The list of my city's Top 40 under 40 came out this month and I know about eight people on the list. Young, ambitious, go-getters, doing good things for our city and for the world, and all that jazz. And as I read the write ups on all of them, all I could feel was, "SHIT! Most of these folks are 10 years younger than me, what the heck have I done with my life?" I had to stop for a minute and think of what I have done with my life.
I put myself through university, paid off my student loans (eventually), had a successful career in the Pharmaceutical industry, jointly saved up and paid for our destination wedding, designed and built THREE houses in the past 10 years, birthed two children, started my own business, helped to create a community of and for like-minded parents online, (re)discovered my love of writing and embraced my feminist self. And all of this life experience, I am using to continue to write and opine and educate (myself and others) through my blog and on social media. It's really not that bad of a list... so far.
So much of what we do and see and say these days is so outwardly focused. We are online throughout our days seeing what other people are saying and doing, waiting to find out what the "right" response should be about world events and news, what charity to support, whose bandwagon to jump on this week, what new fandangle all the cool kids are doing (um... hello Ello!). It can get a bit overwhelming and sometimes even depressing, especially when we start feeling like we don't measure up to the these standards of success or status or "coolness" that we have given credence to.
One of the major lessons that I have learned in my life, and to be honest, probably just in the last few years (so, that would be AFTER 40) is that making a difference in the world or in someone's life, is not about doing the "volunteer all your time, give all your money, go to al the GALAs and do all the FLASHY things" stuff. It is about finding what speaks to your heart, being true to yourself, setting healthy boundaries and not living within a framework of fear, shame, and scarcity - which too often seem to be the default settings for many in our world.
It's the scarcity one that gets me all the time though. You may be more familiar with it as, " I am not ___________ enough.". And it is statements like these that can send me into a tailspin of self-doubt and negative self-talk faster than a room full of toddlers an hour after eating red-icing covered cupcakes. It is what happened as I was reading all the Top 40 nominees and their long lists of accomplishments. It's what happens when I read bios for other bloggers and presenters at social media conferences and yes, it even happens on the playground or school yard when I start hearing about all the extra curricular activities and programs other families have their kids enrolled in. I get out my imaginary measuring stick and it all goes downhill from there.
I sometimes feel like the scarcity issue is a double-edged sword too. One doesn't want to seem too cocky about oneself either and be all, I am enough, I have enough, I DO enough. Especially if there are those around you who actually don't have enough. There's this feeling that lurks around telling us that if we are TOO happy, then there must something wrong with us. This results in conversations that turn into a competition for who can out-misery the other. "Your kids won't eat their lunches? Well, that's nothing, MINE will only eat peanut butter, from the jar, with a special spoon." "You think you are busy with your two kids in hockey? HA! I have to balance hockey, piano lessons, KUMON classes AND gymnastics for three kids." In the end, there really are no winners in a misery war.
The thing with these imaginary measuring sticks is this. One - they are IMAGINARY! And two - there is no standard length for them. Everyone's is different and all of these things that we feel the need to measure: happiness, success, business, balance, etc..., they are subjective. Someone having a REALLY good day and saying so on Facebook, doesn't mean that your day is bad. Someone getting a writing gig with a magazine, while you still trudge away writing on your little blog doesn't mean that your writing sucks. And someone whose kids do ALL THE THINGS, doesn't mean that their kids are any happier than or are "getting an edge over", your kids. What all of this means is simply, different strokes for different folks.
I am sitting here looking over the Top 40 list again and doing so from a slightly different angle. One where I am not in the picture. One where I can be proud of the young, vibrant voices of the women and men that live and work in my community and my city and that are putting it on the map for the world to see.
I am putting away my measuring stick. Or repurposing it. I think I'll make it into my new walking stick and I'll take it with me along this path that is MY life. One in which I really am enough. One where I will walk beside my fellow humans, who also have their own walkings sticks. Some taller than mine, some made of a different wood, some decorated with fancy inlayed beads. And all the while, while we may admire each other's sticks, I'll know that my own stick is the one that keeps me upright, helps me navigate my footing in this world and is the one that is perfect, that is ENOUGH, for me.