Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Am I Doin'? What Am I Doin'? Oh Yeah, That's Right - I'm Doin' Me

I feel that comparing yourself to others is as natural as body odor. It begins when you are a small child and so-and-so has a toy or gadget that you want. For me, it was a trampoline. My parents always thought they were too dangerous, and even more dangerous when you have a ridiculously accident prone child (me). Then it evolved from being jealous of the people that had trampolines, to swimming pools. I remember saying "Ugh, if I had a pool, I'd swim in it EVERYDAY." When you get to middle school, you start comparing yourself to others in terms of bodies and boyfriends. The girls that had boobs didn't want them, and the girls that were still flat-chested longed to be able to fill out a bra. The girls that were having their first kisses versus the girls that could barely conjure up the strength to tap a boy on the shoulder to ask him to borrow a pencil. Girls were also starting to compare themselves in terms of fashion for the first time. Financial class came into our lives like a storm and we understood that Doc Martens were expensive shoes, and to wear them was a status symbol. High school comes around and kids are comparing themselves to others in terms of what classes they're taking, niching out our goals and passions, who was excelling in sports, and of course, who had the coolest boyfriend. Comparisons were rampant, whether publicly admitted or not. In our own minds, we were constantly sizing up others. And the tale as old as time, putting others down (either out loud or in our mind), somehow made ourselves feel better.

I started college in the fall of 2004, ironically enough when TheFacebook (as it was called at the time) was introduced to the world. I joined in December after all my friends coaxed me to do it. "It's so cool!" The fact is, it WAS cool. It was this whole new technology that was available for "only" college students and the social explosion began. Now comparing ourselves was easier than ever. We suddenly had access into the private lives of our friends and peers. People say that they are on Facebook for a number of reasons. But let's face it, people are interested, intrigued by how others are living their lives. From this, a term that we have all known to grow and love/hate was spawned - Facebook stalking. I would bet that 97% of users spend their time on the book "stalking."

About a year ago when I was down and out - an unemployed college grad, slinging burgers at the local golf course, living at my parents house - I found myself engaged in a heavy dose of constant comparison. As I was scrolling through my news feed, I encountered status after status that made me jealous. They made me wonder why I wasn't in the south of France, or on business in New York City, or living in Malibu, or climbing the Great Wall of China, or moving into a swanky new downtown apartment with my three best friends. Then, I started noticing photo albums - picture after picture, album after album of exotic vacations, concerts, new apartments/homes, weddings, babies, etc. I kept asking myself, "How the hell does this person have the money to go there?!" and "How did they get a job and I still haven't!?" and "How the HELL does this person pay their rent on their fabulous place if they're on vacation all the damn time?" I felt for many months a deep jealousy. Everyone seemed to have their shit together - everyone seemed to be rich - everyone seemed to be going places and doing things I wanted to do. I was comparing myself to others more than ever, and it was subconsciously eating my soul. I have visions of myself pouting at the computer saying out loud, "Ugh. This isn't fair!" I was more worried about what others were doing, than what I was going to do.

I can thank my dad for snapping me out of my compare-hungry funk. He caught me in conversation comparing myself to someone. He looked straight into my eyes, with pure sincerity and concern and told me, "You can't do that to yourself. You can't worry about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what YOU'RE doing. Worry about YOUR goals and how you are going to achieve what is happiness to YOU. Sometimes you just gotta say, 'Screw them.'" His words were ordinary. They were nothing that moved mountains or started revolutions. But for some reason, his words stuck to my mind like a suction cup. That suction cup still sits on my brain to this day, tugging on it and holding strong, reminding me to not compare my life to anyone else's.

We all are on different paths. Some of us are going about it a much less glamorous way, but we're on our own trail. I was raised never to be a follower, but a leader. I can't follow other people's choices and dreams. I have to follow my own. I can't let someone else's life to make mine feel lesser. My life is great the way it is, and getting better everyday. I challenge you to try your best not to compare yourself to others today. I promise, it feels liberating.

In the wise words of Drake, I say often, "What am I doin'? What am I doin'? Oh yeah, that's right - I'm doin' ME."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whelp, it's almost 2 months til the day since I last updated this blog. What can I say? Where do I begin? I feel like I owe an apology or something! (Cripe, I am apologizing to a technological source. It truly is 2010.)

Friends and family have repeatedly asked me over the past few months why I haven't written in my blog. The answer is a deep one. For those who I do not feel like delving my personal insights, I give them the "I know, I know. I've been so busy! I'll write in it soon." But for the friends that I know well, and feel a safe harbor for my silly little feelings, I tell them the truth.

The truth is: I feel like for the first time in my life I am living; an awakening if you will. It all began when I left for the illustrious road trip to Florida I have previously written about. We left about 8:30pm on Tuesday, June 8th. The owner of the car (Kevin) had worked all day and settled in for a night's sleep in the backseat. I behind the wheel, and my co-pilot Bianca by my side. Let's pause - I have previously dogged Bianca for being a narcoleptic. She falls asleep just about anywhere, so needless to say, I was nervous about her co-piloting abilities. I figured she'd put up a good fight and doze off mid-sentence, like she always does, somewhere around 3am. The exact opposite happened. About 3 cans of Red Bulls deep, me and Bianca proceeded to engage in a meaningful, deep conversation about every facet of life; love, goals, dreams, family, values, and of course, plenty of funny stories. For five hours, two friends conversed through the star splashed night, on roads we had never driven, and discussing topics we'd never covered. We watched the sun rise together in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, marveling in the beauty of the fog nestled between the lush green hills, the glassy highway-side lakes, and screaming every time we saw a sign for "Visit Ruby Falls!" (If you have ever driven this stretch, you will see, no joke, about 100 signs for Ruby Falls.) I told Bianca I would never forget that night. I will remember it until I die. There is something so quietly beautiful, yet alarmingly simple, about our experience for those five hours.

Spending a few days in St. Pete Beach was exactly what I needed. Fresh off a nasty breakup, I took the time to soak in the goodness that was upon me; the warm sun on my skin, digging my heels into the sand, running full speed into the warm, splashing waves, stimulating conversation over beers with my best friends, and most of all, I began to think about my immediate future. Something about the atmosphere in St. Pete bit me like an infectious bug. I HAD to live here. If not here, anywhere where I could experience a new taste of life. I told myself by Summer 2012, I would be out of Chicago. I made a list of steps I need to take to make that goal happen.

Arriving back in Chicago, I spent June and July running wild and free. I cannot even begin to express how liberating it is to be single. It's no secret that I am a serial dater. A hopeless romantic. The girl that always has a boyfriend. The liberation of singleness (for me), does not derive from being able to talk to whatever guys I choose. It is the fact that I get to do me. I get to spend time alone, time with friends, and fly by the seat of my pants. And that is exactly what I have been doing.

This longwinded answer to why I haven't been blogging comes down to this: I have been soaking up experiences, feelings, and generally been enjoying life to such an extent that I don't feel a need to write about it. I wanted life to become me, live inside my eager veins, and burst inside me. It is not that I am letting this school of thought die. I know feel like I have been gaining perspective on myself and enjoying life so much, that I didn't want to stop for a moment to reflect. I just had to live. Not think, just live.

But here I am, writing again. I have always found it to be a character flaw that I don't always finish what I have started. When I was little, I quit gymnastics for ice skating, quit ice skating for soccer, quit soccer for cheerleading, and so forth. I have let opportunities that I began slip away because of this. I don't want to let that happen anymore. I won't let it happen anymore. I challenge you to think of things that you have started and not finished. It makes your stomach turn a little when you are honest with yourself.

The blog is back, ladies and gentlemen!