Saturday, August 18, 2012

Making comparisons

I met once again with a feeling I hadn’t had since school days. Then, we’d sit down in the classroom and one student would inevitably ask another, “Did you do the homework?” “What homework?” asks one. “Yeah it was easy,” boasts another. Everyone’s ears perk up and they start to compare answers. “Wait, some of my answers are different,” I think, but am too shy to speak out. In my quiet corner in the back of the classroom anxiety starts to simmer. I dread when the teacher comes to collect the assignment because my work seems all wrong.

I understand a little better now that just because your answers are different doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Nonetheless, having been blessed with the luck and resources of life to put my energy toward more options than bare survival, I find myself second guessing the choices I make. I continually ask, “What should I strive for in this life? What’s more, am I sufficiently striving for that goal?”

Two mornings ago I assessed the past decade. It’s been colorful and not lacking in formative experiences. However, when I scan those years for outstanding accomplishments, the kind that you see in biographies, I saw nothing. Suddenly I became two people; myself of the last ten years, and a present observer shaking a finger and reprimanding me for not making the most of my time. When aware of the limited nature of all things, one spends wisely. According to societal norms, I haven’t.

Our society equates success with marriage, parenting, money, titles, and fame. Thus the relative worth of my experiences to these more definitive ones appears meager.
Time is as precious as the water we drink. When I realized that ten years had slipped by, I felt frightened because I had poured out time and with that, opportunities.

Or at least that’s true if the efficiency of life is measured by what we see other people do.

I went for a walk to quell my angst and found myself in front of a café. As I entered from the muggy August heat the realization hit me as sharply as the chill of air conditioning that maybe no one feels fully secure of their path. I looked around at surrounding faces, attempting to sense the same rumblings of insecurity about life that I was having.

Does anyone really know what to strive for in life or even why they are working toward these goals?

The girl I see over there studying...does she know? Does that man making business calls know? Does this woman serving me coffee know? Does that couple outside getting into their car know? Can this woman admit to her teenage daughter sitting across from her that she doesn’t know? All of us are students sitting here in life’s classroom and wondering if our answers are correct. Many are masking that they know while most are just are keeping quiet.

I’ll be the first student to stand up and confess that I’m completely uncertain. And I’ll content myself with the absence of absolute answers to life’s homework.

I’m starting to think that the appeal of marriage, parenthood, and fancy titles for me lies in the fact that I’m not married, not a parent, and don’t have a fancy title. We often think that what someone else has or does can make our lives complete. Still, if I stood atop a mountain of prestige and fame, I might look down and see that the majority of happy individuals are below, simply enjoying the experience of living.

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