I read with a pen (or two) in my hand. I don’t like to borrow books, because I just can’t enjoy reading a book without highlighting and underlining bits and pieces as I go. More than once I’ve “color-coded” a borrowed book, and had to purchase a new copy to return to the owner.
About ten years ago, I bought “Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design.” Its about 600 pages. At the time, I read the chapters that interested me (with a green highlighter), and moved on to the rest of my “self-improvement” collection.
But two years ago, I came back around to it. I read it from cover to cover (orange highlighter this time), and even completed some of the exercises that fall at the end of each chapter. During this second, unabridged reading, the light bulb came on. I found answers I was seeking.
I never have put the book away. I laid it on my desk, and each day, I flip through the pages to see what lies there, highlighted in orange or green. I post quotes from the book in my facebook status often – perhaps too often — but folks out there seem to identify…
The book has chapters on discovering the great ideas of your life, finding your purpose, doing for others, our socialized training, our need for approval — and how these things, are key to finding that bliss. Finding that “thing” we’re all dreaming is out there. The key is to find it within.
One of the highlighted tidbits that I stumbled upon today was, “only compare yourself to yourself.”
My 25th high school reunion is this year. It would be easy to spend time wallowing as I compare myself to those in my class. Some have recently adopted darling babies. Others are “bonafide” artists, some have that white picket fence. Some are sunning themselves on white beaches as I dodge piles of poop in the chicken pen as I collect eggs. And yet, some view my life with wishful thinking and as though it is quite interesting.
When we started Two-Lane Livin’ Magazine three years ago, I began picking up every other publication I could get my hands on to compare the pros and cons. I drooled over their glossy covers, oohed and aahed at the colors in their professional photography. Lost myself in the tales of their well-paid freelance writers.
For you internet readers who’ve never seen TLL in print? We’re a tabloid magazine on newsprint. As far as the realm of printing goes — we’re one step up from Kinko’s. Our cover photos are submitted by readers, our columnists are volunteers.
And they’re wonderful. Just wonderful. And at the end of each month, 16,000 print copies (actually 17,000 the last two months) are GONE. ALL GONE. But, I see many of those other publications are still there, gathering dust.
You see, it’s only when I try to compare TLL to what others are doing that I feel inadequate. When I realize that I’m not at Panera Bread somewhere urban typing on my laptop and talking into a blackberry like so many others in this field of media and marketing, that I feel — not good enough.
I have a twitter account that I grudgingly maintain because — anyone who was anyone in media had a twitter account. I get writer’s block for this blog a lot because these days, your blog is supposed to be a marketing or networking tool. Frank and I attended a conference where we entered a resort full of what Frank dubbed “pod people” because we appeared to be the only to there who weren’t plugged into something via wires or wire less. It was like that dream you had when you showed up to school naked. I felt I had shown up on a job with the wrong tools.
But this 25-year reflection and the thought to compare myself only to myself…
I’ve come a long way baby.
Twenty-five (six) years ago, I couldn’t even make the high school newspaper staff.
Twenty-three years ago, I was a college drop out.
Twenty-one years ago, I was a licensed beautician.
Eighteen years ago, I was a waitress, working nights, earning my two-year degree.
Seventeen years ago, I was a bartender, and in spite of my drinking, and an abusive relationship, earned my four-year degree.
Fourteen years ago, I was unemployed, chronically depressed, and was afraid to leave my house.
Twelve years ago, I was writing instructions for magic tricks and ghost-wrote two books on magic.
Ten years ago, I was working in a wholesale magic company in Chicago.
Nine years ago, my entire year’s income came from selling on eBay.
Eight years ago, I was working on a college public relations department.
Six years ago, I was an award winning newspaper reporter for a small town paper.
And now, I have this “little” country paper that folks seem to like.
When I compare myself now to the myselves of then — I can see the “before and after” of me, and I feel relieved that, as a kumquat, I don’t have to compare myself to apples and oranges.
When you compare yourself only to yourself, the “haves and have-nots” disappear. The lines of accomplishment become multi-dimensional and more spiritual than career-oriented. The distances we’ve come as individuals shortens the distance between us as human beings.
The term “not yet good enough” becomes “still progressing towards perfection.”
In our education, socialization, in business and career development — so often we are told to “look what others are doing” and to compare ourselves to them.
Most of our lives, we’ve been taught to fear ridicule, and to compare our actions to others to adopt the “correct” behavior. While this does serve a purpose for making us into functional beings in society, in many ways, it disconnects us from being aware of our own journey towards purpose, towards self-acceptance. It diverts us from, in the end, finding our bliss.
My life, my choices, my nature and my personality made me a kumquat in this big fruit bowl of life.
And when I compare myself to myself, my only duty is to become the best kumquat I can be.