They say comparison is the thief of joy. More than that, I think comparison is just silly. So many people, especially young adults, seem to feel guilty that their life is not progressing in the typical fashion. Or more often, they feel inferior to those whose lifestyle happens to match “normal”.
Who decided that the normal order of things is to go to college, find a career, get married, earn a promotion, buy a house, and start a family?It’s really quite arbitrary, and yet if you deviate from that order, then people think you’re crazy. And good grief, what if you don’t even desire some of those stereotypical life milestones? Then you’re really crazy!
Most of all, if you don’t do things the “normal” way, you’re considered not grown up, as though for some reason achieving these goals makes one more of an adult. Does it really?
I keep hearing people talk about life as though it’s a game. We talk about ourselves or others being “further along” in life. Or that people are winning or losing at life, as though it can be won or lost. We certainly talk about life as though unlocking milestone achievements makes you more of an adult, but I don’t believe that’s really the case.
Life is not linear. It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. It’s less like a game and more like a dance or a play. All sequences of a dance and characters in a play are essential to the overall beauty of the performance. Each aspect comes together to make something beautiful and meaningful that may not be linear and logical. Life isn’t about progressing to the destination as quickly and orderly as possible. Life is about the journey, which is unique for each person.
It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others and think that they are better adults or more successful than us. I know some of my friends compare themselves to me since I have checked the “husband” and “house” boxes off on this non-existent life checklist. But at the same time, I found myself comparing my own accomplishments to others when I was working a job I didn’t love two years after college and my friends starting graduating with their master’s degrees.
Why do we do that? Why do we forget our own accomplishments and goals and instead compare ourselves to others? Maybe it’s because that popular board game successfully outlined Life for us. But regardless, this endless comparison is not what it’s all about.
I know people the exact same age as me who are single, dating, married with multiple kids, married with no kids, homeowners, renters, living at home, sharing a house or apartment, working part time jobs, working a full-time dream job, in school, and living the unattached life by traveling the world or hiking the Appalachian Trail. And you know what? All of those things are good!
Our goals and life situations (chosen or necessary) have little to do with how successful we are as adults. In fact, I would say it has pretty much nothing to do with it. Being an adult has much more to do with being responsible with the things one has been given, no matter what that may entail.
This perspective should change the way we view both our own lives and the way we view others. Life isn’t linear, so there’s no point in feeling pride that we’re supposedly “ahead” or discouraged because we’re “behind”. Our story is our own and no one else’s. By that same reasoning, there’s no benefit to judge or look down on others who aren’t in a similar place as us. Their journey is their own, and not ours.
No, you’re not #winning at life. But you’re not #losing either, because life was never a game to be won or lost. Love this moment, enjoy the journey, and be confident in who and where you are. It’s ok to not have all your ducks in a row and all the boxes checked on the “life goals and official adult checklist”. After all, that checklist never even existed in the first place.