February 21, 2024

Thief of joy

Erin' it Out

Everywhere you look, there are encouragements to be smarter than your classmates, wealthier than your peers, stronger than your teammates. Life seems to be a game of comparison, every goal to beat someone at something. My question is, why do we always have to win?

I’m not saying you shouldn’t work to better yourself or get further in life. However, you are allowed to be satisfied with your own life, even if it’s not perfect. Not everything needs to be a competition. You are allowed to be satisfied with your life.

Now, this might not be perfect advice coming from me. While some people might be over-competitive, I’m the opposite. As long as I’m happy or having fun, I don’t care about losing.

We play a lot of card and board games in my family. While I certainly enjoy winning, I also just enjoy playing with my family. Sometimes it can be more fun to team up against someone, ensuring they lose rather than ensuring my win. Sometimes it’s exciting to cheer for another person to win. However, too many losses in a row can make the game much less fun as well.

This translates over well to real life. Take your job, for example. Whether you enjoy it or not, you and your coworkers are all working together to complete the day. You might work together to further a mutual goal, though I wouldn’t suggest doing so to the detriment of others. Even if you don’t get a raise or promotion, you can be happy when someone else does. There’s no need to be jealous. Of course, if you’ve been there long enough without any personal wins, check to see if you’re playing the right game for you.

In general, when one person succeeds in life, it’s easy to compare yourself to them. Why didn’t you get the job/spouse/vacation/etc.? What did they do that you didn’t? Don’t you deserve it just as much?

As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, comparison is the thief of joy. Life doesn’t have to be a competition. Why does your happiness depend on the success of others?

One example in my life that I happen across quite frequently has to deal with the amount I read. As of today, I have read 26 books in the month of January. This includes audiobooks and ebooks, along with physical print books. My ability to read 26 books in one month is due to a variety of reasons, including my ability to read quickly, living alone and prioritizing reading ahead of other hobbies or downtime.

My reading 26 books in a month does not diminish someone’s ability to read 26 books in a year. Maybe they have kids or pets to take care of. Maybe they read slowly and pay attention to every little detail. Maybe they simply have other things to do. It truly doesn’t matter if I’ve read more. Not everything has to be a competition.

If I wanted to compare myself to other people my age, I could be ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ at life, depending on who I look at.

Back home, most of my friends either still live with their parents or live with roommates. Many don’t have a job in the career they majored. If I look at people my age here in Creston, I sometimes feel a bit behind. So many of them own their own business, are married with kids.

Despite these things, I’m happy with where I am. I might not have the familiarities of home and old friends, but I get to live on my own and have a job I love. I certainly don’t feel old enough to be married, let alone have children, but that doesn’t mean other people aren’t ready.

There are so many ways in which I could compare myself to other people, and while it’s easy to slip up and do just that, I know it’s better for me and for others to simply be happy with who I am and where I am in life. I think so many people would be much happier if they did the same.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.