My daughter, Emily Rose, graduated from college in May with honors (Magna Cum Laude!). I wanted to have a little celebration in her honor but she initially declined the offer. Her reason? It had taken her more than four years after high school to finish her degree and she felt a bit embarrassed because her friends had already graduated and had “real” jobs. She chose a different route but landed at her destination.
After thinking about it she accepted my offer of a celebration as she came to realize that she really had worked hard and deserved to enjoy the rewards. But her initial response brought up more than a few discussions between us – some of which were repeats of those we had when she was walking this path toward her bachelor’s degree.
Emily started out at Rutgers, New Brunswick. It was just too large for her liking. She transferred to a smaller school and received an associate degree. Ultimately found her way back to Rutgers but at the smaller Camden campus from where she graduated in May.
She watched her friends continue on that straight four-year path and questioned why her path twisted through different states, different schools, and different majors. In any of our conversations I never felt as if the twists and turns threatened whether or not she would graduate. The real threat came from her perception of time; she was using someone else’s time to judge herself. She was looking at the time it took a friend to graduate as the successful, only time period (four years) instead of understanding that people do things on different schedules.
I’m sure you’ve behaved like Emily sometimes, haven’t you? I know I have. Have you looked at a job someone else had and compared it to yours, feeling like they had “arrived” (whatever that means) and that you were leagues behind? Have you made an assumption (dangerous) of what someone’s bank account or retirement fund was and compared it to yours? Have you looked at someone’s car or house and felt that if you were “on target” (whatever that means), that you would have had the same thing by now?
Why do we have that tendency to compare ourselves to others – and in doing so, of course we choose the comparison that’s going to make us feel bad about ourselves.? My advice – STOP! To continue to do so is insanity – and self-defeating.
My steps are my steps. Sometimes I take really tiny ones and other times I stride. Sometimes I take a leap (not too often) and sometimes I take a few steps back. Sometimes I move fast, sometimes slow. Sometimes I have grace and ease with what I do and other times it’s a clumsy learning curve. It’s called the dance of life. And my dance is different than yours.
Let me throw in a little Thoreau – If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
Spend a little time in a garden to get perspective. Tulips bloom at different times than do hydrangeas. It’s not that one is better or more on track; they have different growing seasons. And they don’t compare themselves to each other (at least I don’t think they do).
So – the celebration is on. Emily is coming to appreciate her unique growing seasons and to trust the beat to which she’s moving. I hope you do too. It’s all good – and it makes for a more interesting dance, doesn’t it?
Decluttering Tip: I’m going to suggest a decluttering tip with each newsletter, something to remove to open up some space in your life.
Try to remove comparisons from your life. Be mindful of the number of times a day that you compare yourself to someone else. Beware that if you’ve been doing this for a while (like, say, your whole life) that sometimes it’s so subtle that the only way you’ll catch yourself doing it is to focus on your thoughts. Catch yourself. Tell yourself that what you’re comparing yourself to is your perception of something. Promise to be more gentle with yourself. It’s okay to aspire but try not to hitch it to comparison. And don’t beat yourself up for catching yourself comparing. The more comparisons you remove from your life the happier you’ll be.
I saw a video of a little girl trying to buckle herself into her own car seat with some difficulty. When her father tried to help she told him to buckle his own seat belt.
“You do you,” she said. And he did while he patiently waited for her to complete her task. She didn’t give up, she didn’t get frustrated. And eventually she buckled herself in.
You do you – that’s all you can do.
I’d love to hear from you. Email me at annegrecowriter.com or head over to my Facebook page – Anne Greco Writer.
I’ll end this with a shout out to Emily Rose!
P.S. Remember that my book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages is available on Amazon. Take it to the beach or the lake – and travel with me to Liverpool, Rome, and even South Philadelphia.