Monday

I feel bad for Ayelet Waldman

I feel sorry for Ayelet Waldman.

She reacted on social media to her most recent novel not being included in the New York Times Book Review's list of Top 100 Books of the year. She wasn't happy. Many writers felt that this was a sentiment that most writers have had about something - they just don't say it out loud and in a public forum the way that Waldman did.

Others felt that given that Waldman has published more than a dozen novels form big publishers, been a bestseller, been adapted to film, had Hollywood deals...that complaining about this was a little like a wall street broker complaining that he couldn't buy a yacht to go with his beach house because his bonus was cut because the global economy collapsed.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very sympathetic to the latter perspective.

We're always taught that external factors should not overly influence us. That other's approval and opinions should not define our well-being and our sense of self-worth. This is especially important for writers who will say that you should not be defined by sales or awards.

I look at Waldman. She's happily married, she has children, they have a house (in one of the most expensive places in the United States), she is doing incredibly well as an author by every metric. She's acclaimed, she's a bestseller.

Then I consider my own life. I am alone. I have no children. I do not own property. I am neither a critical nor financial success. I would love to be married - to a successful and highly intelligent person, no less. I would love to have children. I would love to be able to own a home.

I feel bad for her because she has what seems like a picture perfect life. I don't begrudge her any of this success, but I do envy it. She has a life that I envy - and it does not make her happy. It does not make her satisfied. It does not fulfill her. She has a loving spouse, children, material success, and a successful career - and none of it matters to her.

I know that getting married or becoming successful will not make me happy. But if I get everything I want, will I remain just a sad, depressed individual who is insecure and anxious and now and again is crushed by the world and wishes for my life to end? Maybe I will always be like this. There is nothing that I will ever do, nothing that I can ever do, that will help me to change, to transform myself, to make myself satisfied as a human being. No matter what, I will always be sad and depressed and unhappy.

I do loathe taking other people's problems and turning it into something about oneself. It's the epitome of narcissism: To negate other people's thoughts and opinions and feelings, because what's really important is me. I fear I may be doing that here. I wouldn't have expressed what Waldman expressed - I'm far too insecure to ever voice it, though I might think it - and I certainly wouldn't have talked about it at length online, but I know where that feeling came from.

I could laugh at Waldman, but I know the bell tolls for me.

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