I have some of the most wonderful people in my life, and I don’t always get to see them as much as I’d like. When I do, it’s because we’ve decided that it has to happen and we collectively juggle schedules and spend days working on things next to each other because there are some things that just can’t be completely worked around. It’s mundane and exciting, stressful and incredibly renewing all at once.
I love to travel, and am often the one doing much of the flying or driving to get wherever it is that we end up going, and I have to catch myself consistently loving my time in their city and friend group so much that it makes me wish I could just pick up and move there. If I’m not careful, I look at my choices and how my life looks and begin to try to pick certain parts of it completely apart, wishing that it looked more like what I was seeing.
Completely forgetting, mind you, that I am happy with my life so much more often than I’m frustrated with it. Yes, it’s taken some funny twists and turns, and I may never be done with school (I’m pretty sure me going back this last time made some of my friends some money – so you’re welcome…), and I seem to have more funny/ever so slightly cautionary dating stories in recent history rather than something solid, and I’m in a city that often feels separate from a great many of my closest friends – but it is a precious life. I love the work I am doing, I’m excited for this new chapter in my career, I am not unhappy or dissatisfied with where my personal and professional lives are right now, I appreciate being so close to my family and I find so much more than I anticipate in Bakersfield and the areas near it that this life grants me access to. When I am intentional about celebrating my lane, I stop feeling frustrated by it.
When I stop comparing my lane to people who aren’t me, I stop feeling like I’ve got to hustle to have something worthy of show and tell. Sometimes that means that I’ve got to step away from the parts of the Instagram life of others that I can see, sometimes that means I need to hole up by myself for a bit, and sometimes that means that I have to shut off the input from people who mean well and are concerned for me, but are measuring my life with a different currency than I can afford to use for myself.
I listened to an audio copy a few years ago of Amy Poehler’s book, “Yes Please”, (which I recommend) and one of the things she said that stuck out and has stuck with me was about this trend for women to compare themselves to other women. She says, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. ‘Good for her! Not for me.'”
I find myself guilty of this kind of comparison thinking often, especially when it seems like people I love and admire have found their grooves, and I’m still me – with my hair and it’s teeny front section likes to stick up, spotty acne that doesn’t want to completely go away and propensity for carbs with cheese.
Granted, I’m also 24, at the start of a career I love, working on the second graduate degree (I’m telling myself that it’s not complete overkill to have a matched set – like salt and pepper right?), I spend ungodly amounts of time at Disneyland, have hair that holds a style really well (gracias, genetics), a smile that has gotten me out of a decent amount of trouble (gracias, orthodontist), so so much health insurance (gracias job, parents and ACA) and have been fortunate to have friends and family all over the world that love and invest in me.
And yes, I’m not married. I don’t have kids or own my own house yet. I’ve not travelled nearly enough of the world. I don’t know what my life will look like 5 years from now. My car is 11 years old and makes a decent amount of noise when she starts or if she feels like it. I just started even being concerned with retirement or annuities. I have a decent start on 27 Dresses worth of Bridesmaid dresses hanging in my closet, and most of my vacation in the last 5 years has been wedding related.
I want the big life milestones eventually – but when I measure with the right currency, I can’t really help but feel anything but fortunate. There are things I want to improve upon, certainly. I would love to actually run the half marathon I’ve been slowly ‘training’ for for the last 2 years. I want to get better at crocheting, I want to see more of the world, I want to be better about the way I handle my money, I want to manage to keep plants alive – but none of those things impact my worth as a person or ability to be content where I’m at.
The only thing, frankly, that has any power to affect my ability to be content is me. And I thought for a long time that contentment was something that would just show up if I followed the right order of operations, but these days I’m thinking that contentment has to be seized. In the midst of the ordinary and the “not quite”s or the “not yet”s, you’ve just got to reach in and claim the contentedness as your own.
Sometimes, that requires a mantra until the words settle deep into my bones. Sometimes, that requires a good long look at my life and things that I’ve done because I felt I needed to. Sometimes that requires letting go of things that used to make sense but don’t anymore. Sometimes that means walking away from communities and organizations that I’ve loved for a long time because my time in that place has come to an end. Sometimes that means doing scary things because I’ve been staying safe for too long. Sometimes it requires an uncomfortable reality check, and for me to address things in my life that are a problem. Sometimes (often) that means being almost painfully intentional about self-care and creating space to sit in the aspects of my life that are both beautiful and painful.
Whatever it ends up looking, whatever ends up being the cost, I am better to myself and for myself when I give myself permission to be happy where I am. When I give myself permission to not need to create a to-do list that picks apart what work I still need to do to be keeping up with any Joneses.
There is struggle here, and things hoped for but not yet fulfilled, but there is also abundant grace, and precious, precious life. Life worth celebrating. Life worth reveling in. Life worth living.