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Life just doesn’t live up

india Updated: May 28, 2013 22:33 IST

"I feel like I haven't achieved enough. I look around at my peers and feel so behind." People think they need one or more of the following: more degrees, a house they own, a higher salary, a better job title (people their age are now vice president, managing director, editor, partner, and they're just an associate). Add to that the whole discussion about marriage and kids - the "personal life achievements" they might lack.

This syndrome especially affects people in the 30s and 40s (and especially so around milestone birthdays). They made it through the existential "what am I going to do with my life?" phase that so often hits those in their 20s. And they move immediately onto: I'm on the right track, but I'm not far enough along.

Humans are competitive and, to a certain extent, we've always been comparing ourselves to our peers, but social media has made that "peer group" feel a lot bigger. I blame Facebook.

We get status updates every few minutes. The start of summer is peak season for weddings and graduation ceremonies, not to mention exotic vacations, and all those photos get posted on Facebook. There's Twitter with everyone's witty thoughts and Pinterest and Tumblr for clever home renovation ideas and better dinner recipes.

My father hammered into me as a kid that there's always greater and lesser. Most of us know that, of course, but we seem to thrive on pressure. We're a generation that grew up wanting top grades and knowing where we ranked in our classes. We understand achievement.

The problem is that everyone is all over the map in their 30s and 40s with their careers and personal lives. It's harder to know what success looks like, but, as one friend put it bluntly recently: "I don't just feel the pressure to succeed, I feel the pressure to be young and successful."

Life is not a race. Most people make it to 40s (and beyond). Lot of people on this forum would probably tell 30-year olds to relax and enjoy their youth while they have it. And frankly, when you are in a generation that will probably still be working well into theirs 60s and maybe even 70s, we'll probably all make president (or at least senior vice president) by the end.

I do pause throughout the year and think of people around my age who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. War is real, even if we too easily forget it. Casualties are real. Missing limbs are real. Broken marriages and depression from battle are real.

It's a sobering reminder to us all that a lot of families would give just about anything for one more day or one more week or one more year with a loved one. It makes these silly thoughts about not being at the "right place" in life by a certain age sound ridiculous. It's a reminder that sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning and walking out the door is an achievement in itself, one that we should be a lot more thankful for.

The Guardian