More on jealousy

#1 : I think imma have to stop reading Suzie’s blog for a bit. Her son is finishing his PhD and getting tons of offers from great schools in gorgeous locations. Must…. quench…. jealousy… of petroleum engineers….

#2:  you wouldn’t want to be a petroleum engineer
#1: no
#2:  and they have to work, with like, oil companies.
#1 : he was like, Oh mom, what should I do, I have so many places wanting to hire me… I was like, I smash you.
#1: he has an offer at [school in Awesome Wet City]

#2 : don’t be jealous

 #1: why not?
#2: you don’t want to be a petroleum engineer

#1: it’s like, I know exactly why it’s bad to be jealous, and how unfounded it is, and how everyone has problems, yadda yadda, but thinking I shouldn’t be jealous doesn’t stop it.

#2: yeah, but in this specific case
  you don’t actually want to be a petroleum engineer
  you wouldn’t actually trade with this person
 #1: I don’t. But I might want a job offer at [Awesome School].
#2: but not a petroleum engineering job.
I’m afraid you probably wouldn’t get tenure at [Awesome School] in petroleum engineering.  You’d have to do petroleum engineering theory or something (does that exist?)  You would have to be really good at faking it.
  “This theory is so brilliant no one can understand it!”
#1: hahaha
 no, not in petroleum engineering. No petroleum engineering for me.
#2: You have my permission to be jealous of the profs [in your field] at Stanford. That at least makes sense.  While you’re at it, stick to being jealous of the tenured ones
#1: arrrrghgghghghghhhhh
  stanford won’t hire meeeeeeeeeee
#2: no, but at least you want that job more than one in a petroleum engineering dept…
 #1: true
#2: or maybe it’s easier thinking about being jealous of the petroleum engineering department in [Awesome Wet City] because deep down you don’t really want to be a petroleum engineer in [Awesome Wet City]
 #1: true
#2: because if that’s been your goal all along, you’ve made a few really odd choices
 #1: hahaha
Grumpeteers, do you indulge in jealousy?  Do you prefer more realistic targets or less?  Do you feel like you’re being jealous of the right people?  (Or should you aim higher or lower?)  Is there anything that stops it???

43 Responses to “More on jealousy”

  1. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I no longer indulge in jealousy, and even when I did, it was in a very diffident manner. One of the things that cured me of it completely was getting to know a scientist whom you would think everyone would be jealous of–huge grants, accolades, prizes, etc–and realizing that he is a bitter angry unhappy jealous asshole who lies awake at night fulminating about the fact that he deserves a Nobel Prize and doesn’t yet have one and who do these inferior assholes think they are that already have one. And I realized that if he were to eventually win a Nobel Prize, he’d still be the same bitter angry unhappy fulminating asshole.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      See, this is why I know I shouldn’t be jealous! I know this! But for some reason I think that I would be awesome, unlike this unhappy fulminator.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 points out that although there’s the occasional fulminating asshole in her field, there are plenty of awesome people to look up to too. Success doesn’t necessarily lead to assholishness.

      • Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

        No one said it did, and there are tons of awesome highly accomplished leaders in my field as well. The point is that there is always something more to be jealous about, no matter how much you achieve. This illustrates why jealousy is a fool’s game: once you get what you were jealous of, you will find something else to be jealous about.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is definitely the truth.

  2. Dr. Koshary Says:

    “I smash you” just made my entire morning.

  3. First Gen American Says:

    Being a chemical engineer, the petroleum jobs were the ones where the big money was at, but who the hell wants to live on an oil rig in the middle of the ocean or desert? Most people don’t last. Trust me, knowing people who’ve done it and left, its nothing to be jealous about.

  4. bogart Says:

    No, I think I’ve commented on this before (maybe not here, my commenting-here-propensity notwithstanding). As a horse kid around a lot of really rich people with really nice horses I made the rule you mention: I either had to want everything about someone else’s life, or I wasn’t allowed to be jealous. Somehow that worked (there are plenty of very rich people with beautiful farms and very nice horses that are plainly not happy, perhaps helping the workability. And they don’t even have to live on oil rigs!). And still does, apparently.

    • chacha1 Says:

      That’s worked for me, too. I have little flashes of jealousy when I see the young lawyers making partner, and I know they are earning close to a quarter-million a year and have great houses, but I have to check myself.

      I have this little recitation I give myself. “You could have gone to law school. You would have been a great lawyer. Your first dozen years in the business you did not know a single happy lawyer. None of them had good marriages and most of them were deeply in debt, obsessed with money, and working infinite hours because of it. You made the choice not to go to law school. So STFU.”

      It actually works pretty well. :-)

  5. Belle Says:

    Housing Envy: when I routinely lived in hovels, going down a nice street and seeing all these lovely buildings/houses produced great Housing Envy. Looking through magazines with cozy, expansive spaces (the two are not mutually exclusive) prompted massive surges of HE. Visiting better-off friends, seeing real libraries or good closets: HE. Not so much anymore, but gah, it used to grind.

    • rented life Says:

      Ugh. That’s my problem. Housing Envy.

    • chacha1 Says:

      A lot of my housing envy went away after the crash here in CA. :-) The people we know who bought between 2000 and 2006 are not so happy with their choices.

      Also … being at peace with not buying until we are buying a retirement residence made a HUGE difference. Buying in L.A. while we are working here would be financially stupid. So most of the houses in L.A. don’t even appeal to us because … they’re in L.A. :-)

      • rented life Says:

        I’d just be happy for a house right now. Our apartment neighbors are, as always, blaring the music. We’ve complained about smoking, noise, everything and they’re late on their rent all the time but the leasing office does nothing to enforce their lease. I’d also settle for a quieter apartment community. We already moved to where we want to live, so we’re good there :) I wouldn’t want to live in LA either.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    In this case, jealousy makes sense to me because Suzie’s son gets awesome job offers in something he (presumably) likes.

    I do get jealous. Fortunately, it’s just brief flashes because, as others have said, usually the big picture isn’t that great. Just last Friday I was jealous of someone’s house I’d been to for the first time. Her kitchen/dining room/living room seemed as big as my whole house. Her beautifully long laminate counters from the ’70s were white with gold flecks (much better than my stumpy orange ones). I just had to remind myself that I’m not willing to pay for that much air conditioning, maintenance costs, and property taxes plus it would take a lot longer to do things like mop and vacuum. (Also, I noticed that my cabinets are better–they go all the way up to the ceiling. Although when you have a million cabinets …)

    Later I found out her property taxes are even lower than mine. But that’s because she’s further from the center of town and in a not very great neighborhood. Also, her nearest exit from the freeway is usually backed up. I would not be willing to switch locations to have what she’s having. Though I did think about!

    Basically I think the value of jealousy is in inspiring you to be more like the person of whom you are jealous–there’s an example, so you know it can be done. Once you realize you’re not willing to do what it takes (which is what normally happens when you think about it), then the jealousy stops making sense. Fortunately for me, it does actually dissipate at that point.

    But on the bad side, I do have a couple of friends (twins) I think of as “golden boys.” When I met them in grad school they were better than me at everything except embroidery and playing the recorder. When they came to learn folk dancing with me, I saw that although they learned faster than I did, they did not pick up everything instantaneously. I realized they had spent most of their childhood learning cool things and being bored enough to study (no TV in Africa). It’s just a matter of making time to learn things, and then you know things. Since that time, I have learned a lot of cool things, too. But I have to admit, when one of them gave up on getting his PhD and left with a mere Masters and was sad because it was the first time in his life that he’d ever failed at anything, I was not properly sympathetic.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever found anyone at the high levels you’re talking about to be jealous of. I’m not able to escape the fact that I’m kind of a weirdo and don’t actually want to be like other people. Except maybe the golden boys. I don’t do things the way they do (they both now work too many hours at high paying jobs and live in really nice but pricy places), but I have stolen many of their good ideas.

  7. Revanche Says:

    Funny, I’ve been writing about this very thing for a while, though it still hasn’t taken full form yet.
    Generally, I think I share bogart’s approach for “big things” (must be a nice life b/c of A, B, C) though probably not consciously. I’ve always been surrounded by people who had more, one way or another, but not so many of them were people I wanted to be like or be around. Seeing the whole package tends to blunt the edges of jealousy for me; and if it’s someone I actually like then I have trouble feeling jealousy. I’m either happy for them, motivated to do better or both.

  8. Pamela Says:

    I was envious of friends of mine–they looked like they had it all. I couldn’t say jealous exactly–more like, “Aw, I wish I had what you had but if anyone deserves it it’s you.” But then over the years, stuff happened/came out that made me realize they didn’t have it all, or they weren’t that happy, or things weren’t as good as they seemed. But then I felt sick and sad for them since they are good people (and as I said, if I’m not living the dream, my friends and/or family should be at least). I was shocked when some thought I totally had it together and I was all “NO I AM A TRAINWRECK.”

    When I was younger I was jealous of people who had their dream jobs, because I was spinning my wheels. Then I got a dream job and realized it wasn’t all that.

    I am kind of jealous of super-organized people who have published books. Mainly because I’m not particularly organized and while I wrote a manuscript (that even had some initial interest from an agent or two), alas it was never published. And considering the drek that does get published, I think I’ve got the right to have my nose out of joint over that. ;)

  9. Practical Parsimony Says:

    I think my mother drove feelings of jealousy right out of me. She did not want us to envy people, so she squashed that feeling and along with it the tendency to jealousy.

    My anthropology prof friend traveled the world, got a Fulbright Fellowship—TWICE. I sat here in a safe place, 4000 sq ft house and thought how nice it would be to travel and what would I do with things since I had no desire to sell and no one reliable to take care of my house and stuff. She drove to see me that day and i told her how I felt and laughed at myself. She said she was jealous of me because of my stability. (I never felt jealousy, but she did.) Our other prof friends had homes the size of mine.

    I looked at their homes, all so well-appointed. freshly painted and had fleeting thoughts of how nice it must be.

    The anthro prof told me things about how she cheated academically, knifed other profs and made them lose jobs. Suddenly, her accomplishments were tarnished and she was nothing I could aspire to be, not that I ever did. Plus, she did things to destroy my home or reduce its value or cause me to have to make repairs. She was very spiteful even when I gave her, the homeless prof, a place to live for free.

    All my life, I have never had a jealous, spiteful bone in my body. Envy is barely there. I am not so righteous, it just seems to be a waste of time. Besides, my mother told me not to be that way…lol. However, there are so many people I meet who think I lead a charmed and lucky life. I definitely do not. But, I chose to do somethings they chose not to do–get education, own a home, not depend on having a man about. (that last bit is hard)

    Your example of the person being hired by a prestigious school is understandable. Sometimes, I am baffled at why and how a person gets and keeps excellent jobs. But, I have enough friends who confide in how another mutual friend was unscrupulous or used means other than good credentials to be hired. Life is not fair. Smashing won’t help. Although it might make you feel better.

    Okay, so maybe I just focus on how the person is a bad person and cheated to get a good job. Not everyone I know with wonderful jobs is in this category. Maybe I have problems other than jealousy. nahhhh

    • Revanche Says:

      Can I ask: did your mom just tell you NOT to be jealous? Or was there more to it than that?

      I got more basic stuff like: quit making frowny expressions like that – even if you’re cranky as hell you don’t need to broadcast it to the whole world; Do better as a person before you worry about other people.

      But I don’t know if that’s an effective way to teach non-jealousy….

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        When someone had something and I said, “Susie had a pretty dress; I wish I had that dress.” She told me never to say I wanted something someone else had, that it belonged to her. It would never be mine, that I should wish I had one like it. She would point out that I had dresses just as pretty. Somehow, I never expressed those thoughts again. I really valued her opinion. When I wanted something like someone else had, all in my head, mind you, I could see that dress was not really so pretty. And, it was not sour grapes. Some days I just faced the facts that the other girl’s parents had more money or that she was an only child and did not have four younger siblings.

        Both my younger sisters told me when we were adults that they were always jealous of me. One sister never married because she was waiting for a person like I married (and divorced) and a big church wedding. She is 59, childless and single. All through her twenties and thirties she waited for a better man to come along than she was dating at the moment. The other sister just said she changed her mind about going to college when I finally finished, that she had a good career (restaurant manager), and thought college was over-rated. She said she always wanted what I had. Neither sister was willing to do what I did. one drank and partied. The other drank and smoked and partied. I did neither and had a goal that they did not have.

        The point–quit being jealous and envious. Do something to achieve a goal. Or, like some have pointed out, look hard at what else is happening in the life of the person you envy. Things are not always what they seem.

  10. MutantSupermodel Says:

    Stanford!!! Swoon! I get jealous of everyone living in the Bay Area. Sigh. My dad has decided I am going to become some amazing computer programmer and will live in the bay area and have a boat. I went along with it because awesome.

  11. Laura Vanderkam (@lvanderkam) Says:

    Interesting that many of the comments talk about how you don’t know about someone’s life, they may secretly be unhappy/in debt/some other train wreck. Which could be the case. But also, some people just have awesome lives. Like the doctor happily making her ginger bread houses that was posted about a few days ago.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 agrees completely. (See 2nd response to CPP above…)

      But I think I’m mainly only jealous of people who get things that I feel like they don’t deserve. Like when a tall white guy with a lousy cv and poor work ethic is chosen over a much more qualified woman (even when all other things equal she has more and better pubs, somehow he has more “promise”). (This happens a LOT in my field.) If they got where they are through hard work and intelligence, more power to them. Either I have hopes that I’ll be there someday or I don’t want to make those sacrifices to my hobbies (or maybe I just wasn’t at the right place at the right time).

      But telling ourselves these things about how it can’t be all that great probably is a way to feel less jealous, like #1 wants. Personally I think the fact that the person has to be a petroleum engineer instead of a fun social scientist is penance enough. Compensating differentials.

      • hush Says:

        Tall, overprivileged, rich, white guys who are good-looking make me so insanely jealous. No, I don’t want to be them; yes, I realize they do in fact have perfectly awesome lives, too. I mainly try to avoid them.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        SRSLY. I’m not as jealous of the ones who are also hardworking and helpful, though. Just the lazy ones. Not because I want to be lazy but because I want me some of that privilege. I’d at least try to do something good with it other than using it to make up for my laziness. (Standard disclaimer about how I already have privilege, just not as much as the most-privileged do.)

        I totes commented on your blog about beauty and the beast but blogger ate it.

      • hush Says:

        Yes, I want me some of that privilege too!

        Sorry about blogger being a pest – it seems to have an appetite for all of the best comments.

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        That is not jealousy. That is justified outrage!

    • bogart Says:

      As mine might have been interpreted that way and did (and does) have hints of the “train-wreck perspective,” a fair concern, I’ll note that it’s not (really) my point. Someone else life may be perfect *for them* but unless I want it *for me,* I am not allowed to be jealous of them. So the gingerbread-house doctor, for example, doesn’t even register because I don’t, in fact, want that life. (this isn’t to say I never feel twinges of jealousy about anything, but it does mean the chances of my feeling jealous over anything involving being a petroleum engineer approach zero).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        See that’s why I’m jealous (#1 here). I want exactly what they have (e.g., a job at Stanford), and there are a very limited number of jobs in that area, compared to the number of people who want them. It really is a zero-sum game, and I keep losing it. I’ve worked hard, sent in applications, etc., but keep not being hired at, e.g., Stanford. I think that if you get your “dream job” and it “isn’t all that”, then you need to dream higher.

        I like my career and hate my location. I keep on applying to other locations but nowhere nice will hire me. Schools in crappy shitty locations might hire me but I already live in one of those.

        Sure, someone is jealous of me because I have a tenure-track job. And I am grateful to have it. But that doesn’t stop me from being jealous of people who get to have this type of job in a place they want to live! How on earth would you stop being jealous of that???

      • bogart Says:

        I’m pretty much with Cloud here (assuming her comment was a reply to your query).

        You can’t be jealous (logically impossible) (work with me here) of a petroleum engineer because you don’t want to BE a petroleum engineer.


        Observing the petroleum engineer’s job-search experience has reminded you of something you really want but do not have.

        Look, I gave a up a good tenure-track job at a nice SLAC to be able to live with my husband and have a kid (and obviously there were other solutions to both those problems but looking at the choice set readily available to me I picked the one that landed me where I am now). Now I actually usually like (and this is part of the point) my current job as much as or better than I liked the SLAC. This has not always been true, there have been ups and downs; now is an up, but there may be (likely will be) downs again. I just recently started work on a federally funded research project that I really (really) want to be part of and that it is fair to say would not be happening if I hadn’t organized and motivated the team that wrote the grant (it also wouldn’t be happening had I stayed at the SLAC). I couldn’t have done it alone; I didn’t “get” the grant (and I’m not the PI). But there are plenty of inane moments and have been several inane years in my recent past (since leaving the SLAC). I’ve never had regrets (about leaving) though I have wondered if I’d need to leave (again), that is, to find another job when mine got stupid. (But I waited this one out and it’s gotten un-stupid again. For now.)

        Based on what little I know about you, you seem to have the following choices available to you: (a) Stay where you are and get tenure. This is likely a good strategy given where you are in the process no matter what you do next. (b) Be patient and wait to secure an equivalent-or-better job in a better place. This can happen after (a) though it doesn’t have to (in principle). But patience might be a long, long time and, as you say, has distinctly zero-sum components (you’re not in a growth industry where you just need to wait a few years). (c) Move to a nicer place and take a worse job. Worse is obviously loosely defined, but all the same. You’ll know it when you see it but it could still be worthwhile (improve your net utility). I’m sure Stanford’s hiring the occasional administrative assistant, grant specialist, and soft-money researcher. (c) can also happen after (a) and will probably work better then; I’m pretty sure that the fact I had a year’s half-funded leave coming to me when I left the SLAC made my claim that I required a good salary to move (“home”) more plausible. Maybe it was even true (I really don’t know, I’m not being coy). (d) Stay put and LBYM like crazy, retire early, and move to Stanford. Would you be happy living there if you weren’t employed at the university?

        What do you like about your current job? That’s a serious question, i.e., I’d be interested in reading the answer.

        I’m sure there’s stuff I haven’t thought of or don’t know, but that’s what I’ve got. Maybe there’s something useful in there.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2 here: #1 did actually apply for soft money/administrative-type jobs at Stanford/Berkeley at one point. I ran into a guy who interviewed her from one of those schools at an interdisciplinary conference and, IIRC, he said the main reason they didn’t hire her was because they figured she’d leave for a TT job, and he felt like that was confirmed when I said she had one. Years have since passed, so they might be more likely to believe her now, but it is a risk.

        She’s also taken you guys’ good advice from her last “help me” career post and has been applying heavily to research only government and non-profit jobs in real cities, but so far no bites. My concern is that they’re not going to believe she wants to relocate until she’s already relocated and that is a big risk.

        I think it would be great if she did another career angst post. She’s not doing badly where she is, but that makes a move all that more risky. On the other hand, she’ll have time to find the right job in the right place.

        But neither of us is going to be tenured at Stanford any time soon.

  12. Cloud Says:

    I will sometimes (OK often times) get jealous of certain aspects of other people’s lives. But then I notice the things that are missing in their lives from my list of things I care about (probably because they don’t care about those things), and I can tone the envy down.

    I will say, though, that I have found experiencing jealousy to be an occasionally useful thing, in that it helps me think about what someone has that I want and don’t have, and how I might get that. I acknowledge that this isn’t particularly useful for #1’s specific form of jealousy, since tenure-track jobs at Stanford aren’t something you can just set out to get. Too much luck involved in that.

    Maybe you could move to a less shitty location? Like still in the middle of nowhere or in a crappy little town, but in a state that is more to your liking, so that at least when you drove 2 hours to the nearest city it was a city you loved to visit?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Wow, that’s the worst of both worlds. I’d have to move again, and I still wouldn’t be in a place I like!

      I am working on several things. For right now, I am working on tenure where I am. I am also looking for other jobs. We are also saving up money to move somewhere else. But as #2 pointed out, “somewhere else” won’t hire me unless I already live there, and I’m not too willing right now to move without a job. “Somewhere else” already has thousands of people who live there who are qualified.

      I really want to stay on the tenure track; that is my dream. But maybe I would let go of that dream to live somewhere not-shitty. But if I’m going to give up my dream, the place I live has to be better than not-shitty!

      I will think about a post on what I like about my job. My current job, I don’t love it, but I love my career. Perhaps more on that later!

      • bogart Says:

        I’m inclined to think you should not leave until you get tenure (or an equivalent position elsewhere, but you clearly consider that unlikely, and rightly so given what I know of the academic market). Are you ever going to be entitled to a paid leave, i.e. sabbatical or equivalent? Or might you parlay a summer role into an actual job? I’m trying to think of ways you could be where you want to be geographically (and thereby improve your job search prospects) without needing to give up your current job (or income).

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Eventually I’ll be eligible to apply for a sabbatical! Right now I’m holding out hope for that. But then you have to come back to the school for a solid year after your sabbatical is over, or else you have to pay them back your salary.

        I guess I could go stay somewhere for the summer… there aren’t a lot of summer jobs for grownups though. Especially since I don’t get paid from my regular job in the summer, so what would I live on? Hm, it’s a thought though.

      • bogart Says:

        Right, well, they’re not, you know, perfect solutions, just (at best) ideas to move you down the path. Any chance you could find some sort of consulting or teaching work in a place you’d prefer to live during the summer to help cover costs (or just consulting work you could do remotely to bring in more money, or summer grant money ditto)? Obviously the ideal is not only to be there but to be there in a way that puts you in contact with people you want to work with later / on an ongoing basis. On the teaching thing I am emphatically NOT suggesting summer school (even if that were possible, which I doubt) but some sort of intensive program in your area of expertise. Can you teach a day-long (or week long) workshop on some aspect of your method(s), and if so, can you connect with a context that will pay you to do so and provide a structure? ICPSR is of course the huge example of such programming (at least on the quant social science side), but there seem to be lots and lots and lots of smaller examples.

  13. Johnny Moneyseed Says:

    The only people I’m jealous of are the ones that realize they could retire at a very early age as long as they had the will power to do so. I’m playing catch-up now and I wish I was a few years ahead!

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