One of the most common things Ive been hearing lately is "Wow, youre so young, I wish I were in your shoes"... Usually from people who are older than me. The other most common thing Ive heard lately is "Wow, I wish it was possible for me to be like you"... Usually from people who are younger than me. To be honest, quite often I'm shocked at where my life has taken me. I could have never imagined 10 or even 5 years ago that I'd be traveling the world pretty much doing whatever I choose for a living. And yet just minutes ago I was comparing myself to "Young photographer, age 14, ranked top 10 photographers in the world", and thinking "Gee, I'm so lame, what was I doing wrong at age 14?".
In a simple moment of genuine, unavoidable human disdain and emotion, I realize that every human suffers from an inexplicable need to compare ourselves to one another and fret about the constraints around which our lives unfold, quite often regarding age. I could be collecting bottles on the street or I could be Angelina Jolie, and either way I'd experience this self-scathing internal struggle. Why can't I escape this formidable demon that seems to enjoy camping inside my mind, I've asked myself?
As I shift my legs on an overnight bus between Nha Trang and Saigon Vietnam, I look over at the new friend Ive made during my time here. He's smiling as he looks at pictures of his girlfriend, none of the cares I'm facing are burdening him at the moment. In another simple moment of genuine human connection, his smile inspires mine, and I start to think of the beautiful things I've experienced over the last few months and years, and all the people I've been fortunate to laugh with, cry with, dance with, sing with and all the memories that sail to the top of the charts of good life experiences.
I release a delighted sigh as I realize the moment of anguished comparing is gone and has been replaced by a gratefulness for my current surroundings. I'm literally across the world from home, experiencing wonderful things with people of all ages, and when the moments are there- age and experience does not matter, only the thrill of the moment.
I believe that new and meaningful experiences and accomplishments can be made no matter where you are in life. We cannot escape the natural thoughts that enter our minds, but we can choose to push back the negative by focusing on the positive. Look at who surrounds you and find something beautiful in your life today. Last week I sang karaoke with 30 somethings; yesterday I saw a 60 year old doing hip hop dance in the park; I saw a 12 year old navigating traffic on a motorbike (only slightly concerning); today I shared travel photos for 2 hours with a 45 year old and I see people of all ages creating art around me on a daily basis. Instead of focusing on what others *might* think about you or your age, focus instead on what you can articulate beautifully to show love to those around you. Focus on the dreams you've had since childhood and take one or two or ten steps a day until you've reached that dream. And when in absolute doubt, call up someone you hold dear and tell them you love them.
Reaching points in life where you feel even a moment of success or an extended period of comfort isn't easy, and it certainly won't come without a large dosage of hard work (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually), but each memory that makes me smile proves the hard parts of the journey were worth it. The smiles will add up to years of laughter and the memories will add up to a lifetime well spent.
As Aibilene Clark from "The Help" says, "You is Kind, you is Smart, and you is Important". Simply put, at the end of the day, your value is indepent of others and wholly determined by you! Remember your value and spend each day living in your own moments instead of everyone elses. Today, you're the perfect age to live the dream!
To attend an upcoming workshop with Rob, please visit www.robwoodcox.com/workshops, scheduled locations include Portland, Fortaleza, São Paulo, and Foz du Iguaçu.