College Applications and the Land of Comparisons

College Applications and the Land of Comparisons

My oldest’s college application process has been interesting to witness, both for her and her peers as well as what it’s brought about for me.

It’s been eye-opening to see highlighted old stories I still grip and continue to reactivate and perpetuate, whether intentionally or unintentionally: There are “good” schools to go to and “good” jobs to get. There is a “right” way to go about life. A “right” four year college is a “must” and let me tell you how things are.

And then witnessing the sadness, despair, and focus of these young adults caught up in a name, tied around the approval of others, stuck on glitz, “right”, and “one way” as they receive acceptance and rejection notices? I see a look I’ve seen many times over in myself as well as other adults around me. It’s a slow burn spreading pain and sowing toxic seeds. They are trapped in the land of comparisons — and it’s a place where suffering is king.

Happiness doesn’t reside in the land of comparisons, “right” or “one way”. This land is far too narrow and boxed in. Happiness lives in the expanse of possibility, of learning to listen to and trust oneself, of knowing there are an infinite number of ways to do life — and in the biggest picture, we can’t get it wrong. We try, gather info from the effort, and then try again.

While I can’t make my kids (or anyone else) learn this, nor is it my job to, I can make sure that I myself understand this deeply (and then remind myself, again and again and again, whenever I forget). I know I know there is no one way to do life, that there is no wrong way to do life. The past few months have been a reminder to embody this knowledge more fully, both for myself and those around me. To be more aware of the thoughts I’m rolling around in my head and the words I’m speaking. And to try again more thoughtfully when I find myself back in an old story.

And in my own getting it and spending less time tripping through the land of comparisons? There’s a much greater chance my children will spend less time there too.

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