My family was kinda poor when I was growing up. Not Grapes of Wrath poor, but I can vividly remember weeks when all there was to eat was navy beans and white bread. Not surprisingly, I envied other kids who had better lunches, better toys, better opportunities.
Better lives—at least that’s what selfish kid-me thought.
And being one of six kids who didn’t have everything they wanted, I complained a lot. We all did. We were dissatisfied, and everywhere we looked, the advertising industry told us that satisfaction was guaranteed.
Side Note (aka digression): The claim, “Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back” was coined by Sears in 1927.
Side, Side Note: Growing up, I was dissatisfied a lot, and I never saw a cent.
Anyway. Every time we complained to my mom that thus-and-so had something-or-other that we didn’t have, she would say, “The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side.”
I’ve since learned that means the people you’re jealous of have problems you aren’t aware of so don’t be fooled by the fact that they seem to be enviable. Or words to that effect. Like “they might have a nicer house than we do but their parents spend all their time fighting over money and the kids have no idea what being loved is.”
Of course, as a kid, the saying didn’t teach me any moral lessons about contentment. It made me obsessed about the color of the neighbor’s lawn as opposed to ours. At night, I would sneak out and steal handfuls of the Thus-and-so’s grass so I could bring it home and compare.
I ruined my eyesight trying to differentiate between green and green.
And I was still jealous.
Fun Fact: The Thus-and-so family lived across the street, five houses down. Timmy Thus-and-so and I were best friends, though we drifted apart sometime in high school. I loved him and I hated him for having better something-or-others than me—especially after the time he gave me his old something-or-other.
Kids will be kids.
Another Fun Fact: Thus-and-so wasn’t their actual family name. When Timmy’s great grandparents immigrated to this country after World War One, they—like so many others—changed their name at Ellis Island. In the old country, the Thus-and-sos name was We-got-better-crap-than-you.
Try getting a job with a name like that.
So, what’s the moral of this odd, meandering trip down memory lane and what does it have to do with writing and publishing?
I’ll tell you. I write a blog about this kinda stuff.
Ready? Here it is.
There is no such thing as satisfaction guaranteed. Unless you’re Stephen King, and maybe even if you are, there’s always gonna be somebody who got a better deal, is more famous, has more followers on Twitter, or more comments on the weekly blog he or she hates to write.
Actual satisfaction comes from setting your own goals and achieving them regardless of what other authors or writers or artists accomplish.
That’s how success is measured.
If you can embrace that, you’ll be more satisfied than Timmy ever was.
Sometimes I even miss the stupid little Thus-and-so.