Things To Remember When You Feel Like You Are Behind In Life
When your friends are advancing in life, hitting milestones that you haven’t reached yet, it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like you are running behind life. Right now, I have a bunch of friends that are reaching new benchmarks in life like having babies and buying houses. These are milestones that I couldn’t possibly hope to reach in the next year or two and as happy as I am for my friends, at times I feel like I am running behind in my own life.
I’m getting married in about four months and I can hardly believe it. For a long time, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I would ever find the right person. It wasn’t until I got tired of looking and focused on being content in myself that my fiancé and I stumbled across each other. I had become the best version of myself that I had been up until then, and I was taking a much-needed break from the increasingly tiresome dating game when we met. I was just about to turn 31 years old at the time and we got engaged when I was 33. Finding the one didn’t happen nearly as soon as I would have liked, but I’m still thrilled that it did.
Just as I am finally getting to this major life event, sometimes I still can’t help but feel that I’ve fallen behind when looking at where my friends are in their lives. It’s exciting to see them starting their own families and moving into their first homes. I know all of the work it took to get them to these amazing points in their lives. Truthfully, I feel a bit guilty when I slip into making the comparisons. To snap myself out of it, there are a few things that I remind myself of to keep things in perspective.
First, I remember that all things happen in their own time. When we’re young, we think about what we want our lives to look like. But as anyone who has done some living can tell you, life may not have the same plan for you that you envisioned for yourself. You might have thought that you would be married with two kids and have a house in the suburbs by 30. Or, perhaps, you thought that you would be on the fast track to becoming a CEO, or that you would have traveled to all kinds of fantastic destinations. Although some of us are fortunate enough to have hit those marks exactly on time, many of us have not. And that’s OK. Whenever you do reach those milestones, take a moment to reflect on why it could not have happened any sooner in your life.
Take Janet Jackson for example, she didn’t become a mother until she was 50! We’ve all heard the rumors that she’s actually got a secret child somewhere out there in the world. But the baby that we can verify did not arrive until she had turned 50. Having been through long-term relationships before, there must have been times in Janet’s life when she gave up on the hope of ever becoming a mother. But it still happened exactly when it was supposed to happen.
Kerry Washington has been on our radar since she appeared in Save the Last Dance, but she didn’t hit it big until she landed the role of Olivia Pope on Scandal at 35 years old. Meanwhile, Viola Davis, a Juilliard-trained actress, didn’t see mainstream success until 2008 when she appeared in Doubt at 43 years old. She didn’t become a household name until she was 49, when she was cast as the lead in How To Get Away With Murder–a role that made her the first African-American Woman to earn an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Conventional wisdom tells us all that 35 is too late to hit your stride professionally, but here these women are owning their profession. They could not have made the same impact that they currently are had they achieved this level of success earlier in their careers.
On a more personal note, had I met my hubby-to-be even a year sooner, it would not have been the right time. We would not have been the same people we were when we met, and who were were at the time were exactly the people that we needed to be for our relationship to work.
The next thing I do is ask myself a question: Am I Ready? When I start getting anxious about not having enough time to do what I want to do in life, I sit and think about what would happen if I were to get the thing I think I’m missing in that very instant. It forces me to think about what I would need in order to be a good steward of the life that it would present. I also consider the responsibilities (and in some cases drawbacks) that these things would entail. It forces me to think not only about the good things these milestones present but also the challenges. I ask myself whether I am ready for the good and the bad. Sometimes I find that I am ready–in which case I have to stay ready. In the cases where I’m not ready, I start looking at what I need to get ready.
I also try not to forget that there is value in the waiting. Life still happens while you are waiting. There are lessons to learn and adventures to be had while you’re waiting for things to break in your favor. When you focus on what happens while you wait, it takes your mind off of what you haven’t done yet because you are wrapped up in what you are doing now. In that wait, you could stumble upon things you didn’t even know that you wanted. There are goals to reach in the wait, and you might miss them if you rush through life in the interest of catching up to others.
It’s also important to remember that life is not a competition. I think a lot us have been conditioned to look at our lives and mark them against our peers as a way to track our own success in life. Not only is this a shifty target, but it puts us in competition with our loved ones. When we do that we don’t get to enjoy the relationships that enhance our lives and fill our communities with love. Worse yet, we’re looking at our loved ones as competition. That can drive a wedge between us and the people that mean the most to us. And, when we look at life like a competition, we don’t get to enjoy where we are and what we have achieved in our lives now. When life is a competition, there is always a new hurdle to clear. There is never any time to take in our actual successes and the great things we have going for ourselves. Instead of measuring our lives against others, I suggest we all invest that same energy into celebrating the milestones we have reached. It took time and work to get where you are. Don’t dismiss that because you think you could be doing more in comparison to others. You will get there eventually, but you have some great stuff going on right now. And you are going to miss out on those things if you are too focused on the spirit of competition.
The idea that you are running behind in life is predicated on the concept of life being a competition. It’s not. Your life and mine run on their own timelines. Maybe it’s not your time right now, but it will be. This leads me to the last thing: I remember that it is not over yet. I may not be where I thought I would be at this stage in my life, but tomorrow is a new opportunity to keep moving towards my goals. If I am not dead, it is not over. There is still time. I may not get there when I want to, but I will get there when I am supposed to. You will too.