I was supposed to graduate university in 2011. That same year, my life fell apart and I dropped out instead. It took another two years to return to school. By this time, most of my mates had finished NYSC and started working. By the time I was finally graduating, some of the said mates had rounded up their Master’s degrees or were in the process of doing so. Some had gotten married and started having kids!
It was tough to live through, watching everyone else move on with their lives. I had once felt left behind when I was in secondary school, but this was a whole new ballgame. No matter how many times I heard things like ‘be thankful’ or ‘some of your mates are also dead’, the pain, shame, and sense of failure did not go away. I tried not to compare my life with other people, but it was easier said than done.
All this is to say that I’ve been there, and also that I made it out. If you are in a place where you feel left behind while others are moving forward, you can make it out too. Some tips for getting through this time.
You don’t have the full picture
It’s hard to not compare, but you should at least remind yourself others probably also have down times you don’t know about. Just like it is with social media, the more public/visible parts of other people’s lives are curated to show only what they’re comfortable with sharing. In other words, you don’t know the whole story of the person’s life you envy.
You will also have your ups and downs, sometimes with no one else being the wiser either way. Your race is different from everyone else’s, and someone somewhere envies you too. Focus instead on learning all you can at whatever stage you’re in, rather than looking left or right to see who is moving and how quickly.
It is possible that you need to do some things differently than you currently are. But this shouldn’t be in comparison with other people. You should instead try as much as you can to objectively evaluate your situation, and make appropriate changes for your short term and long term growth.
If you want a better job, learn more about the requisite skills. Looking to grow financially? Assess your current financial habits. Want better friendships and romantic relationships? Check your thoughts, attitude, and levels of either apathy or desperation. Want a child? Run tests, take better care of your health, or consider adoption among other wholesome options. Whatever needs to change for you to reach your legitimate life goals, go ahead and change.
There are times when you don’t have to change anything except to consciously cultivate patience. Sometimes, you’re in a seemingly stagnant situation because you are actually preparing for your next level. Think of it as a planting season in farming or laying of the foundation in construction. For a while, it will look as though nothing is happening. But that’s not true.
The nature of the crop or building will also determine the length of this seeming ‘stagnant’ phase. A skyscraper needs a deeper foundation, and a perennial crop will need deeper roots. A bungalow or annual crop on the other hand, doesn’t need the same thing. It would be a huge mistake to give up on your own journey to embark on someone else’s. Patience is vital for your success in the long run.
Ask for help
No matter the reason for feeling left behind, you can always do with a little help here and there. Throughout my journey to recovery, I received lots of help on many fronts: physical, emotional, intellectual, financial, and even spiritual. While I still had many difficult and rather solitary moments, I made it through with the support of others without which I wouldn’t have survived.
You might simply need advice or guidance, financial or moral support, therapy, or just the right information to make it out of your current situation. But if you don’t ask for help, life stacks the odds against you right from the start. Sometimes, all it takes to rejoin the moving train is putting your pride aside and getting the help you need.
No matter what your situation is, remember that your life, the right perception is what you need to get to your desired destination.