At some point while hitting the snooze alarm one morning, or driving one afternoon, or turning off Netflix one night a thought crept into your mind: "OMG. I'm behind. Everyone has moved on but ME." As David Byrne would say, "And you may ask yourself — well, how did I get here?!" Let's take a look back, shall we?
Let me guess, you made Honor Roll all through grade school. You were accepted to your first choice college (and every other college you applied to), and even managed to graduate a semester early. You landed your first job, and then another, maybe moved cities and made friends. Life was tricky at times, you made mistakes — but then again so did everyone else around you. I mean, isn't that what you're 20s were for?
And then one day you woke up and something had shifted. Maybe while everyone else was moving up to mid and upper management positions, you found yourself laid off — and then laid off again. Maybe while everyone else was coupling up, you found yourself on a never-ending stream of comically bad dates. Maybe it was both of these things simultaneously.
If you're like, "Wow this sounds a lot like me. How does this person know my life?" Simple: I lived it. I have been a single and underemployed Maid-Of-Honor at not one, but two weddings. (Granted the weddings were months apart.) I've been up for a major promotion to have the company that offered me a position lose funding. I have enough bizarre dating stories for my own one woman show. Trust me, honey, I have BEEN THERE.
But there is something I believe to be far worse than feeling behind and that's feeling stuck. Feeling stuck is what happens when you try to manic fix your life and nothing changes right away so you throw your hands up in the air and say "SEE! Nothing ever works!" Feeling stuck can breed resentment towards friends who have the thing that seems just ever out of your reach (and resentment and jealousy is no bueno for friendships). Feeling stuck wants you to believe that you're a victim of life's circumstances and you'll just be in this chapter of your life forever and eventually you'll just turn into the old lady who lives upstairs who has one too many dogs. (This is also a thought I once had during one of these "dark night of the soul" moments.)
But I promised you a pep talk so here's what I know to be true:
- Life is a game of Chutes and Ladders. Remember that game? You spin the wheel and sometimes you land on a ladder that puts you waaaaaaay ahead of everyone else. But at any turn you could land on a chute and wind up all the way back at the beginning. At any given time anyone who seems "ahead" of you could wake up feeling lost, with a struggle they never saw coming or with some other chute that makes them feel like they have to start all over. You don't know how someone else's story is going to unfold for them. So drop the resentment.
- Your path isn't supposed to look like someone else's path. To quote Joseph Campbell: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.” Stop beating yourself up because you and your high school best friend have lives that look very different. That doesn't make one life better or worse, it means you have or had different priorities, made different choices and were dealt different set of cards to play.
- You know what that "stuck" voice LOVES? The time you spend on social media comparing yourself to everyone else. You're not even comparing your "real" self to the "real" them, you're comparing yourself to the Facebook or Instagram version of them. It is OBSCENELY HARD to "keep your eyes on your own paper" (as your biology teacher would say) if you are spending hours a week looking at everyone else. Part of the calm and confidence I felt during my 30 Day Social Media Detox came from not knowing who was having a "better" day than the one I was living. Honestly, it was liberating.
- One Sunday night a few years ago while I was getting ready for bed so I could wake up to go to a job I felt pretty unhappy and checked out in, I glanced around my room and heard a voice that said "Everything in your life right now that you don't like is a result of what you have settled for." It was painful but true. Whether it's I believed that's all I could get in my life, or all I deserved, in that moment I had to admit I had been a passenger in my own life. I made the commitment to get back into the driver's seat. If you are a backseat driver to your own life and you don't like where you're going — stop the car and get behind the wheel. Don't do a single thing until you own that you are steering the trajectory of your life. You have the power, right now.
- You are only as "stuck" or "behind" as you believe yourself to be. Don't buy into this story, or buy into a story anyone else tries to project onto you about where they think you should be right now. That's not a place of power, that's a place of setting yourself up to make a ton of fear-based decisions. And those fear-based decisions lead to more settling.
- Know that one day you will look back on this feeling of "behind" with laughter or with a loving presence. You know how you look back on awkward photos from middle school and either laugh at how ridiculous you were to try and get the Rachel haircut or wear JNCO jeans — or wish you could wrap your arms around your adolescent self and tell him or her that it was all temporary, it would get better and you're not as awful as you feel? Well I PROMISE you, you will one day look back on this painful time with the same feeling. So start giving yourself that laughter or love now. No need to wait.
For more on how to shake things up in your daily life to get yourself moving towards the direction of your dreams, sign up for my Snap Out Of It workshop on March 11.