Do you ever get caught up in useless thoughts about how you envisioned your life would turn out versus where you’ve actually landed? When we’re young and the world seems full of possibility, we dream big because there’s nothing standing in the way of our potential greatness. I had dreams of having an impressive career, making oodles of money, and carrying business cards with an incredibly important-sounding title. I never once imagined that my business card title would be “Stay At Home Mom.” I planned to be too busy being fabulous and brilliant, traveling the world, and decorating my impressive home to have time to be so humdrum. Well, lately those old school dreams for myself have reared their ugly head far more than I would like them to. I suppose it’s happening more frequently because I’ve reached the dreaded middle age. (Oh how I hate saying those words. Seems like just yesterday that I was doing too many shots on my 21st birthday and spending the next morning with my face in the commode. But, I digress.)
I had a conversation today with a good friend. I have a love/hate relationship with my friend because he appears to have everything I thought I ever wanted for myself. Although I am genuinely happy for him and for all he’s been able to achieve, I’m afraid I am a bit of a baby when I hear details about things in his life that I wish were part of mine. I wish I could be above it all and not be envious, but that seems a Sisyphean task. I would like to the successful friend with the gorgeous home, world travel stories, and academic letters after my name. But, that’s not my life, like it or not.
I’ve been trying to be adult about the whole thing, but I’m afraid I’ve failed miserably. It’s impossible to be positively zen when you can’t stop considering that you might have realized more with your talents if you had applied yourself. I do know that it’s useless to comparison shop in other people’s lives, but it’s human nature. We always want the things that we don’t have. The grass is always greener elsewhere, right? It’s especially greener where we envisioned ourselves but were unsuccessful in securing property rights.
Today, though, there was a point in our conversation when my friend held up a mirror and asked me to look into it. I’m often entirely wrapped up in how others appear (or at least how their lives appear from the outside) and I fail to contemplate how I might present to others. I figure that everyone sees me as a common, stay-at-home mom because that’s how I see myself. I drive the kids to school, get to the gym, do laundry, clean house, run errands, schedule appointments, and at the end of the day settle down to help with homework, make lunches, and tackle other minutiae. Frankly, I bore myself to tears just thinking about it.
But, maybe my thinking is skewed? My friend contends that to others my life might appear to be anything but lackluster. He pointed out that I am always going and doing something. Riding my bike on long treks. Participating in athletic events. Heading up to the mountains to ski or snowshoe with my boys. Learning new things and taking on new challenges. Raising money for charities. And, while I may not be a globetrotter, I have traveled some. I live in a comfortable home, drive a nice car, and have a plethora of amazing and fun friends. I guess that if I were to step back from my disappointment in things I have not achieved, I might be able to recognize that I’m still something more than ordinary. I might not be rich, famous, or important on a grand scale, but I’m quite lucky just the same.
So, today I resolve to stop berating myself for not becoming what 21 year old me envisioned I would be. I will remind myself that 21 year old me was immature, unwise in the ways of the world or even in the ways of herself. I will remember not what I am missing but rather how I am blessed. I will stop comparing myself to others, no matter how wonderful their lives appear, because I have no idea what their journeys are about. And I will focus on my true reflection in the mirror and give myself the Stuart Smalley speech: “I am good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it…people like me.”