Because nothing compares to you

Moments of enlightenment can often come in some pretty outrageous forms.

Like an overheard conversation of two rambunctious boys in the front office of an elementary school.

I’ve been realizing a lot lately how much we compare ourselves to other people. I can’t really explain why it happens, but it seems like it’s something most of us do—even when we don’t even realize it.

And it starts at a young age.

I was waiting to interview a student at one of our campuses the other day, and there were two young boys sitting in the front office, as well. Their conversation with one another was highly entertaining, and I listened in (also because they were rather loud, so it was difficult not to sit there and hear every word they said). I have no idea what their names are, but I’m going to call them Rocky and Colt (Three Ninjas is a highly underrated movie).

Rocky: You see this scar on my chin (shows Colt his scar). I had to get FOUR stitches! And my godfather had to get to 24 stitches!

Colt: I have a scar on my hip, and I got 95 stitches!

Me (thought in my head): That’s a hell of a lot of stitches, kid. And I’m sure that’s completely true. Also, how does the godfather factor into any of this?

Rocky: I’m Indian and German and French and Irish and Arabian and probably British, too.

Me (thought in my head): That is quite the combo of heritage you have there. I’m not sure about all of those, because you’re the whitest kid I’ve ever seen.

Colt: I’m all of those things you just said, but I’m something else.

Me (thought in my head): False.

Colt never said what that “something else” is, but it sure gave him a one-up on Rocky, which I’m pretty sure is what he was going for in that convo.

A girl then walked in and greeted them both briefly and kept on to wherever she was going. Colt waited until she was probably still in earshot and told Rocky that “she’s really touchy.” Rocky asked what her name is, and when Colt told him, he said “that’s the boringest name.”

I sat there and reflected on the profound statements these kids had just said and wanted to label them as ridiculous boys, but then it hit me that adults really aren’t that much different. Sure, we don’t always voice our opinions like those kids did in such candid manners, but we let thoughts of comparisons enter our heads—whether it’s about people’s names or looks compared to ours or how we measure up to other people in regard to status or lifestyle.

It’s silly to compare our karate kicks. It’s also silly to compare this filtered pic to the original.

I know I’ve caught myself doing this lately, especially because I don’t really feel like I have my life figured out. (Who does, though, really?) I’m 33 years old and have realized that I’m not where I want to be in my career, and that gives me an unsettling feeling. I know so many people who seem to know exactly what they want, and they are in established roles and flourishing, while I’m sitting here still praying for direction and clarity—something that feels like I should have been doing way earlier in my career than now. But we all have different paths. I was able to be a sports reporter for a year, a teacher for seven years, and now a writer in the corporate setting for almost three years. I know I’m eventually meant to do something else, though, and that can be difficult to accept when you think you’re supposed to be an adult who isn’t so seemingly clueless.

I think we often forget that most people don’t really “have it all together,” despite what Instagram may lead us to believe. You’ve likely heard that “comparison is the thief of joy” (thanks, Teddy Roosevelt), and I think that’s true a lot of the time. You can feel like you’re really killing it in life and then see how great someone else is doing and feel like your accomplishments aren’t as great as that other person’s. But why does that matter? If you accomplished something, you should be proud of that because it’s something that’s part of your life.

It’s been an ongoing struggle for me in the area of being single. I’m extremely happy for all of the people in my life (which is almost all of them) who have found their soulmates and started families and always have their spouses or significant others to dance with them during all of the slow songs. And it’s hard sometimes not to remember that if I want to dance to those same songs, I get to go twirl on the dance floor all by myself. I can be perfectly happy doing that, but I can also look around and let the comparisons of my situation to theirs rob me of that peace I feel on my own.

We’re all unique the way we are, and it truly doesn’t make much sense to compare ourselves to other people. That’s definitely something that’s much easier to say than actually do, so I can’t promise it won’t ever happen again for me. But I do know I want to make more conscious efforts to remind myself that I am who I am, and I’m taking the path I’m taking for reasons I may not know until later. The things that happen in my friends’ lives aren’t supposed to happen in my life because my life isn’t their lives—it’s just that simple.

You are where you are right now for a reason. The people you’ve met and the things you’ve gone through—both good and bad—have not been without purpose. They’re all part of your journey and your story, and they are meant to be for you and not necessarily for anyone else. You are valued, you are loved, and you matter just the way you are.

And that’s a truth that needs no comparison at all.

You’re a lot like a gingerbread house

I recently realized that people are a lot like gingerbread houses.

Except we’re a lot better.

I am a Merrill, and, therefore, I don’t like to be bad at things I attempt. Ever. However, I will be the first to tell you that I am horrible in the kitchen. I don’t know how to cook any dish ever, and I can’t make anything that people hope is edible. I can microwave things like a champ, but that’s about it. I don’t necessarily like this—it’s difficult for me to admit that there is something in this life that I can’t do well. It’s a shot to my pride, especially since I don’t have anyone else to make me food. But, to be truthful, I haven’t really tried to hone my kitchen abilities any. I don’t actually like cooking or baking (I think it is a patience and boredom thing), so I honestly don’t have a huge desire to try to get better. I accept that I’m not good at it, and I don’t pursue it.

It’s like biology—or really any science, for that matter. I never liked science in school, and I wasn’t good at it, so I didn’t try to get better. I simply memorized what I had to in order to make good grades, and then I never thought of any of it again. I didn’t pursue anything dealing with science because I hate it.

I know that I can’t be good at everything in life. I’m not so pompous to think that I’m superhuman and can do anything that ever was (although that would be pretty neat), but I do find myself with complete frustration when competition is on the line. I don’t know if it’s because I have played sports my entire life or just the way I was raised, but I really don’t like to lose. And I especially don’t like to lose when I’m really, really bad at something.

Like making gingerbread houses.

gingerbread house
I think this is just a bad angle

Our department at work had a gingerbread house contest last week, and I discovered that I lack talent in projects that involve food construction—and probably construction in any regard. I never owned any Legos, so I’m pretty sure that is where the root of the problem is. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I just started building without any real plan as to what my finished product should look like. I began putting together graham crackers, candy and the homemade icing concoction that served as glue until I thought I had created a masterpiece.

Except it wasn’t quite as special in the judges’ eyes as it was in mine. In fact, one judge said it looked like it was a house from a third-world country. Needless to say, I did not win. I didn’t get second. I didn’t come close to placing. But, for some reason, I wasn’t very disappointed. I made something—it was mine. It was unique. It was beautiful (to me, anyway). It was perfectly imperfect. It was special.

I think too often we forget that humans are a lot like gingerbread houses. We were all made completely differently, and we have our own unique features and characteristics that others don’t have.

And people judge us.

The thing is, though, there can’t be just one winner in life. We aren’t all competing against one another for some special prize or the pride of being better. So, why do we constantly do that? Why are there so many comparisons we make about ourselves to others? I do it more than I would like to admit—people have more money than I do, people have plus ones who aren’t their sisters at weddings (though my sister is seriously a kick-a$* wedding date), other women look prettier than I do, people are faster than I am. I could keep going, but I’m just going to stop right there. It starts to sound depressing. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone, and neither do you.

Because we are all precious gingerbread houses created by Someone not interested in those comparisons.

And the good thing is that we’re all a lot stronger than gingerbread houses—and a lot stronger than we sometimes think we are. We don’t have some pasty substance trying to hold us together, and we can’t be so quickly destructed or crumble to pieces. We all have sweetness to us, though some people choose to show that sweetness more often than others, and that sweetness doesn’t expire like candy does.

I understand that gingerbread house competitions need judges to decide fairly who made the best houses. That’s just how it goes. But I wish that in the real world we would look at all gingerbread houses as the perfectly unique creations they are. It would likely help people feel more comfortable with their special features.

And perhaps more people would realize just how valued they are, how loved they are and how much they matter—and start treating one another the same way.