I've been thinking a lot lately about how competition relates to our lives. When we're in school, life is all about who you sit by at lunch and who has the latest pair of Girbau jeans (I know this is way uncool these days, but I wanted a pair SO badly). Competition, right? College is fun because you can break free of the little world you were in and explore a whole new territory. The only competition in college is who's wearing the sweats with the most holes to class, or who smells like stale beer from the night before. Then you enter the "real" world - finding a job, a mate, a place to live, maybe upgrading the old junker you've been driving around because you have a "real" paycheck. You know the rest: marraige, babies, homes, cars; not necessarily in order. What I don't like about this "phase" in our lives is that it feels like everyone is competing. There. I said it. No one ever wants to admit this, but deep down, I think every one of us has a little (for some it's not so little) part that wants to be at the top of the totem pole amongst the group of people they associate with. Don't get me wrong, a little competition can be a healthy thing. We have to have something to work toward, and goals are productive and healthy. What I mean is, why do people get so concerned about what the other guy is doing? Why not enjoy what we ourselves are doing? It drives me crazy when people want to know "too much" i.e. how much do you make? How much did you pay for this or that? How much does your kid weigh? Are you sure you aren't having twins? Honestly, people can be so insensitve (not to mention nosy) sometimes. When I'm faced with these questions, I want to ask, what difference does it make? How will knowing these things affect your life? My point is, wouldn't it be fun if we could all just live our lives, do what's best for our own families and not worry about what everyone else is doing? Our lives aren't a materialistic competition. Friendships and family are too important to let the rest get in the way. It's more fun to be happy for each other and do our own thing.

The thing about all of this is that I was one of those people who used to care about materialism. I admit it. I wanted the fancy degree, the hot car, the big house, the best looking children (well, okay, I do have the prettiest baby I've ever seen, but that's because I married well). It's taken me years of tragedy, miracles and mistakes to realize that the rest doesn't matter. What I know now is that it's okay, in fact even healthy, to want things, but it's also okay to not have them. Posessions don't make us who we are and shouldn't define our lives.

The following has carried me since I was a child, and I feel like it's appropriate here (thanks for reminding me of this today, Mom, God bless you):

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
You learn that love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't mean security.
And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents are promises.
You begin to accept your defeats with the your head up and your eyes ahead; with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
You learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans, and futures have a way of falling down mid-flight.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure, that you really are strong, and that you really do have worth.
And with every goodbye, you learn.

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