The Comparison Game

Written by Kendra

A friend sent me a link the other day to a book that a college classmate is having published this spring. My friend stumbled upon this nugget of information in a bit of classmate stalking.

“So and so is a published writer now”, my friend wrote to me with a mixture of jealousy and derision.

Inside a part of me sang.

I can’t deny that sometimes when I take a step backwards and look at the expanse of my life which is long on memories but short on stuff, I’m left wondering if I’ve done the right thing. When I end up at yet another perfectly decorated housewarming, or at a party of someone in a part of town that I couldn’t afford to rent a toilet never mind own an apartment, it’s hard to remember that I’ve climbed to the top of a volcano, gone body surfing in Biarritz, rang in the New Year in Dublin.

It’s much easier to remember that I’m thirty (yep my birthday was last week), unemployed, single, living at home, with just enough possessions to fill the back of my dad’s SUV.

I don’t even own a car.

I wonder if I shouldn’t have used my twenties to ramble, to ping pong, and flit and instead used it to plod the path that society said I should have taken. The path that at 24 I felt was soul crushing, but now staring down at thirty and longing for security, stability and companionship seems comforting in its own way. The path, in other words, that a lot of my friends and acquaintances have taken, to when I take a step back and assess objectively, to mixed results.

It’s hard not to get caught up in the comparison game; no matter how relatively successful society deems you. And the vague sense of unease and jealousy espoused by my friend, who by many measure’s of society is successful, in the shadow of our classmates accomplishments made me feel better about myself.

Not because, as Calvin and Hobbes so succinctly put it that nothing helps a bad mood so much than spreading it around, but because his jealousy helped remind me that in the comparison game nobody wins.

At a party a few weeks ago I was talking to a guy who expressed jealousy at how much I’d traveled. I was totally jealous that he had a job. The funny thing is, finances aside we were in much the same situation: afloat. His Investment Banking job was poised to end, making business school his only possible option, and his long-term relationship which had been headed towards marriage derailed leaving him totally single.

I guess the truth is there is no such thing as the safe path, the guaranteed path.  There is merely our path, and we can walk it with strength or with trepidation and fear but we will have to walk it nonetheless.

We may as well have a good time while we’re doing it.

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