Your timeline for happiness may look very different from someone else’s. No matter what, though, you must remember the true qualities of life that define happiness.
Life is a never-ending battle of comparison. At least, if you let it be. Of course, we all compare ourselves to someone else at one point or another. As humans, we, almost naturally, judge. Many times, we look at someone, survey their appearance and the things they have. How do they look? Is their face nice? Is their body disproportionate? What kind of clothes are they wearing? Name brand or knock-off? What about their shoes? How about what kind of car they drive? The list goes on and on. I believe part of our journey in life is to grow away from judgment as much as possible. To look at others through a careful lens, understanding we may not know their story, and ultimately accepting them for who they are and how they look.
Part of this journey to become less judgy involves realizing your timeline for happiness lives in its own bubble and is separate from everyone else you know. Much of the reason we judge is to make ourselves feel better. A prime example being, when people first get out of high school. Almost immediately, you’re judged by your friends and even family for the decisions you choose to make after graduating.
If you go to college or join the military, you’re likely to receive a pat on the back and congratulations for making a sound choice. However, if you choose essentially any other path, such as working your way up at a local business or taking a gap year to figure things out, you’re likely to be judged or even condemned.
There are two important things to note here. For one, we live in a world that largely equates materialism to happiness. Meaning, your goal of finding contentment is situated somewhere between landing your dream job and owning a giant house. We’re conditioned to think this way from the moment we enter this earth. The more things you have and the nicer they are, the more significant a status you have in society. The sad part is, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many celebrities and iconic figures in our lives have made more money than they could ever spend. Much of them have spent millions on nice things but have still reported feeling a lack of satisfaction or happiness.
It’s because happiness isn’t rooted in how much your car costs or property you own. While most people generally agree with this statement, there’s a larger, more subtle problem that exists among us. This problem is surveying and comparing timelines. These days it’s no longer about how many material items you can accrue. Rather, how fast you can do so. If your friend graduates college at 22-years-old like they’re “supposed to,” they’re celebrated.
However, let that same friend experience some turmoil in their 20’s, causing them to slow down. Better yet, how about they don’t end up dealing with any hardship at all, simply completing coursework at their own pace, graduating at 29-years-old, and let’s see how well they’re received. No pat on the back or congratulations, only mutterings of “I thought they graduated years ago, or at least they should have.”
Why should they have? Because of someone else’s ideology of how they should live their life? They don’t know their story, and most significantly, they aren’t them. Everyone makes their own decisions and shouldn’t be judged because they didn’t necessarily choose the typical route. I am graduating from college at 27-years-old. For years I put myself down for waiting to go to school, constantly saying “I should’ve gone years ago” and “I’d be so much further along.”
These quotes are shallow and misleading. For starters, I was attempting to live up to other individuals’ timelines for my success. Two, they don’t take into account everything I was going through at the time. I experienced much hardship during this particular season in my life, and I truly don’t believe I was ready for college. Honestly, I may have dropped out if I didn’t wait a few years, which is to say, timing matters.
Recently, I accepted a job offer. I know many people who weren’t able to start working in their field, at least in the way they sought to, for years after graduating. Here I am, 27-years-old, and I landed one of my dream jobs, working directly in my field of study. More specifically, there’s someone out there who may have graduated at 22-years-old, but didn’t start their career until 31-years-old.
This is not to say either one of us is better than the other. It’s to show the distinction of our paths to success, and ultimately, happiness. It doesn’t matter how fast you complete something. It’s about finishing what you started, recognizing we all have different timelines for that process, and accepting your timeline is perfectly yours.
Part of accepting your timeline as perfectly yours involves understanding that home purchases, careers, money, and every other material part of life are icing on the cake. The cake itself is your foundation, consisting of yourself, family, friends, love, religion, and any other dynamic facet of life that brings substance to your existence.
Happiness isn’t found in how much money you make or the square footage of your house. It’s found in the meaningful moments of life, such as spending unadulterated time with family, which creates memories for us to cherish forever. Your timeline for happiness is generated specifically for you; it’s uniquely yours. It’s special, so you must treat it as such. You achieve happiness by walking to the beat of your own drum.