Awhile back, I met up with some friends I hadn't seen in ages and I was wondering why X was nowhere to be found. "Where is X?", I ask.
"Oh, I think he feels a little left out when he's with us, cause he is in between jobs and he thinks we've all made it.", my friend tells me. "It's kinda uncomfortable for him."
"WHAT?", I exclaim. "Tell him that is nonsense! I don't even consider myself successful. None of us are going to judge him anyway."
Then I realized that what X felt was perhaps how I feel around my friends who have married and moved on to have children. It's a strange feeling to "understand" the differences in your lifestyles, but it doesn't make the small talk any less awkward. Even if nobody has the intention to judge you, it will still feel like you're the strange one left who still can't figure it all out.
I have friends who are conventionally successful. I have friends who are free spirits and prefer a more carefree lifestyle.
And you know what? We are all still people, living and breathing the same air. It is totally normal to feel like a failure - or that you haven't accomplished enough, but here is why you shouldn't:
1. Different passions pay differently.
In our culture, it's not really normal to discuss your paycheque, but as you grow a little older, people do discuss their financials in many different ways. ('I just bought a new Mini Cooper. Burning a hole in my paycheque, that one!')
And whether you like it or not, there will always be an underlying sense of competition of 'who's doing better' - based mostly on a financial measure of success. Even when we want to believe that money is not important.
However, the fact is that different industries and different passions pay differently. A designer will not be earning the same as an investment banker. Don't be fazed by stories of how who and who are making 5 figures in USD - be ambitious, but stay humble and know that maybe you're just a late bloomer. :)
Would you choose to be rich and miserable, or fulfilled, knowing that you are really pursuing your dreams? If your passion is to dance, and you're good at it, DO IT! Be a full-time dancer and fuck the haters.
I've always been an avid believer that you should pursue your passions first - and the money will follow. All in due time.
2. Everyone's journey is different. And that's really okay.
We all grew up differently, had contrasting experiences and have different goals in life. A friend recently said to me: "I think my biggest goal is to just quit my job and go backpacking for a few months. It's fucked up. I'm 31. Shouldn't I aim for a promotion or a better job?"
"Dude," I looked him in the eye. "If that's what you really, really want, do it."
Everyone goes through different seasons in life at different times - whether or not you can see it now, you will have your time to shine. You WILL fall in love, get married, have children, have an awesome kickass career, a lovely house with a white picket fence ...
If that's even what you really want. :)
3. Seriously - NOBODY has it ALL figured out.
I'll let you in on a little secret: I sometimes cringe at all the inspirational posts "conventionally successful" people write on their social media. Not because I don't believe they are capable individuals, but because I believe that nobody is perfect. No journey is perfect. No company is perfect. It might be harmful to paint an overly cheery picture of your career success, when you never know - like my friend X - there are people who are confused, and will feel shittier about themselves when they believe someone else's career is the picture of perfection.
What about the sleepless nights that went into the planning of an IPO? The marriages or relationships that broke down because of ambition? The guilt of putting your career before your child?
I have spoken to successful people and while they share grit, tenacity and passion, some of them also admit to feeling as lost, confused or as vulnerable as anyone else. They just worked harder to overcome their barriers. In moments of vulnerability, they turned their weaknesses around and used failures as leverage for future successes.
But by no means should you feel like a "nobody" just because he / she is a "somebody" in the eyes of the world. Do not let your emotions be defined by the articles you read or the inspiring status updates that flood your Facebook wall.
You only have one shot at a life your heart really wants. When you're feeling a little less successful, remember all the good things you have in your life - C'mon, it can't be that bad!
So go ahead and live the life of your dreams on your own terms, now. :)