Have you ever found yourself caught in the comparison game? Have you ever looked at someone else’s achievements, or work, or life and thought, “Wow, I’m a complete failure?” Have you ever compared yourself (the self you actually are now) to the self you imagined you would someday be? Have you ever compared what your goals or plans were to what you are actually living out today? Have you ever been disappointed by these comparisons?

Comparisons can be deadly. At best, they can be depressing. At worst, they can be completely debilitating. My daughter texted me this afternoon. “Mom,” she stated. “My life is worthless.” As a mother, I hate to hear this. As her mother, I hate to hear it, but I also know, she is playing some version of the comparison game. I know this, because if she weren’t comparing herself to someone else or some other standard, then she would not be thinking this.

My daughter is a freshman in college. At least, we think she’s in college. She’s tall, beautiful, and intelligent. She is, however, a bit unsure about what to do next. Her big dream has always been theatre, but not film or movies. She’s a stage actor. It wouldn’t be hard for me to brag about her talents and what a superstar she is, but it would be immediately discredited by her, and others. Why? I am her mother. Apparently, as “Mother”, I have no ability to make accurate assessments regarding talent or ability. According to my daughter, “Mom, you have to say that. I’m your daughter.” I thought exactly the same thing and said the very same words to my own mother.
My daughter has stalled momentarily in life. She’s registered for her next term in college, but she is unable to begin attending classes until she deals with a little paper work snafu. The snafu being the university has not received her SAT scores.

So, wait. How can the university not receive SAT scores? They are usually sent to the university the student is considering attending when they register to sit for the test. This university was definitely on the list of possibilities when she took the test, so she listed them as one of the places to send the results to. Also, the high school should have this information also. If nothing else, calling College Board would clarify the problem immediately. Or so one would think.

The scores were never sent to the university. I have no idea how this doesn’t happen, but the daughter was encouraged to call the College Board and find out what happened. So, she did. The College Board’s response? We don’t have any scores for you.

Interesting. What’s also interesting is that The Good Ex insists that he wrote the check. He also dropped her off at the test site last year. But, he cannot find the canceled check. And College Board doesn’t have any scores for her. So what happened? Did something happen with the way my daughter filled out the form which made it impossible to get a score? Did my daughter dispose of the check and skip out on the test for the day? Who knows. Who cares? The scores aren’t at the university and the university is asking for them. She can’t begin classes until they have a score. This means that for the last two weeks my daughter who should be attending classes, has stayed home. She is not making forward progress on her goals. She has to jump through another hoop again, in order to continue. She sees her friends going away to college and “doing things with their lives”. She watches her sister go off to another college and garner some success for herself (some cozy digs, cool roomies, a swell job with a cool boss). She hears her dad say, “You’re going nowhere.” She compares herself. To her friends, To her older sister. To her cousins. To others expectations of her.

What she doesn’t know is that, where she’s concerned, there is just no comparison.

She can’t compare herself to anyone else, because she is not them and she is not living their life. She is living her own. She has to make some decisions and she’s figuring it out. It feels weird, uncomfortable, and awkward. It feels, maybe, like she isn’t making anything of herself. It feels like, maybe, she is going nowhere. I mean, few of her friends opted to live at home the first year of college to save on the housing costs so they wouldn’t be saddled with the student loan debt when they got out. Few of her friends considered that she could get an excellent undergrad degree in the arts at the nearby university for a fraction of the price (with a world-renowned stage theatre nearby). My daughter is not few of her friends. But my daughter feels that her life is “worthless.”

She does not understand my truly great principle of life: It all evens out in the wash.

In other words, it’s not where you start that matters, but how you travel and where you end up. In the end, no one knows where or how you started. They only know the you that you become.

In my own experience, I’ve learned that sometimes those who start strong, finish lame. I’ve also observed that, just as often, there are those who seem to flounder and go nowhere, at first. Somehow, they take the time they need to warm up and by the end of it all, they are outshining the rest of their peers. But I’ve also learned that you can’t always predict who will be the winners of the steeplechase of life and who will go lame. Sometimes the most brilliant come up with huge challenges. Instead of pursuing dreams of grandeur, they end up trying to survive. No one gets a guarantee in this life, except the guarantee that we will someday die.

But my daughter, young, beautiful, intelligent, good, decent and kind, does not understand this quite yet. She thinks that since she isn’t the first racehorse out of the gate, she is worthless. She is anything but. I hate the comparisons I see her making where she comes up lacking. I wish I could help her see, what the last 30 years have taught me: That the winning racehorse isn’t always the first one out of the gate, but, instead, is the one who can run the distance, finish the race, and live to race again.

About Miz Insomniac

Usually, it's the kids who grow up and leave home, but Miz Insomniac switched it up. When her kids grew up she decided to make her dreams come true so she flew the nest. After making 12 trips across the pond and back to Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East in 2014-15, Miz Insomniac now qualifies as a world traveler. She hasn't quite mastered the fine art of traveling light, but she knows how to manipulate travel plans to avoid missed flights and jet lag. A former hopeless romantic turned realist, she's stateside now reinventing her life in a new city, with new opportunities, and all the challenges that come with leaving a career, traveling abroad for a year, and then returning to a world that's nothing like she left it. Her overseas travel is by no means over, it's just not as frequent. She's different now, but remains a night owl. She writes when she should be sleeping...and while you probably are.

Posted on January 18, 2013, in Lessons Learned and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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