In 2nd grade, the teacher asked us the proper method for brushing our teeth. Hands shot into the air and she picked X, who proudly demonstrated little circles. Wrong! I knew the proper answer of brushing from the gum to the end of the tooth, but I didn't put my hand up. I almost never did. I got picked as default too often as it was.
X had perfect little teeth. The plaid pocket of his perfectly pressed shirt matched the shirt pattern exactly, his perfectly shined shoes complementing his pressed pants. His hair was cut professionally and always combed neatly. I hated him. This was made harder by the fact that he was smart, polite, eager to help, and just terribly nice. I kept my bad feelings to myself and we often played together pleasantly on the playground.
I was ashamed of myself. Even at 6 years old, I knew I was wrong and probably going to hell. I glared at my girl scout uniform with 100 buttons and ironed it hatefully, knowing boys didn't have as many buttons and X's mom did all of his ironing (with starch!). Life was unfair, and X symbolized every unfairness.
He's had a nice life. Of course he has. That's why I put so much energy into hating him. He started with everything to ensure that kind of success -- which I honestly don't begrudge him. Nice people should have nice lives.
A few years ago, a child confessed her jealousies to me. I was all adult and sympathetic and gave her my best advice to improve her situation with her peers and within her mind. Afterwards, I felt like laughing at my own childhood jealousy. It all seemed so important at the time, but it really wasn't. Whatever X had or has in his life has nothing to do with my path in life, and jealousy is such a waste of energy.
I wish I had better teeth, but wishing for that doesn't mean cavities in X's teeth would my life better. Another friend lost all her teeth. That doesn't make my life any better either.
We live in a world that keeps telling us to look at what other people have instead of looking within. The underlying message is that we should be envious enough to get whatever they've got. The overt message we get is that jealousy is an ugly emotion and we should all stuff that inside so we don't make anyone else uncomfortable. Either way, the message in our society is to focus on other people to achieve our own happiness. You know that's never going to work.
We've all felt jealousy, and once in a while I still get a hot stab of it about something. I'll never claim that I've mastered everything with a higher intent. I try to do the best with what I have and find my happiness within my abilities to gain it. I wish all of us that kind of cavity-free happiness, especially all the children who face feelings for the first time.
Sometimes I think the secret to happiness is simply choosing to be happy, or just finding contentment wherever you are.