Should I have chosen a different path?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I made the decisions I have made and if I made the right ones. Specifically, I mean the professional/career decisions I’ve made. I’m a young professional, so there haven’t even been that many, but I wonder. Should I have gone a more technical route? Should I have gone a less technical route and embraced those passions? Did I make the right decision that led to where I am now?
I find I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this. On the one hand, life is long, I am young, and even if I wasn’t, there is lots of time to make mistakes or course correct, or change my mind. There are countless examples of very successful people who changed career paths, mindsets or their entire lives a lot later in life than I am and kicked butt.
But on the other hand, life is short, who knows what’s going to happen. I’m hungry and ambitious and want to do the best I can, and I want to do it quickly.
I’ve had these kinds of ‘what if’ thoughts before and think I have a good mentality for dealing with them. But recently it's been different, more obtrusive. So I wanted to talk about it. Well, write about it, to myself—the answer to these questions though less interesting than the cause. You’ll never really know the answer to those questions, but boy do I not want to feel like I have to ask them.
The root of the problem
I think it’s ultimately because I am comparing myself to the people around me. Or to the people I see in daily life. Those are two vastly different things mind. Let me explain:
The people around me are my flatmates, my family, my friends and my colleagues. These are the people that I am around most days or at least every week. The people I see though are people on Twitter, or Youtube, or wherever else.
Now I know this to be an inherently flawed and stupid thing to do. All of those people are living different lives to me. They want different things; they have done different things; they have their own passions and vices. Comparing humans in this way is like comparing books by only reading one page. And yet, here I am.
Even if it wasn’t an inherently bad idea to compare myself to other people, it’s worse; I’m only comparing myself to their successes. I’m not comparing our entire lives; I’m only comparing myself to them where their successes align with my failures. No, not even failures, just insecurities. So I look at what they’re doing, how great it is, I think to myself ‘Boy I wish I could do that.’ and because I’m one of those annoying, positive, you can do anything, people. I think to myself ‘Fuck. What could I have done differently so I could be that great too.’
The trick though seems to be to extend that line of thinking. To not just focus on that one thing but look at the whole. Instead of comparing a single, random page at different places in two books, at least look at the blurb. That way, you can see where you are doing well, you can see how your goals might not line up so their path would have led you in the wrong direction. You can see how much further along their story they are. And maybe you can empathise and feel good about their accomplishments and not what this feeling is. Which is, let's be honest, envy.
Let me give an example. I have a flatmate who just got promoted at his job. He is now a DevOps Engineer, and he works at his dream company. His dream job, at his dream company, and he got a promotion. That’s awesome, on the one hand. On the other hand, damn, I wish I could be like that. Why aren’t I? What could I have done differently?
But you can already see a flaw. His dreams are not my dreams. Beyond that, I know this guy, he’s my friend and flatmate. He’s three years older than me, he studied and worked for the position he is in now, and yes, we have different goals, so we’re on different paths.
This is not the solution.
When I think this through, I can come up with even more reasons why we are on different paths. But it's a dangerous route to go down; it can get nasty. The best thing to do would be to take a deep breath, appreciate what you have, work towards your own goals and not give a shit what other people are doing. If they’re doing well, good for them, you do you. But I found this is a good practice for when that feeling creeps in.