A Human Pastime As Old As Time

biplaneCollege reunion season is upon us, and teaser “class notes” containing updates from former classmates show up in our mailbox. Clearly an effort to entice us to attend the reunion, I sometimes wonder if class notes have the opposite effect.

You see, I read the personal summaries submitted by other, incredibly talented alums and ask, “What do I have in common with these people anymore?” Or, on hormone-enriched days, I think, “How did my life get to be so boring when everyone else is clearly living in the more exciting, fast lane?!?”

I know that comparing one’s self to others is simply part of the human condition, almost a pastime for some. Freedictionary.com tells us that a pastime is “an activity that occupies one’s spare time pleasantly.” For me, the “comparison game” is not a pleasant activity and something I’m able to side step most of the time.

But, reunions (or weddings or graduations) have a way of sucking you into that black hole of comparing yourself to the other guy/gal.

Case in point – here’s an update from one classmate:

I definitely plan to attend the reunion, but in the meantime … it has been a great year! I climbed Kilimanjaro in January … traveled to Paris in July to work for the French government on the search for the black boxes from the Air France flight that crashed over the Atlantic Ocean … in September, I bought and flew home my second airplane, an experimental sport biplane (fully acrobatic!) … then shoulder surgery in December. See you all in June!

What do I say to this person when I bump into them at the reunion cocktail party (because I certainly would not seek them out)? “How was the view from the top of  that mountain you climbed?” … “Were you able to solve the airline mystery that’s baffled the world?” …”Any turbulence on the way to the U.S. as you piloted your own plane home?”

This post may come off as written by a whiny, insecure and PMSing Elaine. That may be true. (What’s also true is that I’m genuinely satisfied with my life 11.5 months out of the year.)

Yet, I’m genuinely perplexed about why we (cause I know I’m not alone in this) have a need to compare/contrast and find ourselves on the losing end. It’s true in the sandbox (“Hey – your bucket is bigger than mine. No fair!”); in school (“What’s your SAT score? Oh, mine? It’s 1600″); at work (“Why does Samantha get the bigger office when we both have the same job?”); and in retirement (“My little grandson is SO smart, he was elected president of his nursery school class.”) And don’t even get me started on how women compare/contrast about our appearances!!

Anyone else fall victim to the comparison game? Advice on how to get out of this lose-lose activity?


  • Sharon Says:
    5-13-2010 06:54:38

    Elaine, I hear you. This is as bad as the Christmas letter that is a single-spaced page long list of perfection. “All that glitters is not gold.” I don’t take any of it to heart any more and skim anything that looks like this so I get the high points. On any given day I am doing the best I can. At the end of the day I think that is what matters.

    Post a comment:
    Wonder why you have to provide your name and email to leave a comment? We did, too! It's a preventive measure so that automated robots don't inundate our blog with unwanted spam. As fellow Wise Women, we value your privacy. We will not sell/rent/divulge your contact information. Honest!

    I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters
    Oprah Winfrey

    Subscribe to the Coffee Chat

    Join the conversation and savor your connection with other women ...
    Life happens when you share

    Subscribe via e-mail:

    RSS Subscribe via RSS