So I have to confess something. And it pains me to admit this. This is one of those lies I tell even myself. You know, the kind you’ve told yourself for so long that you are sort of starting to believe it. Mainly because you’d be mortified if anyone knew otherwise. The funny thing is, you’re probably the only person you know who doesn’t realize this about you.
For longer than I care to admit I have been living my life with a glass half empty philosophy. I had convinced myself I was living nowhere near my “potential” (what ever the heck that means) and I believed I was failing at life.
That’s very difficult for me to admit because in many ways I am a very confident person. But as the years of my young adult life had begun to pass I somehow found myself lost and looking at the map saying “where the hell am I? How did I get lost? I was going to accomplish big things here. BIG things!”
How did I get lost on my own path? Truthfully, I’m not sure. But I can certainly tell you where I lost my way…
I lost my way at that point where I allowed myself to believe that happiness was something off in the distance that had to be attained.
I started believing “someday” something magical would happen and my life would be so complete that my heart would overflow with happiness, joy, and peace. Sure, I knew there would be an occasional bump in the road, but once I’d achieved that insurmountable level of happiness and peace I would of course be able to handle any adversity with the grace of a true super hero and settle right back into pure bliss!
Now, I couldn’t possibly tell you what that mysterious thing would be that would magically turn my life from hum drum to exhilarating but I knew “IT” was out there – just waiting for me.
“IT” was out there waiting for me to finally make whatever perfect decision I would make that would cause my entire life to shift and change everything forever. “IT” was waiting for me to finally land the right job or to finally meet the right friends or to finally create the relationship I’d always wanted or to finally own that big home on the water or…blah, blah, blah.
I would sometimes feel sorry for myself and often times would even feel somewhat angry. I was angry people I considered to not be as talented or as nice or as smart as I was turned out to be more successful. I started comparing the success of my life with that of others. I defined my success by whether my paycheck measured up to theirs or whose home was nicer, bigger, and had a more prestigious address. I would NEVER have admitted this to anyone, mind you. But secretly that’s how I felt.
Wow…you wanna talk about a recipe for disaster!?!!
In the classroom and in the workplace things are often measurable. The best of the best receive A’s (or promotions and raises). Teachers and employers pat them on the back and tell them what a great job they’re doing. Friends and colleagues ask them how they manage to get it all done with such ease. People look up to the high achievers.
I finally had to realize that life is NOT a classroom. What we learn in school teaches us many things but those things, while necessary for the work environment, are not necessarily conducive to navigating your life in its entirety.
In your own life there really is no measuring stick to determine whether yours is better, worse or the same as anyone else. No one is in the same “class” in life. No one has the same teacher, the same assignments, the same schedule, or the same deadlines.
We all have different desires, different circumstances, different relationships, different dreams, and so on. There is no “A” to strive for, no piece of paper or degree you can attain that says, “Hey, you’ve mastered this level in your life and you’re ahead of so and so. Now it’s time for you to strive for such and such.”
In other words, your life cannot possibly be compared to anyone else; therefore, you certainly should not base your happiness on whether you believe your life measures up to someone else.
So…I should not base my happiness on whether my life measures up to someone else.
Truth be told, we don’t all really want the same things out of life anyway. If we were all the same the world would be a VERY boring place. And if only one person could win at life then that would make 99.9999999% of the planet colossal failures. That’s not an idea I’m willing to accept.
The problem with this “happiness is something I will attain someday” mindset is that I’m never going to get to “someday” for a couple reasons:
I, myself, am not even sure what the goal, or “IT” is – so how will I know when I achieve it?
Even if I hit some sort of “goal” I would undoubtedly find another one to take its place.
If I’m always waiting for someday then I’m not focusing on life right NOW.
You see, when I was growing up my mom did one thing EXTREMELY well: she raised me to believe I could do absolutely anything I wanted. And she was right. I excelled at everything I attempted to do from academics to athletics to cooking.
No matter what I tried to accomplish, if I set my mind to it, I conquered it. With that amazing sense of accomplishment also came a sense of always expecting the best from myself. By the best I am referring to having what some would consider fine clothes, nice cars, a big home, etc.
I fully expected to have a job title that would impress others, a paycheck that would afford me all the luxuries my heart could desire, a schedule which allowed me to travel to exotic places at the drop of a hat, and so on.
With expectations like these you can easily see why almost anyone would end up feeling like a failure. First of all these expectations were not realistic when painted against the canvas of my true hopes and dreams.
You see…more than anything, I wanted to be a mom. And once I was lucky enough to blessed with children a LOT of things in my life changed. My priorities completely did a 180…
My idea of shopping for clothes now consists of replacing things that have worn out and only buying what is comfortable. I no longer shop to impress others. I shop mainly for my kids.
My idea of where to live changed when I realized that big city living, while cutting edge, fun and exciting was not going to be conducive to raising children in a safe environment. I now happily live in a small suburb where there’s little hustle and bustle, but there are plenty of kids playing in the streets of our subdivision.
My idea of what car to drive changed from what looked impressive and served as a status symbol to what got me from home to work to the grocery store to the daycare without breaking down. It also had to be able to haul tons of groceries and every baby device known to man.
My idea of the ideal career changed from one where I was pulling in great money and cared little about job satisfaction to one where, though I may not be satisfied with my current role or salary, it pays the mortgage and it’s close enough to home and school that I’ll never miss my kids’ activities.
I began to realize that I’m obsessing about not reaching my full potential when the “potential” I’d concocted in my mind was not anything like what I truly wanted.
I know I have a life that many, many people would envy. I have a wonderful spouse who loves me, two healthy and beautiful children, a roof over my head with more than enough space for my family, and a job that pays the bills. With that said, what in the hell have I EVER been complaining about?
My life has been based on some very pivotal moments where the decisions I made affected my life in dramatic ways. And I honestly wouldn’t change much. If I could do it all again I would only change what I majored in during college (the first go around). But even that small change would probably have not lead me to this path. And I would NOT give up this life for ANYTHING.
With that said, I leave you with this thought for the new year…
If you are putting off being happy until you “someday” do “something” you are failing at life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal; it’s the real deal. If there are aspects of your life you don’t like, take steps to change it. Be thankful for the blessings you do have, and enjoy the journey.