Comparing your success to someone else’s success is a slow descent into hellfire, not unlike doing your laundry. Exclusively when, like me, your washer and dryer are in a deep dark pit beneath the shared apartment you’re renting.
I’ve fallen down the steps and blindly fondled cobwebs like it’s my job (note: would be a weird job). As pictured in the mystery cabinet above, I’ve also found hoards of empty Reese’s Pieces wrappers. So, alongside the handsy ghost children, and 12-beers-too-many scarecrow (also shown above), E.T. must be in and among the shadows.
IN AND AMONG.
It’s three distinct floors of hand splaying, tumbling into darkness. How does this relate to the whole comparing your success thing? Well when I start to compare, it’s much the same process, with extra splaying.
Let’s say, my writing gets published, and I’m proud, but then I learn that someone else I know or “know” is producing a damn movie, signing a book deal, or unicycling across South America in NatGeo’s next big bio-pic. And so I begin to descend into the waterlogged basement of my brain.
For just a moment, I crack open that door in my mind. The first flight of steps brings casual self-doubt. I peek around the corner and head down the second flight, denouncing my own accomplishments. The third floor, pitch black, is self-loathing. Why did I ever think I had talent? I can’t even ride a unicycle.
Then, while lugging a roughly me-sized hamper of dirty clothes and using my phone as a flashlight, I flip the light switch. Now I can see the room for what it is: cold, creepy, and home to a cardboard box filled with 25 pounds of lint. More importantly, it’s way overcrowded.
If the basement is my brain, then it’s already filled with story fragments, dark humor, strange wonderment, regret, fear, and did I mention the lint? There is literally no room for the doubt to settle in.
So I wash my clothes, a redemptive act in and of itself, then walk up and out to celebrate those amazing humans and their success stories. Naturally, I’ll be back in the basement again with more doubt and dirty clothes, but I remind myself that those feelings pass, and if not, I’ll eject them, because there’s only enough room and time for a short visit.