Life is a funny thing. We grow up daydreaming about what we want to do with our lives. We make plans. We take steps. And we measure those steps. We measure them against what we had envisioned, and we measure those steps against those living life around us. But what do you do when your worst fear about what your life might look like starts to unfold more than the dream? You dreamt about growing up and meeting someone and life proceeding into a blissful state of wedding bells, baby steps, and laughter. You grew up fearing that you’d end up living in this world alone, and so you take measured steps to deny that fear from becoming a reality. You go on dates, you go to the gym, you diet, you do your hair, and you smile. But then the relationship you start doesn’t pan out. No worries. You try again. And again, and again. The more you try and the more it fails, the weaker your heart starts to feel. After all, how many times can you tell a person you love them, get it wrong, and feel like trying again? So, you start to be more careful, more selective, and more guarded. But then you start to hear comments about being too picky, too cold, or too closed off. The worst is when you raise your eyes and look around you and you see others living the life you had been chasing after.
Relationships not the issue?
Let’s talk about character then. When I grew up, the most absolute thing in life was that God was real and that America was great. You couldn’t tell me any different. I never questioned the Bible, and I said the Pledge of Allegiance every day. You remain passionate about faith and your country because it inspires you to embrace a life that is bigger than yourself. You also believe that there is a better version of yourself out there who you one day hope to become. And maybe they might make a movie of your story or write a book about you. Because you’ve become a person who is not only unwavering about doing what is right but who is also brave. When you watch war movies, you’re inspired by dramatic scenes depicting selfless acts of courage. Your heart burns with passion when you hear a news story of sacrificial love. You want to be that person too.
So you pray. And you pray. And you pray again. You stand in church and hear words of victory and power over affliction. You step out the door and you’re inspired to live that day better; that week at work better; that your life was finally turning a corner. But you wake up the next day, you look in the mirror, and find yourself face to face with the same, imperfect and alone person that you were the day before. No matter how hard you pray for a drastic change in character, you go to bed at night all too familiar with the person you were that day. The one who bent to emotion rather than to reasoning. The one folded under pressure rather than stand confidently. The one who hesitated rather than seized the opportunity.
Life really is a funny thing. It seems to have a very shrewd way of keeping us from living the life we’d hope to live.
I have often imagined the woman that I’ve always wanted to be. Basically, take Jennifer Aniston and put her in Mother Teresa’s body, and you pretty much have it. But my thighs keep growing, and people keep cutting me off in traffic.
Why do we compare so much? Has it always been important to live up to impossible expectations? For how long have we measured and compared ourselves? Is one life more inadequate than another’s? For any of us in our 30s and still single, we’re definitely made to feel that way. For any of us who have had a failed marriage or more than one, we’re definitely made to feel that way. For any of us still working multiple jobs waiting for that lucky break, we’re made to feel that way. For any of us staring down the barrel of retirement and don’t have a clue what we did with the last 40+ years, we’re made to feel that way.
We all have this one life, and I don’t think anyone wakes up and says, “I hope that I can be as wasteful and selfish with this day as I was the day before.”
Life is full of disappointments. You don’t have to sacrifice your authenticity for human approval to be successful. You don’t have to look like everyone else to be loved. None of us are the way we could be or should be. And more of us are alike in character than we think. Rather than trying to constantly chase after being like someone that we aren’t, what if we saw the uniqueness of who we are? Rather than comparing, what if we started appreciating? Rather than concentrating on our inadequacies, what if we raised up our talents? Perhaps, through this effort we would find community and a life that is not only funny but also rich with meaning.