My friend Micah was the first person to introduce me to Anne Jackson.
“You should check out this girl’s blog,” he said in a Facebook message with a link attached. “You have a lot in common. She’s basically living your dream.”
I stiffened a little, wondering what made Micah think that I wasn’t living my dream.
So I went to Flowerdust.net to find that, like me, Anne Jackson described herself as an “author, speaker, blogger,” with Zondervan as her first publisher. Like me, she was a twenty-something living in Tennessee. Like me, she cared a lot about global poverty and had even travelled to India.
Micah was right. We did have a lot in common.
Unfortunately, having learned to write the infamous “compare and contrast” essay in middle school, I immediately began scouring the site for our differences—Anne Jackson vs. Rachel Evans.
This task proved easier than the first.
Unlike me, Anne Jackson already had a second book deal. Unlike me, Anne Jackson had one of the most popular Christian-life-themed blogs in the country. Unlike me, Anne Jackson had 7,997 followers on Twitter. Unlike me, Anne Jackson had an actual speaking career. And unlike me, Anne Jackson had a super-hip nose ring that I could never pull off because my nose is so flat and wide it looks like someone accidentally sat on it when I was an infant, and I have no intention of drawing more attention to that fact.
I began to wonder if what Micah meant to say was, “You should check out Anne Jackson. She’s like you, but better.”
And so I began nursing a grudge against someone I’d never met. I nitpicked her writing. I looked for ways to disagree with her posts. I responded to encouraging news about my Web traffic and social networking stats with a sigh and, “I bet Anne Jackson’s are better.” It drove me crazy that Anne wrote a series for Flowerdust encouraging young writers not to worry about building a platform, when both my marketing director and editor specifically told me to look to her as an expert on platform-building! She wasn’t even trying to be successful. She just was.
The grudge continued to fester and ooze until one afternoon, when I received an email from a reader. In it, the reader mentioned the fact that sometimes she felt insecure about her decision to pursue a family life before a career, explaining how challenging it can be to find time to write amidst the craziness of having young children at home. Humbly and candidly, she admitted that it was hard not to compare her accomplishments to mine.
Suddenly it struck me—I was this girl’s Anne Jackson!
And then—What if everyone has an Anne Jackson? What if even Anne Jackson has an Anne Jackson?
Little did my reader know that as she wrote “compare and contrast” essays about me in her head, I was writing “compare and contrast” essays about Anne Jackson in my head. Little did she know that published authors are just as insecure and jealous and frightened as unpublished authors, sometimes even more so. Little did she know that my relative success in this business had not made me any happier with myself.
It seems the Anne Jacksons in our lives are not really “out there,” but rather “in here”—in our hearts and in our heads, when we look to other people to define us and to temporal standards to measure our success. How sad that we continue to believe in VIPs, when we all share unlimited access to the Source of all joy, peace, and life!
And so I decided to stop resenting Anne Jackson. She certainly did nothing to deserve it. I figure that no matter where we find ourselves in our various journeys, there will always be someone up ahead who has gone a little farther. Sometimes the distance between us is real; sometimes it is just a mirage. Sometimes we are right to try and follow; sometimes we need to go our own way. But every day, we have to make the decision to either learn from our fellow travelers or glare at the back of their heads.
My guess is that, should we catch up, we will find that even our most intimidating companions have been walking over footprints all along.
So, who is your Anne Jackson?
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