I'm not proud to admit I've done this, but it's how I deal.
The other day, I had a Twitter-induced breakdown.
Let me preface this by saying that, as a writer, I'm truly grateful for the powers of the Twittersphere. I'm immensely in Twitter's debt — like, up to my eyeballs in it.
It's given me a crazy amount of opportunities and has allowed me to meet a ton of fabulous people whom I would've never met in my life otherwise, seeing as I work at home, by myself, living in the middle of nowhere in a rural town in Pennsylvania.
But as my "following" list grows larger with renowned, respected writers and social media gurus, Something I'm Not Terribly Proud Of happens when I look at my Twitter feed. And that Something I'm Not Terribly Proud Of eats away at my brain, making a little hole out of which my motivation drains, leaving me empty and hopeless, and petty and stupid.
So what's that Something? You guessed it: jealousy.
Yeah, I know, I know. "Comparison is the thief of joy," and all that. People love that Teddy Roosevelt quote, but it's not like six simple words will chase jealousy back to the dark place from whence it came. I can't just tell it to go away.
Jealousy is kind of an assh*le like that.
I've found, however, that there's one thing that diminishes it. And it's kind of dodgy, to be honest, so try not to judge me too much.
Here it is: I creep on the subject of my jealousy and uncover their age. If they're older than me, then I breathe a sigh of relief and think, "OK, I still have time."
I've never given the mechanisms of this method much thought until recently; I've just done it automatically, knowing it will make me feel better without actually questioning why. Perhaps I've been purposely avoiding questioning it — likely because it would force me to confront some cold, hard truths about myself.
And that brings me to my Twitter-induced breakdown the other day, when I found a writer whose impressive career made my stomach churn with equal parts admiration and fear. I started my jealousy-soothing ritual ... only to discover that she was born in late 1993.
She's the creator of various successful parody Twitter accounts. She has thousands more followers on her own personal Twitter account than I do. She's published a book. And she's 22 years old.
Instantly, my jealousy tripled. That little hole in my brain grew larger and larger until I was physically incapable of doing anything other than spiraling into a panic laced with profound melancholy.
How has she accomplished so much? Why haven't I accomplished that much by now, too? Am I doing something wrong? What's even the point of trying so hard if she's done so much in such little time?
(I'd like to take a moment here to highlight, once again, that I'm not proud of any of this.)
It took me a while to pull myself out of that one. I closed my laptop, hid myself within the caverns of blankets on my bed, and watched Friends on Netflix for the rest of the day without doing another scrap of work.
But once I finally sucked it up, mentally packed the pettiness back into its dingy cardboard box, and continued on with the week, I finally paused to think about my "age method."
When I see the subject of my envy is older than me, I can physically feel the relief flooding through my body and I even do the math to figure out how many "years I have left" until I'm no longer allowed to feel like I'm lost in career limbo.
As if I'm a ticking time bomb. As if, once I reach a certain age without achieving the "right" amount of success, I'm a waste of space.
Jealousy happens to everyone. Granted, it's not pretty, but it's a natural human emotion. But why do I combat it with age? Am I afraid I'm running out of time? Am I afraid that others accomplishing more in a short amount of time somehow diminishes my own accomplishments?
I'd say I can probably answer both of these in the affirmative. But I think the real reason behind my petty, stupid age-jealousy boils down to this: What if I'm blindly chasing after what I want, but I'm going in the wrong direction? What if these younger people know the true direction, and that's why they're gaining success so quickly?
All of that, of course, is ridiculous. But I was right about one thing: Considering the reasoning behind my age-jealousy has forced me to face a cold, hard truth.
When I feel the envy, I've lost focus on the thing that matters.
When age-jealousy strikes, I temporarily stop caring about creating, about the nature behind my work, and start focusing on getting things done faster than others. I forget that I should be rooting for others to create beautiful things, because creation and art is collective, and always should be.
When someone writes a book — or hell, even creates a parody Twitter account — that becomes popular, it's because they've struck a chord in society. Whether it's funny, goofy, heartbreaking or tear-jerking, it's something that moves us, that brings us all closer together.
It's something that makes the world feel a little bit brighter and reminds us all that we're never alone.
And hell, I don't care if you're 22 or 102 — if you're contributing to something as beautiful as that, thank you, truly.
My jealousy might get in the way sometimes, but I'll find a new, healthier way to chase that jerk away.
This piece originally appeared on Femsplain.com. Femsplain is a community for everyone, powered by personal stories from anyone female-identified.
This article was originally published at femsplain.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.