Moments of enlightenment can often come in some pretty outrageous forms.
Like an overheard conversation of two rambunctious boys in the front office of an elementary school.
I’ve been realizing a lot lately how much we compare ourselves to other people. I can’t really explain why it happens, but it seems like it’s something most of us do—even when we don’t even realize it.
And it starts at a young age.
I was waiting to interview a student at one of our campuses the other day, and there were two young boys sitting in the front office, as well. Their conversation with one another was highly entertaining, and I listened in (also because they were rather loud, so it was difficult not to sit there and hear every word they said). I have no idea what their names are, but I’m going to call them Rocky and Colt (Three Ninjas is a highly underrated movie).
Rocky: You see this scar on my chin (shows Colt his scar). I had to get FOUR stitches! And my godfather had to get to 24 stitches!
Colt: I have a scar on my hip, and I got 95 stitches!
Me (thought in my head): That’s a hell of a lot of stitches, kid. And I’m sure that’s completely true. Also, how does the godfather factor into any of this?
Rocky: I’m Indian and German and French and Irish and Arabian and probably British, too.
Me (thought in my head): That is quite the combo of heritage you have there. I’m not sure about all of those, because you’re the whitest kid I’ve ever seen.
Colt: I’m all of those things you just said, but I’m something else.
Me (thought in my head): False.
Colt never said what that “something else” is, but it sure gave him a one-up on Rocky, which I’m pretty sure is what he was going for in that convo.
A girl then walked in and greeted them both briefly and kept on to wherever she was going. Colt waited until she was probably still in earshot and told Rocky that “she’s really touchy.” Rocky asked what her name is, and when Colt told him, he said “that’s the boringest name.”
I sat there and reflected on the profound statements these kids had just said and wanted to label them as ridiculous boys, but then it hit me that adults really aren’t that much different. Sure, we don’t always voice our opinions like those kids did in such candid manners, but we let thoughts of comparisons enter our heads—whether it’s about people’s names or looks compared to ours or how we measure up to other people in regard to status or lifestyle.
I know I’ve caught myself doing this lately, especially because I don’t really feel like I have my life figured out. (Who does, though, really?) I’m 33 years old and have realized that I’m not where I want to be in my career, and that gives me an unsettling feeling. I know so many people who seem to know exactly what they want, and they are in established roles and flourishing, while I’m sitting here still praying for direction and clarity—something that feels like I should have been doing way earlier in my career than now. But we all have different paths. I was able to be a sports reporter for a year, a teacher for seven years, and now a writer in the corporate setting for almost three years. I know I’m eventually meant to do something else, though, and that can be difficult to accept when you think you’re supposed to be an adult who isn’t so seemingly clueless.
I think we often forget that most people don’t really “have it all together,” despite what Instagram may lead us to believe. You’ve likely heard that “comparison is the thief of joy” (thanks, Teddy Roosevelt), and I think that’s true a lot of the time. You can feel like you’re really killing it in life and then see how great someone else is doing and feel like your accomplishments aren’t as great as that other person’s. But why does that matter? If you accomplished something, you should be proud of that because it’s something that’s part of your life.
It’s been an ongoing struggle for me in the area of being single. I’m extremely happy for all of the people in my life (which is almost all of them) who have found their soulmates and started families and always have their spouses or significant others to dance with them during all of the slow songs. And it’s hard sometimes not to remember that if I want to dance to those same songs, I get to go twirl on the dance floor all by myself. I can be perfectly happy doing that, but I can also look around and let the comparisons of my situation to theirs rob me of that peace I feel on my own.
We’re all unique the way we are, and it truly doesn’t make much sense to compare ourselves to other people. That’s definitely something that’s much easier to say than actually do, so I can’t promise it won’t ever happen again for me. But I do know I want to make more conscious efforts to remind myself that I am who I am, and I’m taking the path I’m taking for reasons I may not know until later. The things that happen in my friends’ lives aren’t supposed to happen in my life because my life isn’t their lives—it’s just that simple.
You are where you are right now for a reason. The people you’ve met and the things you’ve gone through—both good and bad—have not been without purpose. They’re all part of your journey and your story, and they are meant to be for you and not necessarily for anyone else. You are valued, you are loved, and you matter just the way you are.
And that’s a truth that needs no comparison at all.