Liminal Luminous

The shining threshold
creativity Mental health Photography

Jealousy as a teacher

Today my best friend is coming up to see my photography exhibition. This means the world to me.

We’ve been friends since school and we lived together in a flat in London in our mid-twenties while she was doing an MA in Fine Art and I was working in marketing.

I have always been powerfully jealous of S and her artwork, all the way from school through to, well quite recently really. Let’s face it, jealousy is an ugly emotion, certainly not one that we are supposed to feel of our friends. Of course, I was deeply supportive of her and her work, going to exhibitions and private views and everything else. But underneath the jealousy was eating me away, especially when she was doing her MA and I was working in marketing in IT and telecoms, a jobs which was making me so utterly miserable that I would frequently go to work with what would have been a hangover for anyone else, but was just my usual state of being, not to mention bleeding under my shirt sleeves from my latest bout of self harm.

I think most people would have seen this as an alarm call, but I didn’t. I had money to make. Even though I don’t want money to buy stuff, I wanted money to signal success and achievement. Something which I still struggle with to this day.

It took getting ridiculously ill to make me realise that things were wrong. By this stage I had left marketing, trained as a teacher – detested that and was working in the arts, after doing an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy, but I still wasn’t doing what I needed to be doing. I used music to get well again, learning the flute and joining a concert band. I focused all my energy into practice, even when I couldn’t really sit up for any extended periods of time.

I took up photography, using my camera to start documenting beautiful moments in the everyday. I don’t live in a picturesque area, but none the less I looked for beauty (in its widest definition) as a practice of mindfulness and gratitude (here’s my Beautiful Thurrock project).

And my writing. This is my third blog sharing more personally and I wish I had kept up the first one, but writing helps me so much. I am working on creative writing too, as I have so many ideas, but the fear is deeply strong with that, so I have a long way to go before I can even commit to writing and sharing.

And now my best friend is coming to my exhibition to see my photography. I have come so far and I am so pleased she is coming out to see me.

What would have happened if I had listened to that jealousy when I was younger? I possibly wouldn’t have finished my BA hon. in Theatre Studies and then gone straight into marketing because I needed money. I may have dossed around for a while and found work which was more suited to me at a much younger age. Not needing to go through the mess of my life to get here. Of course this is a dangerous game to play because if I hadn’t of gone into marketing I wouldn’t have met my husband, and many other good things in my life. But I may have found my calling at a much younger age.

Now I try to pay attention to that jealousy. Not to lash out at people with it, but to ask is it teaching me something? Is it signalling that I should be focusing in a different place? Is there jealousy in your life somewhere? Can you listen to what it is telling you?

2 Comment

  1. This is the problem with the cult of positive, it stops us hearing from the uncomfortable parts of ourselves. I suspect there are a lot of people who have done similar things for similar reasons, we do what we think we’re supposed to do… regardless of the effect it has. Thank you for sharing this.

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