DEAR CAROLYN: Almost two years ago, my good friend left the place we both worked and started her own company. She asked me to join her but it seemed too risky. Even her business plan put her chances of making money in the first two years at 50% at best. I've got a young child to think of and she doesn't, also she's always been more daring, so I declined her offer and wished her well. At first I was a huge supporter of hers as she went through some hard times. Lately she's been racking up one major success after another and I'm frankly jealous. Especially knowing that could have been me sharing in the glory. Every time she sends a group text or email, I have to force myself to open it because it is ALWAYS more great news for her. It's bringing out the worst in me. I don't even join in the congratulations anymore. I don't want to be this person, I hate it, but here I am. I'm even afraid I'll start hoping she has a setback. It seems my only options are to step back from the friendship, which will be hard and painful since we're part of the same large friend group, or to directly ask her to leave me off any news she sends out about her business, which I think will hurt her. What should I do? I don't want to be petty and jealous anymore.
JEALOUS: Actually, it couldn't have been you sharing in the glory.
That's a trick our brains play on us unless we consciously shut it down: They let us think we just missed the lottery jackpot because we were behind the winner in line, or were almost run down in that crosswalk, or were chosen or spared by some power or another — yet that's just interesting narrative. Your ticket either wins or it doesn't. You're either a hit or you aren't.
You're either in someone's career arc or you're not. There's no "almost."
You might feel this as a brush with wealth because you had the offer and turned it down. But had you accepted it, you and your good friend would be living in a different present from the one you're living in now. Who knows if the business would have followed the same trajectory? Who knows if you'd even still be friends?
Who knows the answer to this: Had you joined this business, you and she would have divided responsibilities, and instead of her running some errand or taking a certain trip, you might have done it instead — right? And what if that one different positioning of fate's levers had led to one of you getting sick, injured or killed; or getting randomly called to a different service window and getting a different outcome to your transaction; or one of you becoming absolutely convinced your business needed X instead of Y?
Search up the butterfly effect and let yourself off that hook.
Then, invite her to coffee. Drown your very real, very human, very normal and understandable envy in reminders of why you're friends. Make the effort. Mean it.
Unless ... her idea of friendship now is to group-text her successes. In that case, back as far off as you must.