On being ok with other people being at different stages in their lives than you
Much like how light can be a particle or a wave, other people’s life trajectories can be both parallel to yours and inhabit a completely different dimension. Since reading this article called ‘Instead of your life’s purpose’, I’ve been considering a new perspective of life being non-linear — life that doesn’t move in a straight line, is not scalable and is not an easily dividable experience. Accepting this perspective has eased a lot of rigidity that I’d been feeling, days flow a bit easier now and there’s more space for meaning to shine through.
But there’s a frustration that comes from sharing your life with people (which comes with the natural urge to feel that you are moving in a parallel trajectory with them) and accepting them as they really are which is a person on a non-linear journey through life that may not parallel yours. They could be moving in the same direction, but in a different form, like a spectrum of light, one frequency is blue and one is red but they’re both part of the same wave of light. They’ve got different value systems, different interests, think in different frameworks than you do but generally you want to feel that you are moving together in the same direction. (Does this make sense?)
One year ago a series of circumstances collided offering me the possibility to slow down. I got a job that I liked and it was part time. I could spend my off days working on my own stuff. I realised that the way that I engaged with the world and with myself had considerably changed from 2020. I went from incredibly stressed about what I’m supposed to do next to being comfortable where I am and excited about any changes that I bring about or that arise naturally. My emotional life had become less chaotic, I felt more aligned with my body, I hadn’t had any panic attacks or feelings of anxiety in months. As of writing this, I feel that my life is now quieter and calmer than its every been — that’s the stage I’m at right now but it took some time to be ok with this change.
My uses of the terms ‘stage’ and ‘trajectory’ reestablish this notion of linearity and it’s hard to give up. There are a lot of comforts in something being a straight line, being scalable and dividable. In some ways I feel it’s important when building relationships and connections with other people to understand, or at least approximate, where they are at in their lives compared to yourself. Maybe there’s a line somewhere through the middle? That life can be linear and non-linear simultaneously? The beautiful thing is that these terms I believe can be completely self-defined. What’s a stage? What’s a trajectory? They can come straight from your gut. To me, a life stage can be a combination of age, emotional maturity, career level, wisdom, physical experiences, spiritual experiences and more. It’s the ‘suchness’ of the person or yourself.
There’s been times when I haven’t been ok with this difference in ‘suchness’ or being at a different place in my life than other people. They were going at a certain speed, me another and it was frustrating to experience. I met an old friend, who I hadn’t seen in years and almost immediately I felt a disconnection. We had both clearly changed and communicating with them was forced. What came to mind was the fact that we now lived in very different worlds to each other, different places in life, different mindsets or whatever you want to call it. I felt an urge to judge them and to blurt out ‘Why are you still like this?’
This short essay is essentially about that feeling of judgement which took me by surprise. I don’t really have a proper answer, I supposed getting these thoughts written down was an attempt to understand it. It is ok for this difference to happen between people, it is inevitable, that it’s beautiful how this experience with a past friend shone a light on the way I had changed over the last few years. Maybe being ok with other people being at different stages in their lives than you is the first step to understanding and integrating changes that have happened within yourself.