Sunday, 24 May 2015

Life--The Measuring Stick Theory

I'm obsessed with the whole notion of 'dating in your 30's.' Obsessed. My friends can confirm this. Like if you're willing to oblige with gory details, I want to know...What are the dating rules? Are you more decisive? Are you more picky? Are the pickings slim? Do you still play the same mind games I did as a twenty-something? Do things heat up faster? Slower? Do your past experiences help or hinder the process? Seriously, I could go on and on and on. This might seem a strange topic to pique one's interest, but the reason for this obsession is quite simple. I WILL NEVER DATE IN MY 30's (god-willing)! I married the love of my life when I was 25 and spent my 30's doing the whole 3 kids thing. And, for any reason that matters, I am over the moon about that, but that doesn't make this topic any less curious for me. Anyway, that topic is of no particular consequence, but I can't help but wonder if other people grapple with these sorts of questions. To me it seems a universal sentiment, if not human nature, to constantly question our own decisions and measure them up against others.

The way I see this is that when we come to evaluate a life's decision, past or present, we pull out our own personal gigantic tub of measuring sticks. And these measuring sticks have all sorts of 'units'—career, life partner, family, kids, finances, hobbies, vehicles, education, accomplishments and on and on. So, for instance, when I look back on 20's, which in large part I spent chasing a certain handsome man around the world, I can pull out the 'travel stick' and feel pretty good about myself, or I can pull out the 'life partner stick' and feel like I am 10 feet tall. But if I were to choose the 'finance stick', I would measure up somewhere near the height of my one-year old. Now, this isn't an entirely fruitless exercise--it is healthy to reflect on our past decisions and be mindful of our present ones. It can be useful when, for example, you are 35 with 3 kids under 6 and you pull out your 'hobbies stick' and find that perhaps this is an area of your life that you'd like to rejuvenate a little, or you realize that those finances you neglected in your 20's really need a little building up going forward.

BUT...

and this is a 'big but! If you look closely at the bucket, if you are like me, you will notice that those measuring sticks are more plentiful than you realize. (When I was digging in mine recently, I found a measuring stick entirely for footwear???) And, what's worse, there are measuring sticks attached very specifically to people in your life—people you love. Though I am proud of this, I use these sticks all the time, and my guess is that I am not in poor company in doing this. For me, this is where the usefulness of the measuring process ends. Because, for one, I inevitably choose sticks that make me feel the size of a chihuahua, and, for two, there is NO END to this process, and, for three, the measurement is entirely inaccurate—The expression 'comparing apples to oranges' comes to mind. Growth/success/good decisions are entirely unique to each individual. So, when I am pulling out 'my bestie-Jane stick' and sizing up my financial success, the measurement does even begin to reflect our financial starting points, what our financial goals are or have been, what we have invested into 'the wealth of experience' vs. 'material wealth', and so on. Actually, when I think about it, this measurement reflects absolutely nothing, and bears no relevance in evaluating past decisions or the guiding future ones. (Mental note: Toss that stick into the recycling) Or going back to the whole 'dating in your 30's' thing...When I reflect back on my choice to marry younger, I am confident that this choice has been positive and fruitful for me, but in no way does this mean that universally 'marry in 20's = good'. Because, someone somewhere else is reflecting on that same decision and thinking that they wouldn't have minded having a little more experience before committing their life to one person. And that is okay too.

Here is the point where I encourage you to join me in the challenge of taking that entire bucket of sticks and tossing the entire thing into the recycling! Do it! It's getting you nowhere.

It turns out that there is only one stick you need...The next time you find yourself in a mindset to do some measuring of your life's decisions, try this...Take some time to conjure up an image of your former self, last month, last year, 5 years ago, you pick. Dig up an old photo if it helps. Reflect honestly on this person, their position in life, their insecurities, their goals, and hold that up to the person you are today. No doubt you will have grown. Maybe those same insecurities still haunt you, or maybe the very thought of them will make you laugh. You might find that you easily accomplished those goals or that you haven't and would still like to, or that the goals have entirely changed. Feel free to look at any those 'units' mentioned earlier, but, above all else, consider your journey and your growth. Whatever you discover, you can be sure that this measurement is relevant and accurate, and that, when it comes time to reflect or make a decision, you won't need anything else.

Happy sunny Sunday