The Thing vs. The Idea of “The Thing”

I’m learning that sometimes the idea of something greatly surpasses the actuality of whatever you’re idealizing.  I don’t know if it’s human nature or just the nature of an English major to romanticize things, but I do it quite often.  Constantly daydreaming, imagining, wondering about what could be, what it would be like if I had done x or differently, or how much better life would be if this one thing could just happen.

On a small scale, this is ok.  It drives you to want to do better and achieve greater things.  When your ideas and dreams become skewed, though, you have a problem.  A friend of mine showed me this inspirational quote: “It’s not about having what you want, but wanting what you have.”  I think this is extremely important to keep in mind.  We live in a society that wants immediate gratification.  When something is broken, we don’t fix it.  We throw it out and buy a new one.  If you don’t have the latest and greatest phone/car/wardrobe, you’re considered lesser-than.  Status is everything.  And this is nothing new, it just manifests itself in different ways than it has in centuries past.

As someone living with depression and anxiety, it is easy to fall into the trap of jealousy and envy.  Not only that, but it is also easy to have a skewed vision of  your own life, belittling your experiences and traits as trivial.  Especially in the age of social media; everyone posts photos and words that portray their best selves, their ideal selves, but that is not always reality.  However, it is hard to remember that when you are surrounded by photos of people who are “#blessed” and “so lucky to be/have/live in (insert really cool thing/place).”  You start to wonder, “Hmm, maybe if I went to that school / had a significant other / became friends with her / joined that organization, I’d be happier.  Maybe I’d have a life as cool as theirs.”  It is almost ridiculous how many different things there are to be jealous of in today’s day and age.  I would be a hypocrite if I said that I did not select specific photos to post on social media which I think will get the most likes, or try to compose the wittiest tweets, but I think social media does more harm than good for the most part.

I have a good life.  I have a roof over my head, clothes in my closet, food on my plate, and the opportunity to learn at a reputable institution.  Why, then, would I want anything else?  What else could I possibly need?  What could possibly cause this unhappiness and dissatisfaction with my life?

For a long time, I dreamed of traveling somewhere far, far away.  I thought it would be incredible, eye-opening, and all things good.  And it was.  But you don’t daydream about the language barriers, the empty bank accounts, or the loneliness that comes with leaving your home and all things familiar.

Or, when I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to be older.  I thought when I grew up I’d be prettier, smarter, cooler, skinnier, and just all-around better.  Little did I know at ten years old what twenty would be like.  I remember my Dad telling me not to wish away my childhood, that it would be gone before I knew it, and I’d wish I hadn’t tried to grow up so quickly.  He was right.

I guess this post is a reminder to look at the glass as half-full.  Appreciate what you have while you have it, and don’t try and wish it away.  The grass is not always greener on the other side.  I know that is an overused cliché, but it does a decent job of summing up what I am trying to say.  It’s easy to get swept up in the here-and-now generation, where everything always has to be shiny and new.

You are important, your experiences matter, and you do not need 100+ likes on an Instagram photo to validate your existence.  Keep on daydreaming and setting goals, but live in the here and now.  We have a very short time here on Earth to try and make a difference, and I hope someone, somewhere, benefits from reading this post.

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