In this day and age, young people face immense pressure to have everything figured out. Society constantly feeds us the idea that life is supposed to be K-12, college, and then you find success in your career. It is safe to say life is rarely that linear, especially when considering marginalized groups. Sometimes when it seems that people can effortlessly traverse through life, it can leave you feeling left behind. Playing catch-up in life is exhausting and can cause you to feel severely unmotivated. Everything may feel like, “What’s the point? Why try when everyone else is miles ahead, and no matter what you do, you will still be eating dust?”
As a student who had to take an involuntary two-year hiatus from school, I felt this…HARD. I am currently classified as a junior, but my original graduating class was in 2020. I have literally watched everybody I’ve ever socialized with earn bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and even enroll and graduate professional school. Meanwhile, I was being faced with recurring post-grad problems without a degree. Upon my return to education, I found it hard to look forward to my future successes because it felt like I should’ve already accomplished these things. Ultimately, I ended up giving okay effort when I knew I could give better. In turn, the teachers ended up giving me okay grades when I knew they could have done better. All jokes aside, this is what happens when you compare yourself to others.
What also happens when we compare ourselves to others is that we tend to romanticize their process. This is mainly for when you don’t see the hard work and tears behind their success. So when you struggle with your process, that gap between you and the person of comparison enlarges. Now you feel bad, and to make yourself feel better, you distract yourself. You scroll on your socials for hours, binge-watch all your favorite shows and you may even party! Now you’ve successfully distracted yourself, you come back to reality and realize you’ve wasted a lot of time, and now you feel bad again. Thus begins a vicious cycle of unmotivated efforts, self-comparison, and regret begin. You put this unfair pressure on yourself so much to the point that you tap out. So how do you tap back in?
You have to give up on the notion that you have something to catch up to in the first place! Everyone’s lives, blessings and lessons are different. What is meant for one may not be meant for another, and that is okay. Grounding yourself in reality and focusing on the journey is key. When you ground yourself in reality, you let go of the expectation of what society makes you think you’re supposed to be. At this point, you can focus on what truly brings you joy instead of making decisions and taking action based on what you think you need to do. To focus on what brings joy is focusing on the journey. Think about the different things you can do and how you can have fun doing it.
Enjoy the ups and downs because those experiences, are what shapes you! Through these experiences, you may find that what you thought you wanted wasn’t even for you! The only way you would know is if you focus on yourself and your journey, not the fantasy of what the next person has. When you watch people run a 400m race, notice the curves on each lane are different. As a result, their starting points on the track are staggered, yet they all have the same finish line. In regards to life, you don’t get a prize for when you finish it’s how you finish. So get in your lane and do you.