Two weeks from today, I’ll celebrate the last birthday of my 30s (I can’t believe it either). I think it’s only natural when approaching a birthday milestone to reflect on what you’ve accomplished during your time on the planet – but, I think it’s even more natural (for me, at least) to reflect on what I haven’t accomplished in my nearly four decades.
I’m constantly surrounded by people younger, more attractive, making more money, with husbands and children – sometimes all of the above and more. It’s hard not to feel like I’m failing at life on an almost daily basis when I can’t even compete with someone 10 years my junior.
But when did life become a competition? I honestly don’t know, it’s been some sort of race to the finish in my mind for as long as I can remember. And when it comes down to it, I have absolutely no good reason to maintain this mindset, even though I’ve worn myself out like I’ve been competing in the actual Olympics all my life.
Let’s face it, how could I be anything other than exhausted when I’ve been chasing an ideal that society has created of what success looks like? I mean, I’m an easy 20 years behind that bell curve. And we now have every possible vehicle for me to be slapped in the face with this information – a post on Facebook, a photo on Instagram, a quip on Twitter. Sometimes social media can seem more like an enemy than a friend.
The thing is…in the rare moments when I’m able to block out everyone else and where I “should” be by now, I kind of like where I am. I have a supportive group of family and friends, a good job, my own apartment in Manhattan, and the freedom to do what I want when (and more importantly, if) I want. In theory, a birthday should mean celebrating another year of living the dream.
Then why in practice, can it be such a downer to celebrate another spin around the sun? Because as Theodore Roosevelt (or potentially author Dwight Edwards, depending on which part of the internet you believe) has said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Although I can’t verify the quote’s origin, I can certainly vouch for its validity. From so much personal experience, I will tell you that looking at what others have or thinking of where you “should” be are sure-fire ways to feel anything but joy. And while some days it seems impossible to rewire my brain after so many years, I think continuing to try is about the best birthday gift I could give myself.