Feeling Behind

For the people feeling behind in life.

Feeling Behind
Photo by Alayna Tam / Unsplash

Yes, it is a new year and that means it is time for the obligatory post about how it is the new year and a new me, about the new year's resolutions and how suddenly I will change my life and become a completely new person just because there is a new calendar on my wall. Problem is, just because Earth has completed one revolution around the Sun and has started a new one does not mean that suddenly we are all new people. That suddenly we have changed our fundamental nature, overnight, and will achieve everything we could not achieve in the year before. Yes, I am a bit cynical and skeptical of this whole new-year-new-me thing.

Yet, there is something heartwarming about looking at a fresh calendar that hasn't been tainted by our disappointments, broken promises, and unachieved goals. A fresh start. A clean slate. A little hope that maybe, just maybe, this time it will be different.

I did not learn to play the piano last year. I did not write my novel. I did not run a marathon. I did not change my job and move to a big city. I did not travel to new places. I did not read 50 books. I did not start a YouTube channel. I did not write a blog post every week. I did not eat healthily every day. I did not do many other things that I intended to do last year. So many goals unachieved. Just like every year before it.

I did write about 8 essays and a few poems. I wrote a few snippets for my novel and worked on the plot. I did get complete a few big projects at my current job. I did read about 15 books. I did eat healthier than the year before. I did run about 125 miles over the year. I did become a better version of myself, closer to the person I wish to be.

I think when we look at what we achieved in the previous year, a mistake we all make is that we try to stack up our achievements against what we set out to do. But maybe life doesn't work that way. Perhaps as we go along, we do things that we previously did not mean to do and achieve goals that we didn't mean to achieve. And sometimes we achieve goals smaller than what we intended. Is reading 15 books as good as 50? No. But it is still a good amount. It is way better than zero. I can't run a marathon yet, but I can run over 4 miles without losing my breath. Two years ago I could barely run half a mile without almost collapsing.

I think about all these things because of a feeling we all feel around this time. I certainly feel it. I'm talking about feeling behind in life. But the question is behind who? Behind what? Who gets to set the thresholds? In this race of life, maybe it is okay to walk instead of running sometimes. Maybe it is okay to slow down and go through life at your own speed. I am ambitious and have many big dreams and goals but I think it is okay to not achieve all of them in 2022 or 2023 or the years after that. Who knows? Maybe life has better plans for me? While I do think it is essential to do things that you want to do, if only to keep future regrets at bay, I also think it is a better plan to focus on doing things and not on achieving goals. Process over the goal. We should all stop feeling behind in life because we are all running different races and the only competitor is ourselves. The only speed that matters is our own speed. Slow down and trust the process. Let life happen to you.

It isn't the thing you do, dear;
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you a bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.
The tender word forgotten,
The letter you did not write,
The flower you might have sent, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts to-night.
- Margaret Elizabeth Sangster (The Sin of Omission)