Own your Journey:
Stacking up our successes against others
This blog entry is a bit different to my usual. For one, I am sharing some personal information. But the purpose of this entry is to talk about judging our journeys – in relation to time, distance, and placement. We often compare ourselves to others. We go to school, and are immediately ranked according to academics, athletic performance, dramatic capabilities, popularity, and more. We know where we stand. We know how we compare to others in this massive lifestyle rat-race.
When we exit school, however, it is very difficult to have an idea of where we stand. We see others delve immediately into tertiary education. We see others already entering first-time jobs even before they’ve stopped their final school year. We see some get engaged the moment they step foot out of school. So how do we know where we stand? How do we know that we are doing “well”. And what do we strive for when all standards are relinquished from our immediate peripheral?
While I have been thinking these thoughts quite seriously recently, there are a few things that have triggered my great-scale awareness of where I stand in life. I will talk about two of these things.
One of my best friends got married this past weekend. She never really spoke about marriage, and never shared any strong desire to be attached to another human. The most she said about marriage to me in our 12 years of knowing each other was “it’ll be fun”, in her usual nonchalant “it doesn’t really matter” kind of way. And yet this past weekend she shared sacred vows and sealed herself to another person with a kiss. She is an incredible, independent, and self-confident individual. I have seen her brought to tears on three occasions during my twelve years of friendship – one time of which I was the perpetrator. The third time was this past weekend.
Our friendship has lasted through many ups-and-downs, not only emotionally, but also driven by life. She and I studied very different professional pursuits. She became an engineer – her practical and down-to-earth nature perfect for the highly pressurised and male-dominated environment. I went into industrial psychology, trying to fully embrace and control the emotional part of myself that I despise so much. Our different directions of interest could have driven a stake through our friendship, but somehow, we managed to maintain a deeper understanding of our ties. We had been through a lot during our school years – having acted as the support system for a mutual friend diagnosed with bipolar and depression. There are some things that will always bind you to another human. Being in love with the same man also takes a friendship to another level of empathy and sacrifice.
My second friend, also one of my best, has also made a commitment in her life – although not the sort that one is used to hearing about. She does not have a boyfriend. In this year, she has left a long-term relationship, changed jobs twice, and moved into her third home for the year. She feels she is unlikely to meet a man within the next four years – at which stage she will turn 30 – and be able to marry and have children within her planned timeline of her life. She is also an incredibly strong female. Having met her when I was 9, she and I immediately had very strong emotions for each other: dislike. It was not until we were forced to share lunch with each other that we discovered a myriad of similarities. Our strong dispositions would take us on a rollercoaster friendship-ride of love, hate, fist-fights, stargazing, brother-sharing, beer-drinking, and everything in-between.
She has decided that she is going to go to a gynaecologist and freeze her eggs. She wants kids. Her plan was always to have a “football team’s worth” of children. She has always been very good with babies, and every time she sees a little girl she melts. She doesn’t believe she’s going to find a man who can relate to her and her life-style the way that she expects. So instead she has taken things into her own hands and has identified her preferred donors. She will be self-inseminating come her 30th birthday – celebrating her newfound level of womanhood with potential mommy-hood.
So what do these two woman have in common? Other than the fact that they are individualistic, otherwise, stubborn, strong-willed, hard-minded, tough, and so many other character traits – the main similarity is that they are optimistic about the future, and willing to take control over their own destinies.
We always wonder if we are “doing well” in this life rat-race. But we really cannot compare. We really cannot take our accomplishments, failures, attempts, and triumphs, and hold them against our fellow humans to perceive our status. That, cliché as it is, really does come from within. We need to have our own idea of our life. Our own perception of “getting somewhere”. And we need to own that perception, because no one else can own it for us. No one else can give us purpose. And nothing other than pain, envy, and aggression can come from looking at others and wishing that we had the same opportunities, the same traits, the same chances, the same grit, or anything that characterises another person’s journey.
And the best part? Our purpose might stay the same, but our journey can change as much as we want it to. It’s okay if you’re in a rut at the moment. It’s okay if you don’t know what direction to go in for your job, or if a career move turns out to be an utter disappointment. It’s okay if you have to go back and study, because you only got accepted to your dream profession on the fourth year of applications.
While this list is referring to things that have happened to many of my friends, it just as much applies to myself. Take the time to identify where you want to go. And then, be present in the moment. Live, actively, and commit to your experiences. No one else can experience them for you. No one else can direct your journey for you. Be who you are, knowing that tomorrow you will be someone else entirely. In the words of Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try”.
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Think about 2018, quickly approaching us, and consider not the goals that you want to reach, but the kind of journey you want to have. And then aim to enjoy every part of that.
Wonderwhiterabbit hopping off
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