I had a good Sunday, last week. It was a perfectly balanced day, beginning with four hours of study and ending with wine and pasta. And all of us are well versed with 2am wine thoughts, aren’t we? Dreamy, preachy and ending in tears and smiles simultaneously. But this isn’t one of those thought posts. I just wanted to boast about having had a brilliant Sunday. Now that that’s settled, we can move on.
So, I was driving to class the other day, running late from the gym as usual when I noticed I was running out of gas and I’d have to refuel on my way home. My on-my-way-home time is the time I get violently hungry and don’t want to stop until I’m at my dining table, cutlery in hand. I pondered over pushing it to the next morning but the thought of having to wake up 10 minutes earlier than usual wasn’t quite appealing. And while worrying about the petrol pump detour, I reached college only to see that my usual parking spot was taken. I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that my mood took quite an unpleasant turn- much like my car which enjoys being parked in the shade. Annoyed, I drove further, circled around few spots like a hawk and finally found some space between another car and a small shack on the footpath. While gathering my things and getting out, I noticed the shack belong to a mochi. He was scantily clad in a vest and shorts and was clearing out his little place under the glow of a single, bare light-bulb and putting things away so that he could make his bed because it also doubled up as his home. And seeing this, I felt like the silliest person alive. All the anger regarding my petty problems ebbed away and I made my way to class with a mixture of guilt and anxiety brewing in my stomach.
Before you run away believing that this is another post about being grateful for undeserved privileges, let me clarify that it is not- though they may make occasional appearances in various forms in the near or distant future. This post is about relativity and comparisons.
Being a single child, I have been showered with gifts and blessings all my life. And one of the greatest of them all has been the lack of comparisons I’ve (not) been subjected to. I’m not quite sure about how relevant sibling comparisons are in today’s day and age but when I was younger, I heard my friends whine about them being compared to their (mostly older) siblings and taunted for their inability to match up to their standards especially before an important exam and after aforementioned exams results had been declared. Consequently, I absolutely detest comparisons. They’re never relevant and almost always, completely impossible like trying to pit a car against a truck- they’re made for different things! But after feeling that guilt and anxiety the other day, I can say that a few things have changed about the way I think.
None of us are strangers to pain. We’ve felt it in our own way and we’ve felt it more often than we’d have liked to. Sometimes, we decide to confide the cause of our pain in a few trusted people. And usually, we receive one of the two responses- “Aww, you’ll be fine” or “Get over it”. Maybe in not so many words but that’s about the essence of it. And I’m not okay with the latter response. It is usually followed by “Do you know what happened to me?” or “this is nothing, XYZ has seen worse”. Let’s make everything relative, shall we? Your stomach is aching but that guy there has phantom pains from having his foot amputated. Why in the world are you complaining about your stomach? Deal with it. You had to skip breakfast today and your mean little boss delayed your lunch? Well, kids in Africa are starving so deal with it. Oh, come on! Just because one person’s suffering is on a larger scale, the pain felt by you cannot be dismissed. There is always going to be someone who is more hurt or has been victim to a worse fate than you have but if that’s the view we keep taking, we’re never going to be able to do justice to our suffering. I stand by line of thought whole-heartedly. But sometimes, just sometimes, we tend to give our pain a little more importance than it deserves and then it’s time to be a little relative. Sometimes, a little relativity helps to put things into perspective.
That pit of guilt and anxiety made me chastise myself a little. Why in the world was I worrying about a silly thing like having to wake up 10 minutes early to gas up my car? It seemed like the end of the world then but now it’s just silly. This helped me take a step back and really look at the bigger picture. What is 10 extra minutes in the scheme of things? Hardly anything. Rather that than running out of fuel in the middle of rush hour traffic, isn’t it? Being relative has its perks. It is also a source of great strength if utilized correctly. If he can get through an eye surgery just fine then you can definitely recover from that headache, right? If Mr. Mochi can battle the mosquitoes at night, I could surely get dinner a few minutes later than usual. It’s so easy to feel insignificant but there’s a beacon of hope waiting right there for us. And it’s time to use these comparisons to draw strength from.
Comparisons are an inevitable part of life. We’ve grown up listening to them and if you’re unfortunate, your college might even have relative grading. Which seems all good when your friends claim to be equally unprepared but suddenly, that one idiot decides to outperform everyone else by leaps and bounds you’re just standing there holding that 7/10 which you would’ve gotten anyway- relative grading or not. Only, now you’re just feeling really bad about yourself because someone got a 10 and you’re trying to come up with Innovative Explanation #47 to give to the parents at home. But hey, that 7 was happening anyway, right? At the end, we all just get what we deserve. But that’s a post of another day.
So the next time you are subject to comparison, you can draw strength from it and work super hard and maybe become (better than?) the person you’re being compared to. Or you can decide to say ‘screw you’ to the world and have a wonderful Sunday. Or do both. Whoever said learning and wine were mutually exclusive?