Blogger | Teacher
For many of us, a constant struggle in life is the fear that we are behind somehow. We worry that our pace in life is too slow, that we are missing out on opportunities. We look at our friends and relatives on social media and think “Wow, everyone is out there doing these great things, and I’m so far behind them.”
An important lesson that we all must learn is that there is no one way to live life. There’s no real time frame for finding happiness, and there’s no reason that happiness can’t change and evolve as we go along.
There are so many dangers that come with comparing your pace in life to the speed others walk, so here are some important facts to remember the next time you feel the pressure of being left behind.
Not All Trees Bear the Same Fruit and That’s Okay
One of my favorite analogies for life comes from Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar.” During the story, the protagonist Esther compares life to a fig tree, and each path life could take is a fig. One fig is starting her career, one is getting married, one is having children, and so on.
As she watches, unsure of what to do, the figs begin to fall from the tree and rot. And while I like this analogy when I look at how overwhelming life can be at times, I don’t think it’s entirely correct.
Esther sees the figs falling and rotting, as if by not choosing them when they are “ripe” she can no longer have them. But there’s no real time frame for life – the fruit of your tree won’t rot away just because you choose them at a different time.
When looking at your pace in life, it’s important to acknowledge that not all trees grow the same fruit. Some trees grow figs, some grow apples, and each fruit is different and delicious in its own way. Your tree doesn’t have to grow the same fruit as someone else’s to be just as fulfilling and important. What’s important is deciding which fruit is your favorite and work to get as much joy and enjoyment out of your tree as possible.
Everyone Has Struggles – Even If You Can’t See Them
One of the biggest issues with comparing your pace in life to someone else’s is that all books look beautiful from the outside. When you look into someone’s life, it’s like looking at the cover of a novel– the title and the art are all chosen to produce the most appealing image possible.
On social media, your friends aren’t going to post their daily struggles. They won’t show you that their “dream job” has them working obscene hours where they can barely spend time with their family, or that their new baby isn’t sleeping well so they’re clocking in about two measly hours of rest a night.
No, people post their lives in the prettiest way possible, and you look at them through the smallest lens. You can’t live comparing yourself and your pace in life to others because we all have struggles and obstacles to happiness. Where you feel like you’re missing because you are unmarried, your friend may feel jealous that you have so much time to yourself. It’s important that we all realize the ups and downs of each path in life before we try to compare them.
There is No Timeline on Life
Another big problem with comparing your pace in life to someone else’s is the belief that there’s a time frame in which to live. For example, all your friends are married by their mid-thirties, but you decided to concentrate on your career. You may tell yourself that you are behind, that you’ve missed your opportunity to live “the married life,” but that’s not true.
You are perfectly capable of living whatever life you want whenever you want. Getting married in your 50s is just as fulfilling as being wed in your 20s. Having a major career change when you’re already 20 years into a specific occupation is just as acceptable as working in one field your whole life.
There is no guide for when and where we need to reach certain achievements. We give ourselves dates and deadlines for life without realizing that life continues to move past those deadlines. If we get so wrapped up in what we are “supposed” to be doing, we might miss the amazing things we are achieving now.
Happiness Isn’t Preconceived, It’s Created
When you make a schedule and create deadlines for your pace in life, you run the risk of convincing yourself that happiness is preconceived. We tell ourselves “If I work really hard now and give it my all for the next ten years, I can get a good promotion and land a well-paying position and that will make me happy.”
“If I concentrate on my career now and give myself 5 years to find a stable position, I can concentrate on love and find a husband, and then I can be happy.”
“If I save a bunch of money and remain frugal for the next 20 years, then I can set myself up for an early retirement and use the money to travel, and then I can be happy.”
Making a plan is a great thing to do – for some of us, having clear, concise goals in mind is the best way to achieve all our dreams. But if you live your life waiting for happiness, you’ll find that there are always more goals and more dreams and more reasons to be happy later.
So I’m not saying to get rid of all your goals and plans – definitely keep them so you can track your progress and see the path you are walking in life. But don’t forget to enjoy the flowers along the way, to appreciate the sunshine, to enjoy the company of the people walking with you for however long they are there.
Happiness exists everywhere, all the time. There will always be stress and anger and sadness, too, but don’t forget that happiness is just as prevalent as long as you are willing to let go of your preconceived notions of what happiness looks like.
If You’re Unhappy, There’s Never A Bad Time To Change
Ultimately, if you’re unhappy with your pace in life, there’s never a wrong time to change. Don’t like your job? Look for a new one or go back to school (if you can afford to). Unhappy with where you live? Search for a new job in a new town and move.
While I compared life earlier to fruit trees, you don’t have to exist like one. You don’t have to plant roots that can never be removed. At any point, you are entirely valid in choosing to redo and start over and change and evolve.
I know it’s not possible to change everything all the time – children and husbands and bills and debts make it difficult sometimes to feel like change is possible – never be afraid to change what you can.
We can’t expect plants to grow if we keep using soil that doesn’t give them the right nutrients. Even if it’s something as small as changing their position in the sunlight, sometimes the smallest differences can have the biggest impact.
Have you ever felt that your pace in life was behind everyone else’s? Tell us in the comments how you overcame that fear!
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.