The Pace of Life
“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” - Theodore Roosevelt
It seems as if the moment we are born, we are put on a timeline, a program of sorts. School, work, love, marriage, kids, retirement. In that order, with other scrapbook moments sprinkled in between. And the moment we see a friend or a peer achieve something that we haven’t yet, we are meant to feel like we’re behind.
It’s harmful. Unhealthy.
If a friend buys a home, gets married, sells their company, we can’t — I can’t — compare ourselves, because our life has its own timeline and we have got to celebrate that.
It’s my observation that some people may want that template of life. Predetermined milestones to strive for. But for those who want to really break free a bit, unhinge,
At birth, we are swept into the belly of the river of life, and as we age the pace of our float differs from our peers. Some of us will ride the current, others will strike against it, some desperately will swim for the banks.
I am swimming. Somedays against the current, others reaching for a dock to climb onto the bank through. I feel this pressure: I am meant to be in a steady career. I should probably be living on my own, maybe sharing an apartment with a close friend. In a relationship, going to bachelor parties, celebrating marriages, be a manager in a successful company, taking a few vacations several times a year to ski, or surf, or travel to Paris. This isn’t my reality, and the resistance I have to conform is a burden, but each day, each action I take to continue on my unique program I become stronger, filled with conviction. It’s this rejection of a predetermined timeline that is both the most exciting piece of my day and the one that sits me in a shower, cross-legged, surrounded by steam as I remind myself that I am a storm.
I’m a witness to peers making decisions not because hearts are thirsty for it but because when they pull out their timeline, on this day at this age, that is where they think they’re supposed to be. To have reached these milestones. The timeline that was set before me — and possibly you — was this:
We enter school. We graduate at 18. We go to college for 4 years(+), then we enter the workforce, try to get permission to work remotely, and begin vacationing a bit more with the money we make. We open retirement accounts, 401k’s, Roth IRA’s. Then we start dating, we find someone we like, maybe we fall in love and because we are 27, 28, 29, 30, well engagement sounds about right now. Two years later, it’s marriage, then children. And then, by the mid 30’s, we’re raising a family. Familiar story. This is the program we are on in our culture, at this time.
But to highlight the absurdity of prescribing to this timeline, you just have to travel, or move through our own culture’s history.
Every culture has a different pace of life.
When I lived in Europe, my teammates all lived at their parent’s homes, had no savings, and yet would invite us out to dinners wanting to always pay for us and more. How do we make sense of it all given that in every decade and in every culture, there is an entirely different expected pace? Every culture has a different idea of when you should reach a certain milestone. Every culture has a different idea of when you’re supposed to get married. Every culture has a different idea of what work should mean for your identity. Every culture has a different expectation of women, of men. Of saving. Of vacationing.
Become your own culture.
This is what I am asking of myself. I am sitting in the middle of this struggle now. As a 27-year-old, I am carrying this pressure that I am meant to be at a certain stage of life. I’m supposed to have found my passion. And it’s scary. I had a passion, a career, a path, and now I am pivoting. And I’m “behind schedule.”
For me, there are only two truths. One is birth. The other is death. All that happens in between is our life. There is no predetermined timeline within that. We made that shit up and we can rewrite the rules whenever we want. What’s important is how we choose to fill the in-between. I want us to fill it with joy, with happiness, with lifting ourselves and others up. If we move through life in celebration of ourselves, and others, removing any comparisons we are proudly declaring sovereignty over our own lives.
What I advocate is not to follow the program at the cost of your own truth. No matter where you are on the timeline, to those who are deeply happy in this life: I celebrate you. I celebrate those who have found a partner, a career, and a home. But I want to also speak to those who aren’t checking off these milestones at the pace of their peers. I want to let you know that it doesn’t fucking matter. I celebrate you too. In fact, maybe I even celebrate you more. For having the courage to be at your own pace and make decisions based on true alignment and not on external pressure.
And if you are someone who is in the timeline and want to break free in order to live your truth, You can. It is your right. It’s your life.
I’ve recently witnessed friends enter engagements, marriages, successfully sell companies, successfully start companies, purchase homes, have children and I at times find myself jealous, or envious thinking that they are right on schedule. But what’s important is to celebrate these milestones, these achievements, and remain committed to me and my path. The moment you begin feeling anxiety, nervousness, sadness or anything that is a result of this pressure, remember: They are not you. You are not them. We can celebrate them. And I hope you celebrate louder than even they do.
But as we celebrate, we can not compare. We can not allow ourselves to be trapped by these timelines of where we should be or should be going. At any moment, we should feel free to reinvent ourselves, to decide on something new. To “stray” — because there is actually no straying, there is just living. This is not to jab at anyone who is following this “timeline” but more to let those who also sit in the shower on Sunday night for 25 minutes, maybe cry a little, and feel a piece of themselves missing: I’ve been there. I’m there. But it’s totally ok. And for those who feel that they are in this “timeline” and yet have a desire to take an exit that isn’t on the map yet, well do it. I celebrate you in that.
Who are you “supposed” to be? It’s such a dangerous question because it is continuing an unhealthy comparison in our lives. We just can’t measure ourselves against others, or time.
If I make decisions based on the pressure of time, then how truthful are my decisions? What I want for myself is to make every decision leading with kindness. I wish for myself that I never become complacent. I recognize my beautiful mind and what it creates. I know what will bring boredom, and I don’t want to conform. I want to be content. I want to never stop growing, never stop following my heart. And I’m going to do it at my own pace. In my own time. With my own curveballs.
And for you, I wish your version of this. I wish for you the courage to confront your truest of desires, and that you give yourself permission to achieve them.
As someone wise once said: It’s never too late to be excellent.
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