More, Better, Bigger

AUGUST 25, 2013

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Last week I planned a time to visit a new friend who lives a few blocks from us and has a small baby, like me. She lives in a new luxury building that is full of amenities and no doubt lacks the layers of paint and cracked wood floors that define the pre-war “charm” of our apartment.

Once she sent me her address, I did what I always do: I looked up her building and apartment on StreetEasy.com and checked out the floorplan and…the rent. Tell me I’m not alone in this kind of intrusive habit?!!

“Wow,” I thought. Those amenities don’t come cheap! I found myself stewing, and longing for an apartment I hadn’t even seen that belongs to someone I barely know.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, when the day of our play date came, my first – first! – thought upon entering her apartment was “OH! This isn’t all that nice! Phew.”

I was actually relieved that the apartment I’d coveted, sight-unseen, wasn’t actually worth coveting. And that made me feel good.

What is it about New York City (is it just NYC?) that makes us all want more, better, and bigger? In a time when so many people our age have iPhones, decent jobs thanks to the rebounding economy, access to healthcare, and healthy circles of friends, how do we so easily become unsatisfied with all that we do have?

I have been wrestling with this question and feeling pretty disgusted with myself about my reaction to this apartment and here’s what I’ve concluded:

New York City is a thriving city and one that never sleeps. The pace, the churn, the rapid growth, and the frenetic energy that make it so tremendously special can also leave us feeling like what we have is never enough. When everyone around us seems to be running after the next great thing, it’s hard not to feel like we should hop on the treadmill and join them.

I feel the urge to “run faster” when the woman next to me at the gym has better biceps, when the windows on Fifth Avenue feature a stunning Thakoon dress, and when my friend receives an incredible promotion. I’m not only bombarded with a giant media complex that is designed to make me want to buy/do/be more, but I’ve gotten to a point where most of my daily life seems to leave me thinking I’m somehow not enough, in need of renovation, or otherwise falling short of the finish line that keeps moving just out of my reach.

Sometimes the urge to better ourselves is valuable and it is this urge that starts new companies, earns promotions, and propels us to climb mountains, literally or figuratively. But I’m realizing that when my drive is motivated not by an authentic desire to grow but by watching , and envying, someone else’s journey, I find myself feeling exhausted, unworthy, and just plain inadequate. In this situation I only set myself up for disappointment because it’s not my race to begin with so it’s not a race I can ever win.

As we head into Fall, a season I still associate with fresh starts even though my August is no longer marked by picking out new clothes and freshening up my school supplies, I am resolving to do something a yoga instructor once told me to do: “Keep your eyes on your own mat.” It’s a mantra that works so well in a darkened yoga studio when we’re tempted to see just how straight someone else’s pose is, and it also works well in this thing called life, as we seek to be true to our own paths, no matter how much they do – or don’t – resemble those of our neighbors.

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3 COMMENTS

  • Bethany Elizabeth Johnson 4 years ago

    I love this. This is such good advice!

  • Mary L. Campbell 4 years ago

    I just now read this. While I think these urges may be strengthened by the fast pace and visible material goods of NYC, keeping one’s eyes on one’s own yoga mat is a challenge to many of us!

  • In our society it is so difficult not to have the same feelings stated in this article. Every person is trying to be the “best” version of themselves which can lead to a crazy busy schedule or (as I have recently considered) sleeping less just to fit it all in. It also does not help when we see the accomplishments of others on “BragBook” aka Facebook. Yet, we need to keep in mind that we do not see everyone’s struggles, just their successes. When in the midst of a hectic schedule, vying for your next great accomplishment, it is easy to forget the point behind the post — keep focused on your life and don’t compare yourself to others. Thanks for the reminder!