March 13, 2012

All That I Don't Know

(my dad holding a newborn me)

I spent this entire afternoon looking through photos of my childhood. I'm a bit ashamed to say it wasn't to go over sweet, old memories. I spent all of the time zooming into backgrounds of houses I lived in, studying furniture and kitchen appliances and what my brothers and I were wearing. I analyzed and over-anazlyed everything. I was looking for clues.

But then I read this post by Michelle. Then this one by Gina. And this one by Dani. They all struck me so hard, but especially that line from Dani's post- "That's not your story."

The people I compare myself to the most? My parents. I cannot tell you how many times I've ended up upset and even in tears because I've felt like my life isn't living up to the way they lived theirs. I think, "By such-and-such age, Dad had a good job as a firefighter. At this point, they bought a house. They were never on Medicaid. They had more education. They were happier." And on, and on, and on, and on...

I don't know what it is about comparison and why I do so much of it. I didn't pay this much attention to it all even in high school, where so much of life tends to be about who is popular and what they had. So maybe I'm not going to be the girl posting house renovation pictures on Facebook- maybe not in 10 years, and maybe never. And maybe I won't have the designer clothes, or the cars, and yes- even the college diploma.

But this is my thought tonight, after a day spent reflecting on those other posts, and the place my mind has been lately- I have no idea if most of what we owned was hand-me-downs, or if they paid for all of our Christmas gifts with credit cards, or if even Dad's job paid enough to pay the bills without worry. I don't know if they got along well for the most part, or if there were lots of disagreements or nights full of the silent treatment after I was tucked into bed. I have no clue what they thought about the other couples they knew or my friends' parents, and if they compared themselves to other people. I don't know so much about that time, and quite truthfully, it's not really any of my business anyway.

(my mom and I- and no, that was not our wallpaper)

I have no idea if any of my grandparents went to college, or how they spent most of their lives either earning money or caring for their homes. Maybe they took nice vacations. Maybe they had bill collectors calling. It's all irrelevant in the end, though- whatever it was, they got through it, raised good families, and because of that, I exist. Millie exists. The things in their houses have long been passed down or thrown out as they all passed away and left this earth, but their actions are what remain. Their memory is not in possessions, or at what age they were or were not able to check something off the list (getting married, having a baby, owning a home).

The problem with me is simple- I focus on what I don't know. Why am I trying to add something up when I don't even know what I'm adding? It wouldn't make sense mathematically, and it doesn't make sense in life. I think I would be so much happier with the life I have if I could just, for one second, pause. If I could remember that those stories aren't mine, and that the only one who knows my entire story is God. Would I have written it this way? Absolutely not. But God is a much better writer than me. And when I think about what I would have missed out on- most obviously, my daughter- I cannot imagine what it would look like if I had scripted it 'perfectly'.

I don't know the ending to my story, other than there will eventually be an end. I won't be thinking, "If only I was able to buy that pair of jeans. If only we were able to buy that property. If only I had done _______ before everyone else my age." It won't matter if I'm in a mansion or in a tiny, studio apartment. It will only matter who is there with me, and the legacy of my actions.

I need to start living my life with that knowledge.

12 kind comments from you:

Skinnie Piggie said...

Man lady... how do you sleep at night? I know that I also think about impossible things... so I know that I've spent countless nights awake. I hope you can start focusing on your life, your path, and your happiness. =)

Chantal said...

I agree - it's not your story. I have a hard time comparing myself to others, though, and I get jealous very easily. It's a hard thing to overcome!

Deanna said...

Such a great post. Thank you for putting your most vulerable side out for us to learn from. I have been struggling with such similar things lately. I needed to read this today!
The more I read from you, the more I think we would be awesome IRL friends. Any chance there are better opportunities for Sky in VT? (-:

Sarah said...

Beautiful reminder! Thanks.

Michelle said...

Erika, this is beautiful! What you said about comparing yourself to your parents hit home so hard for me. My parents both got amazing jobs out of college, climbed the corporate ladder, bought a house, and have done amazingly well for themselves. My life is the complete opposite, and I so often feel like a failure for not following in their footsteps.

The last paragraph is perfection. I'll be thinking on that all day for sure.

beka said...

aaaamen.
wow.

"The things in their houses have long been passed down or thrown out as they all passed away and left this earth, but their actions are what remain. Their memory is not in possessions, or at what age they were or were not able to check something off the list..."
so true.
this has been something sinking into my mind [just beginning to realize it all, just a little bit] over the past 6 months.

their story is not my story.
He is writing a unique one for me.

The New Normal said...

I think this is wonderfully said so very true. I love the quote, "That's not your story." So many times I find myself comparing myself and my life with my friends, my parents, and even strangers in the blog world. But to what good? I don't honestly know what their story really is and why is their's so much better than mine. It's a struggle to not compare, but it's something that I've been working on this year. Not measuring myself to others and not worrying so much about what others think of me. It's my story and God has it planned just the way he wants it.
I'm glad you shared this. You said it so beautifully, as always :)

Karen said...

Beautifully written :) Thank you for sharing.

Melissa Jaine said...

Wonderful Erika! And you know what - even *your* own individual past doesn't need to dictate your story for the future. Each and every day we can start a new story for ourselves. I'm just beginning to really understand this for myself (and still got long ways to go! :).
mj.x

Mrs. Wookie said...

I think life, no matter where you're at in life, is like this. I feel sometimes ill-comparable to Mr. Wookie. He's got a security clearance to the clouds, makes exponentially more than me, can really cook up a storm, and has traveled all over the world. It's hard for me to not be bitter knowing I went to college too, but I have to start my career over again every PCS.

It's natural to want to 'one up' the Jones. I'm completely guilty of this because I need a pick-me-up when I'm feeling not so accomplished. But then I realize there are some that never leave the county I've live in.

I feel that a little competition is completely necessary in life and drives you to be a better person. I always cut myself a slight break since I don't get to compete for big promotions and movement up a corporate ladder for more than 3 years at a time (and that's banking on getting a job as soon as we arrive - which is a massive 'ya right!').

And there's something to be said about rising from the ashes of something less. I paid for 90% of my college career myself - so it's 'damn, right!' I'm proud of that high-priced piece of paper. Always remember where you come home, embrace where you've been able to go, but don't slow down on the dreaming - make it happen. :)

Julie Danielle said...

Well said...what a beautiful post!

Taylor said...

It is really hard not to compare myself to other people, especially my friends in AZ who are able to live in nicer homes for the rent we pay and who are better able to purchase a home instead of perpetually renting because the cost of living is so much lower. Then there are my law school women friends, many of whom stayed in AZ and have awesome, career driven jobs with great law firms they will probably stay with till they retire. I constantly compare myself and often feel like a failure (it is getting better as Nate and I become more solid in what we want our family to look like and what is important) but it is a challenge. Thank you for this post.

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