Yes, thank you, Captain Obvious.
No, really. Everyone is different.
Everyone is different.
It may seem like a strange thing to say over and over again, yet over and over again I have to say it to myself. It isn’t so much a mantra so that I’ll leave others to their own lives that are different from mine; it is more a mantra to remind myself that it is my life to do with what I wish.
I have been pondering this point a lot lately, for a number of reasons. Firstly, many of my friends have started getting invitations to their 10-year high school reunions. Whether we want to admit it or not, we want to make a good impression on people who used to know us. As a result, a life that has seemed satisfactory could suddenly look dull when facing the threat of scrutiny. To some extent, everyone dreads former classmates who look down on you because your measure of success does not meet their standard.
I was joking with a friend today about starting a company that supplied “spouses” for reunions: someone that you could write a back story with, who would make you look like you had a successful life; someone who would help you impress those people that you hardly know anymore.
There’s just one problem with that, and it’s a glaring one: it’s not you.
Making a good impression is great and all, but eventually that great impression fades into the everyday impression you give. This isn’t to say that you can’t constantly give a good impression, but no one is perfect all the time.
I’ve actually given up on trying to be. I’m more likely to speak my mind than I used to be; I’m more likely to say something unpopular if I feel like saying it, instead of holding my tongue for the sake of appearances. I’ve realized that you have to accept people for who they are, every single freaking part of them, not just the good parts. This has kind of run over into the pictures I’m tagged in on Facebook. Even when I look at a picture someone else posts of me and I know I look like absolute crap, or fat, or ugly, I won’t let myself remove the tag. This is because I am not just a person in a picture. If I looked like that in one brief moment that was caught on camera, then I have probably looked like that more than once, or every day for that matter. The people who see those pictures just saw me in an every day moment, when I wasn’t sucking in, when I was concentrating and my tongue was sticking out in a very awkward and unflattering way, when my lips and teeth are tinged red from the wine I’ve been drinking.
As unflattering as it may be, it’s me. I’m not only those moments when I say and do the right thing and impress the right people. I’m also me when I vomit all over myself at a company Christmas party. I’m me when I tell you you’re wrong but you’re right; and, unfortunately, I’m me when I sing horribly, off-pitch and too loudly.
Just as I have come to accept me for being me, bitchy and imperfect as I am, I am also trying to do the same for others around me. Unconditional love is loving someone and their faults, not in spite of them. I think my biggest accomplishment in this area is being able to truly be happy for people who are getting what they want, even if their idea of bliss sounds like hell on earth to me. I can’t do it all the time to everyone – I’m not perfect, remember? – but I no longer feel the streaks of jealousy or condemnation that I used to feel when someone told me that their newest boyfriend is just perfect for them despite the fact that he has never left the state, or that they just booked a trip to Nebraska for their honeymoon. This doesn’t mean that I’m not without my opinion on these matters, but I at least can recognize happiness when I see it and not get in its way. Everyone’s idea of bliss is different. It’s better that way.
Another reason for my new mantra is, of course, that I am not following the normal path, and it’s getting more and more apparent. It kind of made me feel like an outsider when my friends started marrying or holding steady jobs and I didn’t, but I got over it. It feels like a bigger deal now that they’re starting to talk about children; that they have houses; that they’ve been in the same jobs for long enough they’ve been promoted multiple times. Basically, they’re settling down, right when I’m starting from scratch. It’s not that I want their lives, but I do feel the differences between their realities and mine becoming more and more apparent.
But it’s okay. Everyone is different. I have known that for a long time in specific aspects of my life: not everyone loses the same amount of weight on the same diet; not everyone gets spiritual bliss from the same religion; not everyone thinks swimming in ice-cold glacier-fed lakes is the best form of exercise on earth. But really, the beauty of it all is that we are all different in nearly every way. This is why we aren’t all clamoring to marry the same man; why they don’t constantly have a shortage on dark chocolate Lindt truffles (my favorite, so you’re gonna lose if there’s one bag left and it’s you or me) or why you don’t have to book years in advance for flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. Not everyone wants the same thing. We are not all built in the same way. Everyone is different.
I just heard an interview with Woody Allen, and I think he put it best.
“What kind of life would you have if you made your decisions based on the outside world and not what your inner dictates told you?” he asked, before answering his own question, “You would have a very inauthentic life.”