Most of us have someone, at some point in our lives, that we looked up to. It could be an older relative with the big house that no one else in the family has, a teacher who has the respect of all the students, the dude down the street that has all the girls chasing him, etc. Someone has something in life that we want and we secretly wish we had whatever it is that they have. We try to figure out what we have to do to be like them. We want to follow in their footsteps. That seems logical enough because everyone has been there. I learned a lesson about wanting what others have when I was in the elementary school and it’s a lesson I continue to share at the age of 40.
When I was in 6th grade, there was a new girl that joined our 5th grade. This girl was gorgeous. Even at that young age, she was developed. She had breasts, a butt, and the attention of everyone (including my boyfriend – yes I had a boyfriend in 6th grade); yet she seemed to keep to herself and I never saw her actually talk to anyone. She was mysterious to me and I wanted to be like her, but I had short comings. My too short hair wasn’t long and bouncy enough. My barely there boobs and non-existent butt would need the type of artificial additives insecure women purchase today to fit in. I wasn’t willing to do all that. Instead, I watched her silently move down the halls as everyone seemed to do double takes at her beauty.
During a break from school, I was passing by the big floor model tv and saw her face posted briefly. I was thinking to myself how much this girl had it going on so much and now she was even on tv. I was so amazed that I didn’t hear what was being said, I was just captivated that the girl I admired was on tv. I finally allowed my ears to tune in as I sat to see what wonderful thing she had done to be able to grace the news. She was dead. Not only was she dead, the reporter informed me that her life was taken by her step father who had been molesting her. Shock, disbelief, horror, pain, and sadness punched me right in the gut. I wanted to be this girl so bad, yet I had no idea she had it so bad. While I secretly longed for her life, she probably just wanted a life like mine. From that moment, I learned to never want to trade places with anyone else.
Throughout my life from that early life lesson, I’ve seen this story repeated unfortunately many times with different scenarios. Yet, the plot is always the same, I believe a person has “this” particular life, then I find out that they really have “that” type of life. As a social worker, I encountered people that no one would even expect have the internal issues that they have experienced. As a trusted friend, I’ve held the secrets of people who trust me with shame they don’t know how to handle because everyone else believes they have the perfect life and they do not want to disappoint those looking in.
No matter what your journey has been, know that your journey is for you. Don’t wish to trade places with someone else because you have no idea what that person’s struggles are. Just because someone seems happier than you, has a better marriage than you, has children that are more polite than you, are loved more than you; doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to switch places with you because what you perceive about them is not their truth. Live your journey, make your own path, and leave your own footprints.