I remember when I was sixteen I used to babysit the neighbor’s nine year old kid. I remember seeing this kid’s room being wall to wall with certificates, prize ribbons and trophies and thinking, “Holy shit, I have wasted my childhood.” It’s funny how someone else’s life can make your own seem utterly insignificant. Actually, it’s sort of a dangerous mindset to be in and can lead to existential crisis and depression. But why do we do it? Why do we constantly compare ourselves to others?
I’m now in my twenties and find that I’m surrounded by people my age getting married, having kids, moving abroad or having high salary careers. The pressure to conform may be subliminal at worst, self imagined at best, but in whatever form, the pressure still exists and it’s still troubling. I can’t help but feel that I’m being silently judged when I explain to people that I haven’t hopped on the career bandwagon straight after college or that I have no feelings towards marriage or motherhood. It might be in my head, but if you’re one of those people who condescends others because their lifestyle doesn’t meet your standard then what does that say about you? And I keep telling myself that. How miserable and self conscious does one have to be to constantly emphasize to everyone how awesome their life is? Society has evolved enough so that most people have the freedom to make their own decision about what they want to do with life. Had I been the same age three or four decades ago I might have been having a third child by now or running the family business. However, there is still that pressure to have ticked off all the boxes on an imaginary bucket list before your thirties. It’s a rather old fashioned failing of societal norms and it’s one that needs to die.
More often than not, there comes a moment where I happen to bump into someone I went to school with. There comes the inevitable “What are you doing with your life?” question and I just draw a blank…every – single – time. When I think about it, I reckon the reason behind this is simply because I’m too modest about myself. People seem most intrigued when I say I write online: I have my blog, I write for a game zine every now and then and I’ve been asked to be featured as a guest writer on other people’s websites. While none of this seems like a huge deal to me, to those less versed with the blogosphere I probably look like an internet god or something. They really don’t see things the way I do. This brings me to my next point: Facebook. Facebook is probably the easiest, most popular way to keep up to date on what is going on with other people’s lives…except we never really hear people’s true story. We only ever see the close ups of the engagement rings, the exotic holiday photos, the adorable baby photos, the “I just won the lottery!” status updates, but we really don’t know what happens in between all these posts. Since I mostly post photos of social events, any mild acquaintance from ten years ago may look through my albums thinking that 90% of my life involves having the craic. There are probably a lot of people feeling bogged down by parenthood or their career wishing they had the freedom that I have. No matter where we are in life, the grass always seems greener on the other side.
I know there are a lot of people my age who are more like me, roaming the wilderness of life and looking for that desire path that will lead them to the answers they seek. I can’t say I have all the answers. I didn’t write this out of self pity or out of some self affirmation that my life is better than I think it is. These are just my own musings and observations about society and human nature. It’s also an acknowledgment that most people at some point or other goes through some sort of existential crises in their lifetime, and to those other twenty-somethings that feel pressured into being something they’re not: you’re not alone in feeling that way.