Envy Is Ignorance

Through the wonder of technology and trends like Throw Back Thursday (#TBT) we can quickly be reminded of our past, for better or worse.  Every morning Timehop, and now Facebook, is waiting to show me a memory from this date last year or the years before.  And like most memories, there are always a series of emotions that can be triggered immediately thereafter. 

Over the past year, I've replayed a lot of memories in my mind and wrestled with a cocktail of feelings, shaken - not stirred, as they're relived even for an instant. In most cases, because the digital record of my life is closer to a highlight reel than anything else, the picture or status update or check-in triggers a smile or positive recollection of that moment in time with people that were a big part of my life then. And that good feeling is actually the feeling that has given me the most to think about. 

The positive feelings I have about certain areas of my life in the past that are now changed or defunct, whether companies or relationships, caused my current self to be envious of my past self.  And envy is not a common emotion for me to feel, I am usually pretty content or at least aware of the in-progress nature of the journey I am on. But envy started to slap me around a bit and I started to spend a bit more than a quick glance back at these memories and moments in the past.  

But then, as good friends do, I was reminded of a passage of a very familiar essay that I had not reread in the context of my current state of mind. 

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.... It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.
— Self-Reliance - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Envy is ignorance" hit me like a ton of bricks. Being envious of my ignorant self in the past discounts all of the growth and learning and knowledge gained since the moment in question or the memory recalled.  Being envious of a past self is a disservice and insult to my current self and the challenges and victories won in the pursuit of my best. Who I am today is far better than that ignorant, yet blissful, version of me that had no idea all that was ahead. 

And so the admonishment to continue forward rings loud and clear. The reminder that the rear view mirrors are much smaller than your windshield for a reason stands out. The tried and true truth that "There is no comfort in the growth zone and no growth in the comfort zone" is now re-pinned to my mental Pinterest quote board.  And as the next wave of #TBT and Facebook memories flash across my screen of good times had in the past, they will continue to serve, not as envy inducing moments I would return to, but as reminders as to how far I have come since then.