Green Grass and Tater Tots

They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Standing in my current patch of weeds, dog shit, and broken glass, the lawns of most people I know certainly look like much more pleasant places to be.

I’m in the midst of a full-bore life transition. Creating my next act. While I’m excited and optimistic for my future, my present sucks. I’ve been battered by a series of unexpected changes and losses over the past few years — with another big one set to come. I’ve been at sea in a rowboat in the middle of a hurricane, bailing out water with a teaspoon as waves keep crashing over me. And that was before a once-in-a-century pandemic was thrown into the mix.

To be honest, a major change has been long overdue. When the universe finally got fed up with my bitching and whining and dawdling, it sent a storm to shake me out of my lazy complacency.

And it worked. I have a vision and I’m doggedly pressing forward. But my current situation is anything but fun. I can’t remember the last time I had a sense of being in any sort of comfort zone.

Yet recently I’ve been surprised to hear some people say they envy me. Not the shit show part, but the vision — and my willingness and ability to take risks and reinvent myself.

Two college friends I’ve recently reconnected with have done well for themselves. Established careers, nice homes, well-funded retirement plans. I wouldn’t mind having those things; they clearly offer a measure of security and stability. I envy the foundation they have, the lack of uncertainty.

Yet they see the freedom and flexibility of my life path — both in the past and going forward — and lament how linear their lives have been. I’ve had many jobs since college; I master a role, get bored, and need new challenges. I’ve talked my way into jobs and figured out how to do them on the fly. I’ve worked in a variety of sectors — and pulled out of the working world to pursue independent projects. There’s so many things I want to learn about, so much I want to see and do. My life hasn’t been stable, but I certainly haven’t been bored.

My friends each chose a path shortly after school and stuck with it. I look at their trove of possessions and imagine their bulging bank accounts and think, “Hmmm, that must be nice.”

But they hear about the jobs I’ve had, the places I’ve lived, my trove of experiences, the ideas I have for this next chapter, and they think, “Gee, you’ve had so many different lives, done so much. And I’ve lived my life in one dimension.” And they sound bereft, wistful, a little disappointed in themselves.

The idea behind the grass always being greener is how we endlessly compare ourselves to others and think we come up short. As I’ve bounced around life trying to feed my insatiable interests, I’ve looked at others with their “responsible” grown-ass lives and thought, “What the hell am I doing?”

But then I realize… I’m doing me. Life is the biggest buffet we’ll ever encounter. I don’t want to fill my plate with meatloaf and tater tots over and over again till I drop. I want to try a few bites of everything!

My friends are looking at their predictable plates of food and thinking, “I want more than this.”

Good! I’m proud of them.

And I’m proud of me. For following my own path.

And my current patch of weeds doesn’t seem so bad after all.

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