Grass is the color you make it

I occasionally feel dissatisfied with my life.

The reason is simple and chronic: I keep comparing myself to other people.

Although I love working in a public library and being around books and book lovers all day, and despite the fact that I consistently write five days out of seven, I often judge myself to be lacking because I’ve taken a different post-MFA path than some of my confederates.

There is some pressure from family, too. My mother periodically asks if I’m looking for a better paying job and points out that my expensive degree is one of the most useless master’s degrees on the planet.

Lots of people aside from my mother decry the MFA in creative writing as useless unless you want to become part of the academic machine that’s supposedly crushing American writing.

But who decides what’s useless and useful?

I have never wanted to teach. I entered an MFA program because I wanted to become a better writer and eventually find work at a literary nonprofit.

And hey, here I am, a much better writer, published in a dozen journals, working at one of the oldest and best literary nonprofits out there—a public library.

But when I see my colleagues teaching creative writing at universities and high schools and landing sweet publishing jobs, I get the feeling I’m doing something wrong. I suddenly forget about all the thought and preparation and hard work that’s led me to where I am today and just feel… inadequate.

I’ll call this phenomena “the grass is greener” syndrome.

When I find myself in one of these moments, I have to remind myself that I’m doing what I want to be doing, where I want to be doing it. I keep a list of my goals and how I intend to accomplish them in a Google doc, and pull it up whenever I feel discouraged.

My former classmates aren’t better than me because they’ve decided teaching creative writing is the best path for them. I’m not better than them because I’ve decided teaching isn’t for me. We are all individuals with individual needs, goals, and desires. And we’re all doing the best we can to get where we want to go—even if we’re headed toward different destinations.

I just need to remind myself of that every now and then.

Do you compare yourself to others? Do you have any strategies for coping when you feel dissatisfied or unhappy?

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