Dear Mrs. Riches:
I have a close friend, "Charlotte," with whom I grew up. Charlotte and I worked at our first jobs together in high school, scraped together beer and gas money in college, and commiserated about our low-paying entry-level jobs after graduation. Fast forward a few years and now Charlotte is marrying a multi-millionaire, taking an around-the-world honeymoon, and complaining good-naturedly about how hard it is to decorate a 10,000-square-foot home. She's generous to a fault, but I'm discovering that I'm not; I want the old Charlotte back. I feel weird and uncomfortable with her now and can't seem to get over it. Do you have some thoughts about how we can remain friends?
Dear Green-Eyed Girl:
Your green eyes sound so blue! Charlotte seems to be handling her newfound riches just fine; you, on the other hand, are not. But to your credit, you seem to realize this.
I could certainly give you the lecture about how a good friend would be able to look past the wealth and get over the jealousy. But real people have real (and messy) feelings that don't get wrapped up neatly like in an ABC After School Special. So instead of chastising you, I will tell you this: Perhaps Charlotte's bounty will always give you twinges of jealousy, but my suspicion is that when you are truly happy in your own life, you won't have so many full-blown attacks of envy.
So take this outbreak of "Poor me!" and turn it into a positive opportunity to reflect on your own hopes, dreams, and goals. Is it a trip around the world that makes you moony for money? Then create a savings account where you can start saving up the money for the trip. Is it the dream house you most crave? Look around at where you live; can you add little touches that make it more inviting?
Not appeased by these small steps? Then consider a life overhaul. Take a look at the biggest facets of your life: your career, where you live, who you love, and the activities you do purely for enjoyment. If your life is out of balance in any of these areas, you'll want to look at why and then make a plan for what you can do about it. Easy to say, but not so easy to do? Consider contacting a therapist or life coach who can act as a "guide on the side" while you work toward personal fulfillment.
In the meantime, try not to make Charlotte the fall guy. Her good fortune is a lightning rod for your angst, not the cause. The experience of coming into extreme wealth is new to her and comes with its own set of problems (for example, dealing with the jealousy of others). She'll quickly begin to see who her real friends are and, with some work, you'll hopefully still be at the front of the line.
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