Nowhere Man

by Susan Pogorzelski on October 19, 2008 · 3 comments

Nowhere Man don’t worry/
Take your time, don’t hurry…
Knows not where he’s going to/
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

The Beatles, “Nowhere Man”

A reader over at Brazen Careerist commented on my previous post about moving home, and I had so much to say in response to their insightful comments, that I decided to do so in a post.

For the past few months, as I have struggled to pursue a dream, find a job, and confront unexpected setbacks, I’ve been learning a valuable lesson — the greatest hindrance to ourselves and our own personal development is in comparing our lives with others. I know firsthand that by being so concerned with what others think, by measuring their accomplishments against my own, I begin to feel inferior, dissatisfied, and, too often, insignificant. Those aren’t easy feelings to contend with; what’s even harder, as the commenter so eloquently wrote, is that you’re measuring yourself against what is really a figment of the imagination, built up in such a way that you seem small and insignificant in comparison. When you compare yourself with someone else, it’s easy to forget how valuable we are as individuals.

Social applications such as Facebook and MySpace are pretty much breeding grounds for comparison, with declarations such as: “I’m getting married!” or “I started my own business and am now a millionaire!” or, hitting closer to home, “I’m a manager/director/executive at XYZ and living in my own apartment in Boston/San Fran/NYC.” For not having these things, it’s easy to let jealousy rear it’s head, to throw in the towel on your own dreams, to criticize your own life and disregard all of your own successes.

I’ve been there.

Some days, I’m still there.

The important thing I need to constantly remind myself, though, is that I’m following my own path, not someone else’s. And, what’s more, is that these announcements are but snippets of their lives, just like my blog is but a small piece of mine. Rarely do we know the road they took to get there; rarely do we see the individuals outside of the spotlight and remember that they are but human, too.

I think it’s great that people want to share their accomplishments — these are moments of pride, often the well-deserved result of hard work that should be recognized. However, it’s easy to get so caught up in everyone else’s success that you forget about your own.

I tend to be very candid about myself, my life, especially when I write. I tend to write about both the good things in my life and, more often, the disappointing. When I didn’t get into Emerson, I blogged about it. I blogged about moving home, I blogged about not having a “real job” and my struggles to find one, I blogged about being rejected for publication. I blogged about it all because it’s what affects me. I have ups and I have downs, and what’s important to me is how I deal with it and what I learn from them. What I’ve forgotten, however, is that these roadblocks and detours are a normal part of life.

Last week, I grappled with the decision of whether or not to continue this blog, realizing that, no matter how grateful I am for my life, I have the tendency to focus on the negative in this outlet and, by that means, compare myself to others who seemingly have it all together. I wondered if maybe analyzing these elements of my life had impacted me greater than I could have foreseen: maybe I wasn’t helping my personal development but rather hindering it. Maybe I was becoming too sensitive, too critical. Maybe I just wasn’t meant to do the things that I had envisioned for myself after all.

But the more I mused about it, the more strongly I felt about this outlet and what it’s done for me. And the less I thought about what others were doing, the more I realized that I’ve forged a path for myself that’s all my own. Sure, it may look a little bumpy and the speed limit may be perpetually stuck at 25, but that’s the beauty in the journey: we all follow a different route.

I write for me, so that I can better understand myself and the happenings in my own life. Of course I feel pride in my small accomplishments and of course I want to share them with the world, but at the same time, I know that I’m still working towards something, that I don’t have it all together, and I’ll admit that a thousand times over. But I also know now that that’s OK. Because I don’t think that anyone ever really does.

We play a nice game of make-believe, but when it comes right down to it, we’re as similar as we are different. Everyone has trouble paying their bills or is feeling the emotional heartbreak of separating from their significant other or is trying to defeat their own personal demons. These are the small moments in life that link us together. By forgetting these things, by comparing ourselves, we forget what it’s like to just be human. We forget that, like it or not, every now and again we find our paths under construction.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica Ayers October 19, 2008

I understand right where you are!

It seems like that perfect ten-year plan that we come up with never works out just right, and I’m talking about the big milestones, not just the details. All the resulting confusion is the most frustrating feeling in the world.

Keep blogging and thanks for the encouragement that I’m not the only one!

Jessica — I hate the fact that you’re stuck feeling the same way because it’s such a frustrating place to be. But at the same time, I’m grateful that others can relate. It’s so interesting to me because as a child, you’re instructed to plan — plan for college, plan for your career — and you’re right — no matter what plan you make for yourself, it’s hardly ever how you imagine it, and that’s disappointing and daunting in so many ways. I guess the only way to handle it is to pick up the pieces, remember to believe in yourself, and just continue on. It’s hard to remind yourself that you’re on your own path, especially when your plans change and you feel somewhat like you’ve failed, but it’s a huge lesson that I hope I’m ready to learn.

The very best of luck to you — I hope you find a way to make sense of the confusion. – Susan

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Mathieu Ayel October 20, 2008

I can really relate to what you describe.

And your thoughts made me first think of the fine balance between blissfull self-awareness and being too critical of oneself.

Also the “others”to which you may compare yourself, the facebooks and myspaces where accomplishments are trumpeted; they could be a truthfull mirror, a fountain of motivation and emotional energy. I know I have friends like this around me that don’t just provide a measure against my achievements but also help me build and grow. Maybe I haven’t build these relationships yet online.You made me think that I should try to find and cultivate these mirrors in my online family too and not just share and compare. I think I am going off topic.

Merci tout de meme!

Mathieu – I truly appreciate this comment because your words (“the fine balance between blissfull self-awareness and being too critical of oneself”) ring so true and was exactly what I had found myself facing. It seemed to me that I had somehow crossed that line from personal development to overall, negative criticism, which ultimately led to low self-esteem and a general feeling of defeat. That is treading territory that I would hate to find myself in, as it’s detrimental to every facet of oneself. I think that self-awareness is one of the greatest gifts we can have as humans because it not only allows you to better yourself but, hopefully, allows you to become more aware of the people around you — I liken it to a connective effect: if you take the step to understanding yourself, you can begin to understand other people, and understanding is, I’ve found, one of the greatest links we have to each other.

But it’s my turn to digress…I’ll get back on topic: I like how you say that these comparisons can be used as a positive motivator and I believe that to be true when you have formed strong, solid relationships, as it seems you have. Could you expand a bit more upon this thought? I’m curious to hear what else you have to say.

In the meantime, thanks again for your insight. – Susan

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Defygravity84 October 21, 2008

I love your post, but I wanted you to know that the photo perfectly describes how I feel right now. Ugh!

Roommate! It’s a pretty crappy roller coaster of a road, isn’t it? I think if we just learn to take one hill at a time, to accelerate and break at the right moments, we’ll get through it free and clear… – Susan

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