Envy is one of the most misunderstood feelings out there. People act like it’s something to avoid or even be ashamed of. So they often miss out on the great gifts to be found inside this sometimes icky feeling emotion.
But once you get your envy working for you, you will uncover a wealth of inner potential. Let me explain…
When Your Classmate Becomes a Movie Star
Back when I was 18 I attended Tisch School of the Arts at NYU for one year. It was an amazing year. It was thrilling to be in New York City. It was heaven to be at a prestigious theatre program at a well-reputed school. I felt so lucky.
As part of my program I was assigned to an NYC acting studio that was in partnership with Tisch. My studio was Stella Adler School of Acting. I just loved it there too! At the time it was on Lafayette Ave next the The Public Theatre.
I lived in a dorm on Union Square. Each morning as I walked down University Ave with my buddy Bryan to go to school, I felt like the luckiest person alive. It was like I had stepped into a fairytale.
For each semester we were grouped with about 16 or so peers with whom we spent 26 hours a week taking theatre classes. Those first groups were based on our last name. As such, one of the members of my first semester group was a young woman named Bryce Dallas Howard.
Bryce didn’t broadcast the fact that she was director Ron Howard’s daughter (he was the childhood star of the TV shows The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. Plus director of huge blockbusters like A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, The DaVinci Code…). But we all knew it.
I mean c’mon – it was acting school. You tell one person your dad’s a famous Oscar-winning director and everyone is going to know in a matter of minutes.
At that time I did not feel at all envious or competitive with Bryce. I really liked her. She was so hard-working. Always well prepared for class. Always very kind with the sweetest voice. Seriously, her voice is as sweet as a Werther’s Original.
Plus, we were into different things. She had never tried alcohol or cigarettes in her life, and I was seeking out the hottest nightclubs to drink and dance my arse off in all night. I wanted to devour NYC in every way I could. I wasn’t even that invested in staying in school.
The summer after my Freshman year at NYU, I decided it was silly to continue getting a degree in acting when what I really wanted was to just go out there and do it. So I dropped out, moved into an apartment in the East Village, and attended acting class on my own.
This was certainly the best decision for me. By autumn I had landed my first big role on The Sopranos, by December I was signed with top industry managers and agents. I was off and running.
Then Envy Came and Found Me
It wasn’t until a couple years later that my intense envy towards Bryce arose. I had spent a year and a half in Hollywood and realized that I did not want to continue in the business.
I had gotten very close to booking several lead roles on TV shows (it was between me and one other gal to be a lead on The L Word, among many other near-wins). But the closer I got, the more I knew I had to get out of there – show biz wasn’t for me. I was deeply afraid to be strapped into a mediocre TV show for six years.
When I “retired” and arrived back in Vermont to lick my Hollywood battle-wounds, Bryce was just rising to fame. She had left Tisch after two and a half years, and booked the lead role in The Village with director M. Night Shyamalan. She was about to blow up.
I remember us scheduling a phone call to catch up. I was sitting in my mom’s room in this old farmhouse where I grew up in Vermont on the old rotary phone. She was far far away in Los Angeles. She told me about the lucky twists of fate that landed her as the lead in the movie. I was achingly, painfully jealous.
Getting At the Gems Behind the Envy
Back when I was at Tisch for that one year, I had a brilliant movement teacher named Joanne Edelman. She was endlessly weird, and nothing we could do was weird enough to please her. I loved her whole deal.
I remember one day Joanne brought a paper she had printed out for me. On it was a quote by Émile Zola that said:
“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”
This always stayed with me as a fundamental truth of my being. In fact, much of the reason I quit acting had to do with the fact that I didn’t want to play characters that were living extraordinary lives. I wanted to go and live an extraordinary life!
So when I felt this tremendous envy towards Bryce, I decided to make a project of understanding myself through it, instead of wallowing in comparisons and resentments.
Upon examination, what I found behind the envy was this heart-exploding desire to live out loud. I wanted to engage in a big way with humanity. I wanted to be fully present in life.
At that time I had just washed up back on the shores of my childhood home. Life felt very, very quiet and small. So of course I envied Bryce’s entrance onto the world stage. But I was in a different place. What I really needed was to tuck in, regroup, and build a new beginning. Which I did.
Your Envy Highlights Your Leading Edge
It has been over a decade since I’ve felt any envy for Bryce. Once I got the original message, and went to work reshaping my own life path to satisfy my urge to live out loud, she no longer was a threat to my ego. She was just this great symbol.
She has since done some amazing projects like Spiderman 3, The Twilight Saga, As You Like It, The Help, Jurassic World, etc.
But although she’s had some great success, while reading different interviews with her over the years, I know it hasn’t been easy. Being in the spotlight can really blow chunks sometimes. The highs are high and the lows are very low. She’s a genuinely lovely person and I wish the very best for her through it all.
But that’s not to say I’ve retired from envy altogether. I just see it very differently now. When I feel envy, I sit up straight and start to sniff out what I might be missing in my own life path.
Then I go hunting for gemstones and jewels… and do my best to take action on what I find.
How About You?
You ever felt envy? Did you run in the other direction? Or trash the person you envied to avoid the pain? Or did you use it as a roadmap to your own next leading edge…?
*I’m @arielkiley on Instagram
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