A Quick Reminder: Time is Relative

There are some days when you feel defeated from the moment you open your eyes in the morning (if you don’t: TELL ME YOUR SECRETS). For me, this feeling stems from the disturbing concept of comparison. As much as I try to start each and every day with a positive mindset, every now and then this cruel little villain appears on my shoulder telling me where I should be at this point in my life versus where I actually am.

So, the story goes something like this: Go to high school. Graduate. Go away to college. Graduate with a degree in XYZ. Get a job doing X, Y, and/or Z and love it. Move out on your own and live happily ever after (somewhere along the timeline I think relationships and marriage fit in, perhaps even grad school, but that is beyond the point). I don’t know exactly who created this old-world story, but if you are anything like me, straying away from this timeline can make you feel like you are doing something wrong or are failing at life.

I am still living at the house I grew up in. I graduated college in May of 2013 and moved back home to job-search, save money, and the like. Then, I got a job, loathed it and the person I was becoming after 6 months of working there, and I decided to quit to pursue what I am passionate about. That brings us to today. I have unwillingly developed this torturous habit of comparing myself to others that graduated around the same time as me – especially the ones who seem to have it all together. You know… the ones who are working a glamorous job and travel to foreign places for “work” and live on their own with adorable puppies and seemingly have enough money to still go out to the best bars and parties and concerts? Cue obsessive self-comparing now.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Comparison will always lead to a defeatist attitude, consequently forcing you into the deep waters of self-doubt and depression. This brings me back to society’s unambiguous standards and the constant disapproval of millennials from the old world. Anything that drifts in the slightest bit from the planned-out idea of how life is supposed to go is frowned upon in society. I find myself thinking, “Should I just take whatever job is offered to me so I can make money and move out so that I’m on the right path?” or “Should I have stayed at that job I hated just because that is what is expected of me?” and so-on. More often than not I find that other people I know in their early twenties are working full- or part-time jobs that they dislike, or that are completely unrelated to what they are passionate about, because they feel like this is what is expected of them or they fear what will happen if they veer from the normal path. Ask the baby-boomer generation and they’ll likely tell you that this is how life is SUPPOSED to be at our age – working just to say you are working, no matter if you like it or if it makes sense to who you are as a person. But, who says this is the only way to live?

Here is a quick reminder to every twenty-something (including myself): Time is relative. Time is abstract and deceiving and inconsistent and dynamic. Sure, one could argue that everyone has the same amount of hours in a day or the same amount of days in a year. But, not everyone’s days start and end at the same time. Time is an imaginary concept that readily invites the disastrous obsession of comparison. There is not one set timeline for how life should go; your life is as unique as you are. Stop thinking of your life as having guidelines. Stop thinking that you are “wasting time,” just because you may not be at the same stage in life as someone else your age. The only time you are actually wasting is the time you’ve spent thinking that you are “wasting time.”

Here are five things you can do to forget about imaginary time and snap out of the obsessive-comparison funk.

  1. Realize that sometimes, getting out of bed is enough. For many of us who are still trying to figure it all out, it’s tough to find reasons to climb out of your cozy, safe cocoon in the mornings. Get motivated by something, anything, even the tiniest thing, and get out of bed. You will feel loads better just by being the slightest bit more energetic.
  2. Stay off of social media. The one incredibly damaging thing about social media is the ability to stay up-to-date on other people’s lives. Yes, it’s nice to stay in touch, but it is also the headquarters for obsessive comparison. If you find yourself susceptible to the darkness, do yourself a favor and stay away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. While you’re at it, turn off your mobile too. You will immediately feel liberated and be able to take on the world.
  3. Make lists. Lists of things that make you happy, lists of things that inspire you, lists of things you are proud of, lists of things that you want to improve, lists of things you want to accomplish, and anything else you can think of. You could even make a journal of lists or do one of those 30 days of lists challenges. This will keep your mind primarily focused on YOU and not obsessing over others.
  4. Take a nap. Occasionally, the anxiety and depression that stems from comparing yourself to others gets to be too much to bear and the only way out of it is to take a break from the world. That’s ok. Sleep it off. Chances are you will wake up with a brand new outlook.
  5. Do something that scares you. There really is nothing that will make you feel more alive and liberated and help you forget about the imaginary time restrictions on life than doing something that scares you. It could be something minor like confronting someone about an argument you had, or apologizing to someone, or, if you are feeling extremely brave, it could be something major. Think driving somewhere foreign with no GPS or maps. Or bungee jumping. Make yourself feel something and tune out the noise around you. 

Remember that just because someone else your age might be living his or her life one way, doesn’t mean that same way is right for you. There is no specific age in which you need to accomplish certain things. Live on your own terms and forget what everyone else is doing, and always remind yourself that time is relative.

I Smiled Because I Knew

“Are you guys soulmates?” a woman leaned in and asked at the bar. I giggled, because of what a silly question it was. The term “soulmate” is such an overused cliché, and we are quite the opposite.

What I wanted to say was we are a rare hybrid eclipse. You, with eyes that speak for all the senses, and me, with a heart so big it could swallow you whole. Life was perfectly copacetic before we met, but after we collided, the once black and white world became a colorful wonderland. Now I see in shades I never knew I could: amethyst, cyan, emerald, scarlet, and azure.

What I wanted to say was I believe in passion. You have more passion in your pinky finger than most people do in their entire bodies, and for that, I will always believe in you.

What I wanted to say was you have helped me to realize that what weighs me down is not mine to carry. You endlessly reinstate my faith in god, in humanity, in love, and in myself. With you I am weightless, floating in a cloudless, warm summer sky.

What I said instead was, “sure.” And as I sat there by your side, I squeezed your hand and smiled because I knew.

I Was a Coward

I’m laying on my bedroom floor coughing up dust. The nostalgia that is erupting in my mind over the simplest objects - an old tee-shirt, a book that I decided to never return to my high school English professor, a hideous necklace that I obsessed over for months back in 2010 – has left me in a state of disillusionment…

It’s funny. I truly thought I had myself figured out back then. Now, I don’t even recognize that girl. She was a child; so ignorant to the ways of the world, yet so confident in her ideals. Ah, high school. What a bizarre and humorous escapade. And, rather than concluding that chapter after graduation, two years at a community college close to home prolonged my naiveté.

I was a coward. An ignorant, bold, narrow-minded coward. Not in the way that I was fearful to live my day-to-day life, but in the way that I was completely reluctant to change. As an admitted control-freak, or rather, former control-freak, vulnerability to anything unfamiliar meant shortness of breath and an accelerated heartbeat. I cannot lay a finger on the particular point in time when I became that way; there was no specific moment that my haughty ego shoved my sense of wonderment into a dim and clouded corner in my mind. It must have been a gradual closing of the entryway for new ideas and change. More and more I became deeply entrenched in the narrowness of my beliefs and opinions. I said I “hated” things, when in reality I probably did not even try or care to learn about them. I lost friends because I refused to understand or accept anyone’s opinion but my own. I upheld this image of a confident, conservative, audacious individual who knew exactly what she liked and believed in and did not let anything or anyone rattle that notion.

I was comfortable. Change was foreign. I was in control (or so I thought). We become accustomed to a certain way of being, and for a long time I was this shell of a person with fictitious ideals and judging eyes.

I was a hypocrite. An impostor, a fraud. All of those ideals and opinions I spoke so strongly about, I did not really feel strongly about, nor did I even know anything about. Whether it was a pop singer I said I “hated,” to make people think I was ‘cool’ or ‘unique’, or a social issue such as same-sex marriage that I claimed to be against - it was a front. I wanted so badly for others to see me a certain way, that I did not even open my eyes and mind to the reality of it all.

I don't know the exact moment this began to change, the day the doors began to break down. Maybe it was someone I met. Maybe it was living on my own. Maybe it was the day I committed to leaving this town for college. I’ll never really know for sure, but gradually and graciously I have accepted vulnerability into my life. I do not even recognize the girl that I once was.

Growth is not comfortability. It is not remaining. It is not making excuses and hating things you have never experienced. Growth is opening your mind. It is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and spontaneous. Vulnerability is terrifying. And enlightening. And magical. It is letting go of control. It is letting go of expectations and allowing God to surprise you.

I still have a long way to climb, but I am already mountains from where I used to be. More and more each day I discover who I am. Growing up is really growing into yourself. It is accepting foreign things into your life with open arms and observing how they make you feel. After all, everything that is extraordinary in your life was also once unfamiliar.

Home is Not a Place

Home is a feeling.

Home is the precious tranquility that overcomes your mind when you feel entirely comfortable with your surroundings. It is the breath of fresh air you feel when you can rest peacefully without anyone to impress. It is the simultaneous silence and symphony inside the brain that allows you to escape the arduous demands of reality.

Home is a memory.

It is the desperate longing and nostalgia for the person you once were, the friends you once had, the songs you once loved, and the love you once lost. It’s the melancholic endeavor to grasp a memory that no longer exists. It is the vicious ache in your heart and in your mind to return to another moment in time.

Home is a person.

It is the intertwining of the delicate hands of another with your own. It is the soothing sentiment of another’s voice saying, “Everything will be alright.” It’s that feeling of ethereality, that feeling that anything is possible. It is rolling over upon awaking from slumber and seeing the most beautiful creature in the world lying next to you.

Home is music.

It is the melody you hum repeatedly through your unconscious mind. It is the one tune you can listen to continuously and fall in love over and over again. It is the band that you follow around again and again. It is the song that springs nostalgia and passion within you that enlightens your soul.

Home is not a place. It is time travel; it is an amalgamation of people. It’s a poetic mystery, a friend, a fascination. Home is the past, the present, and the future. It is the warm embrace of a partner. It is your dream, but it is also your reality.