Recently I caught up with a bunch of friends who I had not seen for a long time.
Some had just gotten married, others were finishing university and starting new jobs, a handful were moving overseas to explore the world and others were buying houses (Yes, even in Auckland…did someone forget to tell me they won the lottery?) and starting to plant roots.
I have always liked hearing about what is going on in people’s lives and I was glad to hear all the different things that had been happening for my friends. But when the question “so what’s new with you?” was returned, I didn’t have much to say because not much had changed since I last saw them.
I have the same job. I live in the same flat. I haven’t travelled. I’m still single and slowly saving a deposit for my first house. As the night went on, it felt like everyone had something exciting going on, apart from me. I couldn’t help but feel a little uneventful or even slightly boring.
Quarter life crisis
On my way home it felt like I was having a quarter life crisis. Am I where I want to be? Am I doing what I want to be doing? And most importantly, am I becoming who I want to become?
If I’m being honest, I always thought I would have more things sorted in my life by now. I was an ambitious teenager who always thought ten to twenty years ahead, but so far life has turned out to be pretty different from what I expected.
But as I was reflecting on this, I realized that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing or even a good thing, it’s just different. Although I haven’t done a lot of the things I thought I would have by now, there is a lot of stuff that I have experienced or learnt that have been just as good.
Instead of feeling like I need to change my life, I realized that I need to change my perspective. Because when we focus on what we need to sort out rather than on how far we have come, we will usually feel dissatisfied with what it currently is.
So instead of thinking about what I would like or what I could do, I have tried to start practising gratitude for what I already have – Jesus, family, friends, a job, church, freedom, health, education, opportunities among many other things. As a result of this, my outlook on life changed immediately because I shifted my thinking from focusing on the negative to the positive.
There is still a bunch of stuff I would like to change and I will still pursue those things, but I’m not going to play victim to the dreams that have not yet become reality. Rather, I’ll try to appreciate what God has blessed me with and in doing so learn to become more content.
Melody Beattie sums up this shift in thinking like this; “gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
The comparison trap
The other thing I realised when I was driving home was that this whole scenario came from one deadly trap: comparison.
When we compare ourselves to others, we are essentially guessing what life would be like if we were to walk in their shoes without ever trying them on. We may like what we see, but we haven’t experienced what it’s like.
It might be great, or it might not actually be what it seems like. Travelling, new jobs, getting married and buying a house may all seem fun or exciting, but they can also present significant difficulties.
But you don’t usually hear married couples sharing their problems or see Instagram stories of people suffering with Delhi Belly when they are travelling. We also don’t usually see people post about the anxiety caused by their mortgage repayments or about the horrible boss in their new job.
Unless, we get to know people a bit deeper. In which case, comparison usually fades away and is replaced by empathy, compassion and maybe even some laughter.
The next time I get caught up in what hasn’t happened yet, I’m going to spend time with some quality people remembering the good things in our lives and being real about the things that are not. That way, hopefully we will become content with what is, while still holding on to the hope of what could be.
Ethan grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland. While finishing a degree in applied theology from Carey Baptist College, he moved slightly east and began working as pastor at Eastview Baptist Church, where he has been for three years. He loves getting out in nature, having a laugh and having deep conversations about life and faith.