We've all done it. Compared ourselves, our stuff, our lives, to other people, to their stuff and their lives. Usually, we only look at the negative. "So-and-so has a better job, bigger house, newer car, etc, than me."
But how often do we consider the potential cost of that "better life" for that person? They may have sacrificed their relationships for that job, their savings for that house and car, their mental and emotional well-being in an endless pursuit to get "bigger", "better", and "more".
Having more doesn't make you happier. People in the U.S. have been waking up to that realization since the housing crash in 2008 and 2009. We've come to realize that the best things in life aren't things -- they're our families, our friends, our pets, our hobbies, the travels and other life experiences that shape us and our perceptions.
I've been pondering this topic today because that dreaded milestone is coming up in just a couple of months: my 10-year high school reunion. I've been thinking about what I've done, where I've been, how my life has gone in the last ten years. I don't have a fancy big-money job -- just two barely-over-minimum-wage jobs. I don't have a degree from a fancy four-year college. Just an associate's degree from the community college in my hometown. I'm not married -- my longest relationship was only a year and went downhill for quite some time before we finally called it quits.
This wasn't where I thought I'd be ten years ago. I started feeling the dread of seeing my classmates -- those who'd gone the "traditional route" and went to a four-year college, got a degree, maybe went on to graduate courses, got a good job, got married, and now have the nice house in the suburbs with the picket fence and 2.1 kids. Suddenly my own life was lacking by comparison.
But then I thought about what I DO have: life experience. I've been places and done things that most people couldn't imagine. I spent five years in the Army, was stationed 4 places in the US and attended temporary training at 4 other locations. I did a tour in Afghanistan and found joy in the small things -- a phone call home, a stunningly clear view of the stars in the black-out nights on our COP, eating kabob and naan around the smoky brick grill with our Afghan counterparts.
I've struggled, yes, but I've survived and have done so on my own. Though I'm not rich, and maybe scarcely squeaking by more often than I'd like to admit, I'm financially independent and don't owe anyone for school loans. I've learned, through my interactions with others of widely varying backgrounds, that "my way" isn't the only way, or even the best way. I've learned to coexist and admire differences, to look for our similarities, even when there is a language and/or cultural barrier in the way.
Maybe I haven't found "the One", but at least I don't have a failed marriage (or marriages) haunting my past. I'm still optimistic that the right person is out there -- I just have to be patient and live my life, not sit around waiting for that person to appear.
Maybe the grass isn't greener on my classmates' side of the fence. When I look at what I "have", instead of what I "don't have", I'm starting to appreciate just how good the last decade has been. It can only get better from here.