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stop comparing yourself; just be yourself

Do you ever have moments of clarity that hit you, seemingly, out of nowhere? And when they do, they make perfect sense and are instantly followed by a total feeling of calm? It’s been happening a lot to me lately, and I’m incredibly grateful for these different instances of enlightenment. I was doing an interval workout on the elliptical this morning when the most recent one hit me. My least favorite part of the interval workout is when the resistance lowers, which is still beneficial because it’s meant to give your body a chance to recoup before the resistance jumps back up (it’s worth noting that I make sure my minimum resistance level is pretty high, which then makes my maximum resistance level even higher. The gym is where you go to get physically stronger, people!). But that part of the interval workout bores me because it’s too easy, and because, to me, easy is “nice” for a brief period of time but feels lazy and gets boring quickly, especially when compared to the periods of max resistance.

When I had the ah-ha! moment, it immediately made sense. I didn't like the lower resistance level because I didn’t have to work as hard and didn’t feel as accomplished at completion. And as someone who’s worked all sorts of jobs since the age of fourteen, I am someone who very much appreciates and understands the value of hard work. Things that come easy aren’t worth it. If you have everything handed to you and never really have to work to earn anything on your own without help, it won’t feel like a success even if you do succeed because the stakes are so low. And when the stakes are low, there’s no real personal investment and no risk. And like I’ve heard - time and time again in life - the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Good things in life that hold value take time, effort, humility, blood, sweat, tears, sacrifice, communication, reflection, persistence, and growth.

Has there ever been a time in your life where the song you needed to hear came on the radio or the text you needed to help you get through a tough situation came just at the right moment? This past Sunday, the pastor at my church gave a sermon that I swear was being delivered just so I could hear it. In the sermon, Deuteronomy Chapter 2 was discussed, and the major take-away was this: God wants to give you everything you want and more and He wants you to ask for it, but He can’t give it to you before you’re ready, so if you feel like you’re constantly circling in life and not getting anywhere no matter how hard you try, it’s because you’re falling into the same patterns of behavior and are not yet ready for what He wants to give you because you haven’t learned the lesson you need to learn in order to grow and advance in life. (Please note that I just watered down a 45-ish minute sermon to a sentence, so I haven’t nearly given the sermon all the justice it so wholly deserves). It was so powerful and eye-opening and comforting. It was as though all the growth and change I’ve gone through in life, especially more recently, and the perspective and conclusions I’ve come to were all just repeated back to me, reaffirming what I had already come to know in my own heart. If you’re fighting the wrong battle, what’s the end game? You’ll either lose and feel strong loss because you put so much of your energy into the wrong thing, or you’ll win and end up with a life you never really wanted in the first place. It was overwhelming and yet calming all at the same time. I looked around a couple times to see if I was being pranked because everything the Pastor said felt so specific to my life. No one else noticed me glancing around because they were all listening and relating to what was being said, too. And it moved me so much and filled my heart with so much love. And made me feel that thing I’ve been feeling nonstop for awhile now: gratitude.

I look around at the world, and I see so many people who are unhappy. I think about this a lot and wonder how it came to be this way. I think the internet plays a huge role in it, especially social media. The internet is a catch-22. There’s a wealth of knowledge at everyone’s fingertips, which is both beautiful and terrifying. I still remember my mom taking me to the library to check out books and teaching me how to find what I wanted using the Dewey Decimal System and a card catalog. Nowadays, you can just pull up a retailer online and instantly order or download the thing you want. In regards to access to books being so much easier, I view the internet as a great thing. An entire wealth of knowledge can be so easily accessible. People have every opportunity to grow smarter, and yet most people don’t want to feed their brains the type of knowledge that will make them better and make them grow. Instead, people are constantly lurking the web on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. and comparing themselves to other people they see who are more successful than they are, more famous, more fit, smarter, stronger, sexier, “better” - whatever. That’s a dangerous and slippery slope: wanting someone else’s life. It’s not an easy habit to break, but breaking that habit - the constant comparison to and of others - is literally the first step to becoming better in whatever arena you’re looking to improve. It’s hard, but if you never take that first step and break that pattern, you’re never going to get where you want to be in life.

When I was a kid, as most kids experienced in their youth, I was quite often asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer alternated between “happy” and “myself.” And one time I admit, I even said Rapping Professional Wrestler (this was early on in elementary school when I went through my WWF - now WWE - phase. FYI Duane Johnson lived at the corner of Jabroni Drive at the Smackdown Hotel). But even that last answer was so honestly me at that moment in time that I remember my parents and brother being supportive of it, saying “of course!” Thanks, Mom and Dad and Teej. You’ve encouraged my growth and change since day one. You’re the real superstars here! Anecdotal comedy aside, however, my original answer has never faltered. Los Angeles (and, by extension, the United States) is an interesting place to live because so many people equate what they do to being the same thing as who they are. But when I was just a young teenager home for the summer, a pretty enlightened friend I met working at the pizza shop once told me “you are not your resumé” while we walked to play 10 cent SkeeBall at Jilly’s Arcade. And it’s true. I must have been 14 at the time, but his words have stuck with me ever since. What you do is not who you are, but if that’s how you choose to equate your life and evaluate your happiness (and yes, it is a choice), make sure what you’re doing actually feeds your soul and makes you happy. If you don’t love what you do or don’t love your job, find a new one; there’s someone out there who would love your job. If you love what you do but can’t make money doing it yet, then do something to fund that passion and eventually - with A LOT of hard work - you’ll start to see the tides turn in your favor.

But it all comes down to this— When you spend your life settling for less than you deserve and falling into the same patterns over and over again, how can you expect to be given more? You can’t. And you shouldn’t. You will never be given more than you can handle. There are times it may feel like you can’t handle everything being thrown at you because you’re human and because life and feelings can be overwhelming, but just know that in those moments - when things aren’t easy and when the resistance of life’s elliptical is all the way up - those are the moments where you’re growing stronger and changing and getting better. Be thankful for those moments, especially the difficult ones. And be yourself. And please, be happy.

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