Sunday, January 15, 2017

On Comparison, Ambition and the Race Against Time

As the old saying goes, comparison truly is the thief of joy. And never have I felt it more than I do now as a young adult.

In the most recent issue of Womankind, a particular article struck a chord. In her piece titled 'How do you measure your life?', Madeleine Dore opens by explaining:

'When I discover work I admire - be it a novel, a film, a project, or an installation - I'm obsessed with mapping out the owner's career trajectory and gathering clues as to how old they were during various life and career achievements'.

As an inherently ambitious individual, I'm always looking for ways to improve my skills and career opportunities. But there's something so distinctly disheartening about finding someone within your age bracket who is killing it in their field and at the top of their game. In such situations, I too become obsessed with how they got to where they are and how I can mimic their path to greatness. All of a sudden, I feel insecure about my own achievements. These people, whoever they may be, were miles ahead at the age I am now, whereas I feel like I have barely a foot off the ground. And while I know it is ridiculous and totally untrue, I fall into the trap of thinking if I'm not at a certain point in my life by a certain age, then I'll fall victim to constantly lagging behind. Because when there are people who are my age, heck, even younger for that matter, with so much more experience than me, why would an employer employ/promote me over them? The next ten years seem shorter than they really are and everything becomes a race against time.

While it's good to be ambitious and gather clues on how to achieve my goals by taking inspiration from others, I simply must put an end to the exhausting cycle of worrying about where I am now and where I want to be; and by extension, lamenting how I am so far behind *everyone* else. Dore again explains it so eloquently:

'I am forever delaying my ability to feel at ease with my lot in life, instead constantly mulling over whether I have made the right decision, the right connection, or chosen the right path. I'm forever moving the goalpost further along in what is already an impossible-to-reach idealised version of myself'.

One of my greatest fears is not living up to the high potential I set for myself. After years of feeling the pressure of doing better and being the best, I realised that this pressure was almost entirely self-inflicted. As true as it is that society constantly reminds us of the 'ticking clock' to achieve certain things by certain times, I'm solely responsible for believing in the lie and letting my apparent 'ineptitude' of experience define me. January has been an important time to reflect on the fact that just because other people may be in a different place to where I am right now, it doesn't mean I won't accomplish things in the future, in my own way.

Life shouldn't be a race against time, a race against other people or a race against yourself. It should be taken within your stride, at your own pace and with your head held high. Some of us may not know where we're headed, but we can sure as hell enjoy the process along the way.

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