envy. I knew that I'd had and could always get women just as beautiful. If a co-worker won the lottery and acquired the kind of wealth that I have always dreamed of it would not have given me a moment's pause. I knew that my ship would soon be docking at the harbor carrying all the weakth I was due. A less talented fighter gets in with a major promoter and I'd have never thought to wish him anything but the best of luck. A less talented trainer signs a deal to train a major talent and I could have cared less. I knew that one day I'd be recognized for my skills as well and the big names would be coming my way. A less talented peer gets a major book deal and to me that only meant that the chances of me getting a similar deal were just as good. Why? Because I have always believed that good things were coming my way. I have always believed that I was destined to have all the things I want in life, all the things I work so hard for. That's why I can work a fulltime job and still teach kickboxing at night and then come home and write, because I believe in my heart that one day it will all pay off. As I get older and my window of opportunity shrinks I find myself beginning to feel the unfamiliar emotions of envy and jealousy for the first time. And I hate it. It is unworthy of me.
I look at myself in the mirror now and see a body that is not as hard and muscular as it once was and I find myself looking at those younger guys who walk around the gym proudly displaying the body I once possessed with resentment and animosity. I find myself thinking all the negative things people used to think about me, "I bet he's on steroids." "I bet he's conceited and Narcissistic." "He probably spends all his time in the mirror." "He's probably gay." "He's probably just overcompensating for having a small dick." "Of course he has time to spend all day in the gym. I bet he doesn't have half the responsibilities I do. He probably doesn't work hard all day and have to come home and raise kids." I know it's all bullshit though. I was never on steroids. I didn't spend all of my time in the mirror. I wasn't gay. I never had any sexual inadequacies to overcompensate for. I worked a Full-time job and had a wife and son and I still found time to make my body look the way I wanted to. The reality is that these guy I see in the gym are just younger than me. It is easier for them to build muscle and shred fat at twenty-five than it is for me at thirty-five. I shouldn't resent them for it. If I want my body to look like that again I just need to work harder for it. So, I jump back on the treadmill and do my three miles, counting the amount of calories burned the entire time. I go over to the free-weights and I grind out repetitions with as much weight as I can stand and I get over it, but suddenly it is getting harder and harder to do that.
I see guys who make less money than me driving nicer cars and with bigger houses and suddenly I find myself feeling jealous. But I know it's not their fault that I have an ex-wife who takes a quarter of my monthly income in child-support. I know it's not their fault that I got screwed when I bought my house and now have a mortgage payment that is more than a third of my monthly income. It's not their fault that I screwed up my credit immediately after buying my house and so now I am stuck in this house until I can get my credit fixed while meanwhile the price of houses keeps rising so fast that if I don't do something soon I won't even be able to afford a new house once my credit is cleared. I remind myself that not everyone has a house. I remind myself that I may not have the the newest most expensive car but I also don't have car payments to make on either of my cars. I remind myself that the money I send to my ex-wife goes to give my son the quality of life that he deserves and that I always want to be able to provide for him. I remind myself that I work so hard in order to allow my woman to stay home with my new daughter rather than pass her off to a babysitter while we both go to work and that this requires some sacrifice. But lately I have found less comfort in this.
I see an ex-girlfriend with another man and I start feeling like kicking the guy's ass. I start wondering if she loves him more than she loved me. If he treats her better than I did. If he's better in bed. If she does all the freaky things with him that I taught her how to do. I want to take her off his arm and make love to her right there in the street to prove to her that I am fucking irreplaceable! I know she's not mine anymore. I know I have no right to be jealous. So what the fuck is wrong with me? I was never like this.
A young fighter comes into the gym and manhandles one of the guys that I am training and then loudly proclaims that he's as good as I was in my prime. And I want to jump in the ring and teach the kid a lesson, but even though I know that I would have taken the guy apart in less than a round just six years ago, I know that I'm not as good as I once was. I'm not in fighting shape and he is. He outweighs me by 25lbs and if I was in shape that wouldn't make a difference but now that could lead to a major embarrassment. I know that my reflexes have slowed some with age. So I let the comment slide and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth for weeks. So slowly, quietly, I start getting myself back into fighting shape. Because I want to invite the guy back into the gym to spar with me and I want to hurt him. Because no matter what I tell myself about getting older I can't let stuff like that slide and that isn't like me. There was a time when I could have laughed it off. But now I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I might not be able to take the guy. And as much as I tell myself that there is always someone bigger and stronger and better, to me it just feels like what I'm really saying is that I can't do it anymore and I can't except that. So, I might just get my head kicked in trying to prove that I can still fight like a twenty-five year old and I know that it's stupid, but I can't stop myself.
I hear about yet another author landing a major book deal and a part of me cringes. I don't know when this started. When I first began writing again about six years ago I loved hearing about the successes of others. It gave me hope. When did it turn to jealousy? I remind myself that I am only six years into my ten year plan and things are going well, but all I can think about is the remaining four years and how that window is getting smaller and I start to panic. But even worse I start to resent and covet and envy. I tell myself to put those thoughts out of my mind and just concentrate on honing my craft. So I sign up for writing workshops and I reread The Transitive Vampire and Story . But that feeling doesn't go away. What the hell is wrong with me? I go on messageboards and I read lists of people's favorite author's or of the best books they've read that year and if I don't see my name on the list I get angry. Even though I'm not nearly as well-known or as prolific as the other writers named. Even though I know that half the people responding to those threads haven't even read my shit. Why the fuck haven't they? I get pissed off and depressed even if I didn't publish a book that year. I get frustrated because I want to see my name on that damn list! When did I start giving a fuck? I was always the guy who didn't give a fuck. That was my claim to fame. Nothing bothered me. Now I'm some raw nerve. Now...I'm becoming human and humans suck! Humans are petty and vindictive and trifling and vain and I'm better than that aren't I?
What's wrong is that I am getting older and it scares me. I'm not jealous of the kid because he has a better body or a bigger house or a nicer car or because he's a good fighter. I'm jealous because he has youth and mine is slipping away. I'm jealous because his best days are ahead of him and it feels like mine are now in the past. I'm not jealous because some guy is getting more notice as a writer than I am. I'm jealous because I'm afraid I may never get noticed. I'm not jealous because my ex-girlfriend has a new man. I'm jealous because I'm afraid that I've made all the wrong decisions and it's too late to change them. I'm jealous because I'm beginning to fear that my window of opportunity is not open in front of me but closed behind me and I somehow missed it. I'm jealous because I'm no longer as certain as I once was that I will recieve all the things I have worked so hard for and that others seem to be getting. I'm starting to wonder if hard work and dedication really do pay off or if it really is a matter of luck and timing. I'm worried that in a lifetime of always striving for loftier and loftier goals that this just might be as good as it gets. And I'm worried about the fact that I'm worrying about all of this because this isn't me! I don't trip off this kind of shit! I'm bigger than this!
So what do I do? Do I whine and complain like the punk ass trolls that haunt the messageboards announcing to all that they are the best undiscovered talent out there and decrying the acheivements of others? Do I become some bitter old coot bothering everyone with stories about how much better I was than them when I was younger? Do I give up and disappear into some black hole where people go to hide from their lost dreams? No. Hell No! I do everything I said above. I spend more time in the gym and get my body beautiful back even if that means I have to be there an hour longer than the twenty-five year old next to me who's lifting half the weight and getting twice the result. I get back into fighting shape and kick that young buck's ass or I get my ass kicked but either way, I give him the fight of his fucking life and let him know that this old man can still throw with the best of them. I clean up my credit and buy the new house but keep my old cars because they are paid off and I have a woman and don't need to show off for anyone. Fuck keeping up with Joneses. I'll kick Mr. Jone's ass! I keep honing my craft, becoming a better writer, and working towards that book deal and if that means that my ten-year-plan has to become a fifteen year plan or a twenty-year plan than so be it. Twenty years will pass whether I do anything constructive with that time or not. Better to spend it working towards my dreams. I accept the present and let go of the past and work towards the future. I get my old cynicism back and marry it with a little hope. I get my old "don't-give-a-fuck" attitude back not because I don't think anything matters but because I know that whatever happens I will survive and prosper like I always have. I do like the twelve steppers and change the things I can and accept the things I can't. And if a window closes in front of me I'll just kick down a fucking door. I'll keep fighting because that's what I do. Jealousy is for pussies.