We move through life in lock-step through about the age of 18. Sometimes even 22. We are born, we roll over, walk, talk, skip, move through school, all pretty much at the same pace. For younger kids, if they aren’t moving through the milestones at about the right age, then there are problems. Because so much of our life is moving through in lock-step, we start to think that is how life should be as adults as well. We need to get married, have kids, have the right job, buy a house, etc. The concept that if we haven’t met the adult “milestones” by a certain age creates anxiety and shame in so many people.
At some point we stop needing to do the same things about the same time. One person may have to leave high school because life got in the way, and finishes later in their own time. The other may not get married until their 50’s because they didn’t find the right person. We each have a path that we need to walk. For a while it may be similar to someone else’s, but ultimately we don’t have to keep pace with anyone.
There is a path in Austin called the Hill of Life. It is ½ a mile, with 200 meters of elevation change. It is the very first entrance to the Barton Creek Trail system that runs through Austin, about 8 miles long. It is rocky, uneven terrain. It is a phenomenal work-out to walk up it. And it is exhausting. I have found, that even with all the exercise I do, I have to take the hill slow. On a bad day I need to take breaks and can’t finish the hill in one go. While I am huffing and puffing there are often people running up the hill, or even college students walking from the river-bed in flip-flops. And I’m not in a race with them. I don’t need to keep up, go the fastest, or even need to march up it without breaks. I need to go at my pace. I will get to the top of the hill, I will just take longer than the others. And I will be faster than some. It isn’t a race. We will all end up at the same place.
The ego tells us “You should be going faster”. The ego has a very strong belief in how the world should work. It believes that if you aren’t moving at the same pace as everyone else you aren’t good enough. You aren’t worthy enough to live amongst the decent people that are doing “better” than you are. With the hill example, if I work to keep up with those that are doing “better” than I am, I will in all likelihood hurt myself. I will exceed what my heart and lungs are capable of, or I will twist an ankle, or have some other sort of problem. When I take the hill at the pace that works for me, I generally tend to make better time than when I try to keep up with someone else.
We all have the same finish-line. No matter how quickly, gracefully, or easily move through life, we all end up at the same place. If we try to live life at the pace we think we are “supposed” to often we feel inadequate, frustrated, and sometimes worthless. We each get to find what works for us, the pace that is best for us, and find our own groove. Push yourself, and at the same time make sure you aren’t just trying to keep up with the “shoulds”. This isn’t a race, and if you treat it that way you may just end up at the finish line faster than you wanted to.