You’re Not Behind; You’re Just on Your Own Path

Man on a Path

“To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” ~Sven Goran Eriksson

Endlessly comparing ourselves to others and idealizing their best qualities while underestimating our own are self-defeating behaviors, and they hurt our self-esteem. Yet in the competitive nature of our world, many of us do this.

As a result of my own self-defeating thoughts, throughout my life, I’ve repeatedly felt like I was five years behind where I “should” be.

After high school graduation, many of my peers went away to school and into a new wave of social experiences.

I stayed home, worked, and went to see a lot of bands play, and when I started gaining more life experience of my own, I felt like I was in catch-up mode and ashamed that I hadn’t gotten some of these experiences out of the way earlier.

I had a rocky college career, bouncing between, in, and out of schools, finally completing my English degree when I was twenty-five and feeling absolutely no further toward a career than I had before I’d started.

Attracted to web development because it offered the possibility of working remotely, I learned on the side and eventually landed a job at a small web shop. I was twenty-eight, but felt behind compared to those who had their career paths charted early on, and stacked resumes.

I decided to start freelancing with only one solid client and hoped that I’d be able to sustain myself enough to stay location independent.

After a few years of this, though I still loved the flexibility freelancing offered, I started feeling the need for my work to not only provide for myself, but to also contribute something positive to the world. Now in my mid thirties, I feel like I need to reevaluate again, but compared to others whom are solidifying relationships and buying property, I feel behind.

In the examples above, I’m comparing my path to others that aren’t my own.

If you can relate, try reframing these thoughts as a more accurate reflection of yourself and celebration of your own personal journey.

What did you want? Often when we compare ourselves to others, we are comparing ourselves to an ideal that might appear to be favored by society, media, or whatever, but it’s really not that interesting to us.

After high school, I remember distinctly not wanting to go away to school and thinking dorm life was a manufactured environment that didn’t represent real life. I wanted to hang out with my best friend and go see live music.

As I’ve become more self-aware, I’ve realized my anti-dorming position probably reflected my high levels of social anxiety and that the experience, though difficult at times, would have had a positive impact, though I would have probably missed a lot of awesome shows.

What you wanted from life then might not be what you want now, and that’s okay because throughout life, we change and gain insight. The decisions you made likely reflected where you were in life at that point. Maybe it was the “right” decision or maybe it wasn’t, but celebrate yourself either way.

Look at the positive side of your life path. Read between the lines and don’t focus on the negatives of what you didn’t do.

When I was fourteen, my father took me to England for a couple weeks and it left me with a lasting desire to enjoy traveling beyond the confines of the “paid time off” policies at many jobs in the United States.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of school, so it’s probably no surprise that while I bounced between academic institutions, I also spent some of that time period traveling abroad and hence, nurturing and developing a huge part of who I am.

Choices made to appease what you perceive others think you should be doing, rather than what nurtures you, are self-negating. And though they may seem like shortcuts, they will often not bring you any closer to fulfillment.

Focus on what your unique cocktail of nurture and nature enabled you to accomplish.

While others found their career path early, I was sweating inside the back of a 3,000-cubic-foot truck, working 5am merchandising shifts at a major retailer with a group of people that ended up feeling like a family, and I know I will stay in touch with some of them for the rest of my life.

The work felt honest and the people even better, and those are two of the most valuable things in life to me.

While others were sculpting their career, networking, and building relationships, spurred on by my earlier travels, I started to freelance and accomplished a lifelong dream of working remotely abroad.

I took an extended trip to Europe and two years later, did the same thing in South America. While my career development suffered most likely, accomplishing this goal was a priority, and I created memories that I will always cherish.

Take a moment and you can probably think about when you took a less traveled road and accomplished something beautiful.

Celebrate what you love about your personality and how those qualities have contributed to your life experience.

It’s easy to confuse what you want to work on with those qualities that you’re quite happy with.

If I go to a large social gathering, the introvert in me will spend time processing, observing, and taking everything in. I can be pretty quiet initially, but I’m okay with this because the attributes that make me identify as an introvert also have enabled me to form deep friendships, be sensitive to others and the world around me, and to feel on a very deep level.

At that same social gathering, I might be hanging out in a small group listening when I think of a relevant story that I’d love to share, but social anxiety renders me quiet because I’m afraid my storytelling will not hold their attention.

Introversion and social anxiety can sometimes be confused, but they are different concepts. Being introverted has enabled me to experience life in a unique way, but only social anxiety has held me back at times from participating in life like I want to.

Sometimes, two aspects of yourself produce similar symptoms. When you make the decision to work on a behavior, make sure that you’re targeting the right one.

I still catch my mind comparing myself to the ideals we are constantly subjected to by society and feeling like I will never catch up. But then I center myself and realize I’m comparing myself to an ideal that is not necessarily applicable to me, and that I need to stay true to my own path. Life is much more personal, complex, and nuanced.

Perhaps there are times when you feel five years behind. But really, you’re constantly learning about yourself and sculpting a life that is a reflection of that, and that’s exactly where you need to be.

Celebrate the path of others but most importantly, celebrate your own, because you’ve likely been living a pretty honest existence all along.

Photo by h.koppdelaney

About Kevin Sandness

Kevin lives in Oakland, CA. He enjoys connection, culture, calm and chaos and things that make the world seem small. He might blog in the future, or he might not, but if he does, it will live at

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  • T

    Kevin thanks for the post. I am currently in a place in life where I feel like I’m years behind everyone else which bothers me. But at the same time I have never been someone who was money driven and even career driven. I hoped one day I would be able to find some form of work that would make me feel like my life has a purpose. But sadly that hasn’t happened, so the result being I’m in a strange limbo, a void where making any form of decisions seem extremely difficult. Travel is the only thing that I aspire for but then the thoughts about age, financial stability etc..make me question where my head is at and where the hell my life is leading to.
    I am pleased that despite everything you have such a positive outlook and enjoying the today.
    I shall try and take a page from your book and endeavour to accept myself rather than constantly try to fight this self inflicted inner turmoil.
    Thanks for your post once again.

  • Hellers

    Wow, I woke up today and glanced at my facebook (which I need to stop doing, not a great way to start my day I know) and felt exactly this, feeling so far behind from everyone else out there and comparing my current path to others who have followed their own paths…I really need it to read this today, to awaken my awareness, so thank you for your post!

  • Stephanie

    I’m in a similar situation, Kevin, so your article is quite a propos 🙂 I moved back home after spending a long time abroad, and am slowly building up both my confidence and portfolio (no easy task) as I try to be the artist I should’ve tried to be from the beginning. Most of my friends are quite a ways down the college>>career>>marriage>>mortgage>>family route, and chronologically speaking I’m three loooong steps behind. But like you, I’m doing my best to focus on continuing down my own path, rather than look on at the paths others have made. Thank you!

  • Sarah

    Lori, This post and the other for today (The Labels We Take On: …) were fantastic! Wow, not the usual stuff being posted on so many other sites … These address the beauty of being different and celebrate the more unusual paths … I so enjoyed both posts. I want to thank the authors … and you for recognizing their uniqueness! I am more encouraged than ever! …Thank you for all of your uplifting posts! Love, joy, good health and great abundance to you! ~ Sarah

  • Erin

    Great article, Kevin! I would say I am experiencing something extremely similar, and have been saying much of what you have said in this article. Always nice to read something from someone who has the same thoughts and (similar) experiences as I do.

  • Audrey Meyer

    Love the notion of not comparing ourselves to an ideal that is not necessarily applicable to us–brilliant! Loved the post, your honesty, transparency and wisdom. Thanks for that–I needed to hear it.

  • Not Brunette

    I’m also in my mid-30s, and I totally catch myself doing this! I totally don’t feel like I am where I “should” be as far as career and money. I spent most of my 20s after college traveling the USA, socializing with as many interesting people from all walks of life as I could, and not “building my resume”. It’s not that I didn’t seriously try: I had 2 corporate jobs, which I quickly got promoted at and bored with, and I tested in highly to government job.
    I’ve come to realize that I have a chronically short attention span, a high need for novelty/learning new things, and am not particularly money driven beyond my basic bills.

    I am finally starting to use my “weaknesses” as strengths, and to capitalize on my experiences communicating with diverse kinds of people and having a broad range of general internet related skills (a bit of webdesign, video production, writing, social media, graphic design, etc- though I’m not “expert” at any one thing). I am somehow muddling through.
    I guess I’ve just lived my life by discovering who I am not … and although I think I “set back” my “career” by 10 years, at least I have some good stories, and more wisdom and self-knowledge because of it.

  • Johanna_Galt

    I can relate to this SO much. I compare myself to others a lot and it just makes me feel bad about myself. Lately when I catch myself doing it, I’ve started asking, “but are you happy?” to myself. You know what? The answer is yes! This has been a nice realization, because although my life may not be what I think it “should” be or quite what others’ lives are, it is MY life and I’m happy with where I am right now and WHO I am right now. I’m not sure what else I could ask for 🙂

  • Nik Jones

    This is brilliant, thank you for sharing Kevin. It’s great to know I’m not on my own here. I’m mid 30s, a succession of failed relationships, nowhere really to call my own, and a career path I’m trying to get away from. BUT…..all the things I’ve done, I’ve done in my own time, trying to find the truthful paths throughout. I hadn’t realised it until more recently that I’m constantly trying to find the truth in all situations, the real deep down stuff that means more than what society dictates as ‘the norm’ and that’s what has been delaying me, but that’s ok, because that’s who I am and I’ve had some really awesomely deep times because of that. No regrets. Onward!

  • ReTina ReIgnites Lives

    This is an Outstanding article!

  • ReTina ReIgnites Lives

    Will you add a “press this” function to this blog please?

  • I love this. I’ve never done anything in my life on anyone else’s schedule. I’ve always been a late bloomer. In my mid-40’s, a long term relationship still eludes me. This is the thing I judge myself about the most. There MUST be something wrong with me that this hasn’ t happened, right?

    In terms of career, I DID do the Things You’re Supposed to Do to find a “solid career”, etc and I’m not sure I’m really that happy with the solidity of it. I also bought a house because that’s a good investment, right? But I’m not sure it was the best decision for me. So, to people who think they’re “behind” because they don’t have a Career or a House. Let me tell you: those of us who do often envy those of you who don’t. There’s not as much travel for us, for instance. And I try to remember that my singlehood has given me opportunities that people in LTR’s might not have had. My path of love has been crazy and fun and adventurous and eye-opening.

    I’m in the Oakland/Berkeley area, too, so maybe we’ll run into one another at a party and be introverted together 😉

  • Thanks so much, Sarah! I appreciate your compliment on the work that goes on “behind the scenes,” and I’m glad you enjoyed today’s posts. (And thank you again, Kevin, for sharing this!)

  • Sal

    Thank you so much for this. I’m 32 and gave up a promising media career (earning almost 4 times what I am now). I had some amazing times (and some not amazing) and there are times when I look at my peers and go ‘what did I do?!’ I’ve started to realise though that what I DID was LIVE, and now the plan is to continually downsize till I can live in a little self made home living as simple a life as possible.

  • erick trammel

    This is quite the post Kevin! Thank you very much!

  • Karenina-SF

    I did the same thing… staying behind for community college, then an illness, then finishing up college commuting. This compounded by a food addiction that rendered me to isolation and fear for decades. My path, unfortunately, has a lot of wasted years of compulsive / addictive eating. If I dwell on it, I become overwhelmed. Now, I see relish the present and the recovery… I’m not where I envisioned I’d be… but I am so much further than where I was. Plus, having expectations like that is a recipe for disappointment. Thank you for your post.

  • Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  • You’re very welcome. I can definitely relate to having difficulty making decisions. We are constantly being pushed and pulled in different directions, and it’s difficult sometimes to separate the noise from what’s applicable to us. We all find our purpose in different areas, and that can change as time goes on.

  • You’re welcome. Sometimes when we reframe our thoughts, we realize it’s an unfair comparison because we are a completely different person. Best wishes to you.

  • You’re welcome! It sounds like you’re on an authentic path. Life is fluid and weird like that. Good luck on your exciting journey!

  • I’m glad you enjoyed it Nik. I can definitely relate to feeling the need to be real and true to myself. I feel like as long as I’m doing that, I will be ok. Adjust and tinker. Some things work out. Some things won’t, but at least I’m acknowledging myself, and that’s something I find value in.

  • I’m glad it resonated with you!

  • Thanks Audrey. I’m really glad you connected with it.

  • It’s a constant battle sometimes, but it sounds like you’re asking the right questions, and that you can answer ‘yes’ to those questions means you’re doing really great! Celebrate who YOU are : ).

  • I’m happy you were able to connect with the article. It’s always nice to know that others can get where you’re coming from.

  • Thanks Sarah! I’m glad you liked the post. And thank you Lori for allowing me to share it.

  • It’s awesome you’re focused on the present. Focus on the positives of where you are now and the positive things you have done. Constant comparisons are tough because lots of times we tend to frame those comparisons through a lens of perfection, and that’s not always accurate. You’re very welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Cheers for late bloomers. Life is fluid and needs and wants are ever changing. It’s tough to feed all those needs which is why the lives of others seem so appealing sometimes. I like to think that we are on a fulcrum, and when we start falling to one side, it just means we need to re-evaluate some stuff and adjust.

    I’m really good at being introverted at parties.

  • I can relate. I like the idea of using “weaknesses” as strengths. Those “weaknesses” are kind of your best assets sometimes. You sound pretty self aware, and you sound like you know what feeds you. So not only is your present authentic, you’ve already carved out a ton of great stories and memories just by doing your own direction.

  • sul

    that was excellent… chicken soup for my soul. i appreciate that so much, esp at this time

  • You’re very welcome. I can relate to what you wrote. I’ve moved back home a couple times. It sounds you’re where you need to be. Maybe you feel behind, but I bet you had a ton of amazing experiences abroad that you never would have gotten if you had gone down another path and perhaps that was a part of you that you needed to pay attention to.

  • Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Beautiful Soul

    hi kevin….thanks for this post…its nice to know that i am not alone in this world…i see myself in thi post..yes sometimes i thought i am behind..but the truth is we have different days to shine…and through dark times…i am able to see my light…through trials and hardship, thats where i got my strength.Introvert?…yes im
    different from the rest..and i accept myself for what i am…..i think an act differently from
    the rest…a unique individual yet lots of strenth…keep posting kevin…..

  • Cabean

    This article is chock full of so much awesome, I do not know where to begin. First, thank you for sharing your story. It’s always comforting to realise that others have walked similar paths to yours, and have found their way. As I read, there was so much I could relate to, so many thoughts that mirror some I’ve had over the years, just more eloquently expressed 🙂
    Thanks again and all the best.

  • B

    Kevin, thanks so much for sharing these thoughts. I feel exactly this. I did not go to college right out of high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In my late twenties I decided to go back for computer programming, and graduated in my early thirties. I feel like I’m ten years behind where I need to be, and it’s very discouraging. I also have similar pressures and challenges in social situations. Listening, analyzing, but afraid to speak my mind. There are times I’ve ‘adopted’ behaviors at the suggestions of others, only to find that it just wasn’t really me. And when you do that for years at a time, it’s easy to lose who you really are. These past few years for me have been a lot about rediscovering who I really am, and your post is very encouraging to me. I sometimes find it hard to accept where I am in life, especially knowing some of the things I wanted to accomplish but had to put on hold because life got in the way. It’s good to know that there are others that have felt this barrier of being ‘behind,’ and have been able to get past it. Thanks, B.

  • Talya Price

    You know I sometimes think this way. I am an freelance English teacher in Poland and I feel that I am so behind in getting my acting career off the ground. I sometimes wished that I studied theater in university, that I was able to express myself. I sometimes wish that I had enough money or an opportunity to attend a theater school. But I know that I can’t compare myself to other people, I am on my own path in life. My dreams will come true.

  • Rosemarie

    Thank you Kevin for this article. I have always felt like I was on a different path. I am learning to accept that the different drummer I’m marching to has no intention of conforming. Staying on one’s own path takes courage. This article is a good reminder to celebrate who I am and what I have to offer. I sometimes think about being behind, but I see how gradually everything is working out for the best.

  • genus:[unknown]

    I don’t know man, I still feel like I’m way behind in life. I’m nearly 30, and have no career path (just a dead-end job that I’m no good at and don’t like), no education, no place of my own, no love life, no accomplishments, no direction, no goals, no skills, nothing to offer the world in general. All my friends are getting married and creating things and building lives, while I’m still just the same loser I’ve always been.

  • K

    Exactly what I needed! Thank you so much for sharing and writing this Kevin! And thank you to everyone who shared in the comments. It is a nice feeling to know you are not the only one, although I wish none of us felt this way of course! The quote at the beginning, “to wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are” is a great reminder and wake-up call for me and I will carry that reminder with me. All I can say is thank you, thank you! 🙂

  • Manoj Sethi

    Thank You. I am celebrating my life

    Good One

  • You’re welcome B. Thank you for sharing your story. When I think back about things I didn’t accomplish, I also try to think about the things I did. We are always changing and learning. When reflecting on the past, it’s important to be fair to yourself and the person you were then. I’m glad you’ve found some clarity over the past few years. Best to you on your journey.

  • You’re so welcome Cabean. I’m glad you could connect to it, and I agree, it’s always comforting to know others can relate to how you feel. All the best to you.

  • Beautifully expressed. Thank you for your wonderful thoughts.

  • You’re welcome Rosemarie. I agree staying on your own path takes courage. It’s tough sometimes. Really tough. As long as we try to be honest with ourselves and others, then we will be going in the right direction.

  • You’re welcome. Keep celebrating.

  • You’re welcome Rosemarie. I agree staying on your own path takes courage. It’s tough sometimes. Really tough. As long as we try to be honest with ourselves and others, then we will be going in the right direction

  • Thank YOU for sharing : ) I’m happy you enjoyed it and yes I agree, that quote is a simple but great reminder. Best to you…

  • When evaluating ourselves or our life, it’s important to be fair. That’s tough sometimes. There are times when I feel behind and realize that I don’t even want what’s making me feel inferior. Maybe you don’t want all the things your friends have? But there are also times when I’m inspired and discover something that matters more than it did before. That’s ok. But in order to strive for any personal goal in an honest way, it’s important to care about yourself as well.

  • Hi Talya. Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you have a definite goal. Your experiences are uniquely yours. I wish you the best of luck with accomplishing your dreams.

  • “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.” ~Sven Goran Eriksson

    Loved this! I even tweeted! =D
    It’s pretty much sure that not realizing who we really are and dwelling upon our mistakes brings failure. You presented the whole idea so beautifully.
    Thanks for Sharing!
    Have Fun With Your Life!

  • dee

    winners compare themselves to their goals, losers compare themselves to others

  • Kathy

    Love, love, love this and it seems many can relate to feeling “behind.” I’m almost 50 and just starting on a new career after a midlife career change involving a new degree. Talk about feeling behind! I’ve always been at least 10 or more like 30 steps behind everyone else, but I’ve learned to embrace my slower walk through life. When I start comparing myself to others, I try to remind myself that I’m not behind so much as I am taking the scenic route and enjoying the view! 🙂 I move at my own speed and comparing myself to others won’t change it; it just make me anxious and panicky. Breaking free of my self-imposed expectations and comparisons is the only way to experience any peace for me.
    Thanks so much for the reminder that my pace is just fine.

  • I think the most important thing is to feel good about what you’re doing. I know plenty of people who study just because society tells them to, but the moment they’ve graduated they have no idea what to do next. Some manage to find a job within their area of expertise, but then realize that it’s not really what they want. The point is that living on auto-pilot only avoids the process of introspection and the journey towards finding purpose. I’ve spent a few years at the university myself, but finally admitted to myself that it simply wasn’t the kind of environment I thrive in. I may have no financial security, but I think that’s a myth to begin with; nobody has financial security. And even if it existed, would you sell your passion for security? I believe that when we do what we’re passionate about, and focus on serving the world by adding value, it’s only a matter of time until you attract the resources you need to keep going. We live in a universe of co-operation and co-creation.

  • jongifer

    Hi Kevin!

    Thank you for writing this, it was beautiful! It felt as if you were writing about MY life and telling me that “everything is okay” 🙂

    I am 24 years old, living in Australia, had finished two degrees and never had a stable job for 5 years. But as this may seem as “unfortunate to some” this situation has given me the opportunity to do what I love doing – travelling around the world, making new friends, seeing millions of bands that I love, and even travelling around the world to FOLLOW my favourite bands! (Just got back from Japan 3 days ago to see a concert…)

    However, I never thought that this was ‘wrong’ until I realised that all my friends were married, had children and had stable jobs. But stumbling across your article today has truly blessed my day, and opened up my ideas to realise that this “unconventional” path is not a wrong one at all.

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Kevin. All the best. From J 🙂

  • Diana Yaruro

    Hi Kevin, thank you for the post. I am a 29 year old Hispanic female that constantly feels like I’m not where I should be. I feel like I should have children by now and have a husband but I don’t have neither of those. I am not even sure if that’s what I want. It is good to know that I am not the only one that feels lost sometimes.
    I can identify with you in the whole social anxiety issue. I have very poor social skills but it is because I am painfully shy and my anxiety takes over my life. I let my fears stop me from doing a lot of things such as traveling. I want to travel the world but I always find a reason not to. Do you have any advice about traveling? Did you travel alone and if so, how did you plan these trips? I feel that since I don’t have anyone to go with then what’s the point. Anyway, thank you for the post and good luck in all of your future endeavors.

  • Thank you Sandeep. I’m glad you found value in the words. Best to you.

  • Awesome insights Kathy. Thanks for sharing them. Sometimes when I go hiking, it’s the small, less traveled trails that lead to the most gorgeous views. Keep going at your own speed.

  • Thank you so much for your thoughts Socratez. “…when we do what we’re passionate about, and focus on serving the world by adding value, it’s only a matter of time until you attract the resources you need to keep going…” That’s great insight.

    “…would you sell your passion for security?” I recently had a job offer that tested this very question and in my case, I didn’t take it. This would not be the right decision for everyone, but it was right for me and reflected the person I am right now.

  • I’m glad you could connect with it J. It’s all about what YOU place value on. Sometimes in life, you travel from the center of the bell curve to the fringe, and it takes a bit of time to figure out where you stand. Your path is your own. Keep losing yourself in the music.

  • Hi Diana. I can relate to what you wrote. It is difficult sometimes to separate what we want from what we think we should want. It’s rarely black and white because often there are aspects of polar opposite scenarios that we find attractive, not to mention all the extra noise that seeps in from media, society and people in our lives. But I also think that certain goals or ideals will usually take precedence over others. Try to isolate those, the things you are passionate about, and you might find that other stuff falls into place.

    I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. It has probably appeared at one time or another in nearly every facet of life. I accept that it’s part of me, but I also know that I have and will continue to lessen its impact. I feel good about that. Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and trying to be mindful during the experience has been crucial.

    When I was younger, I traveled with others but recently, I’ve traveled alone. While it’s awesome to have someone to share with when you see a beautiful view on a trail or a rad piece of street art in the city, I find that you are present and open to your surroundings in a unique way when you travel alone. Both ways are wonderful experiences that should be appreciated. If traveling is something you want to do, whether it’s alone or with a friend, you will find value in it, and that’s the only point you need. : )

  • Jessica

    Thanks for the article. It really helps me to know that I am not alone and that there are many other people whose paths aren’t straightforward. I’m 23 years old, and I am still working on both a diploma and an arts degree in Sociology. For years, I berated myself for not going to university straight out of high school, and hated that I needed to continuously take time off from post-secondary to deal with my anorexia. I made many choices in the past in an attempt to catch up with my peers – I decided to apply for a Diploma program knowing it would only take 2 years to complete. I really wanted to go to University, bit I felt that I was ‘too old’ to go back to school. More than anything, I wanted to be seen as successful instead of incapable, dependent and sick.

    After my last hospitalization, I found the courage to maintain a healthy weight and pursue the degree I’ve always wanted. I feel confident in my decision, even though I won’t graduate until I’m nearly 26. However, I still feel awful because I’ve never had a boyfriend – and can’t help but feel flawed.

    It’s frustrating being on a different path, but like you said, it has it’s own merits. In a way, spending 8 years of my life in the throes of Anorexia allowed me to develop a deep sense of empathy, compassion, and a desire to help others.

  • lormitto


    As I am in simillar situation I just wonder how you deal with sense of being worse comparing to others (if you experience it at all). This is my main theme. I make my feeling worse while looking at other people moving forward faster or being far ahead of me at this stage.

    Thank you for this post and discussion as I hit directly my current problem and now i see i am not alone with it.

  • How?

    How do you celebrate the years that put you behind when it was other people who handicapped you and put you behind? Abusive father kept me indoors and would not let me socialize, which wrecked my ability to date and form friendships. Abusive father kept me from attending the right school, which slowed my career. Abusive ex sliced me from my career as retaliation for breaking up with him. Online stalker caused me to hide from the world for ten years and spread lies about me it took more than a decade to correct. Together these people cost me 25 years. I will never catch up with peers who never encountered or experienced these things. I’m nearly 3 decades behind and my art may never be heard or seen.

    How do you celebrate that?


  • Reenie

    I’m in the same position or mindset. I often feel behind from everyone around me because I find myself distracted from finishing college ..Someone my age “should” have been done 6 yrs ago. My desires for how I want my life to lead becomes confusing when I thought i knew the direction of my life but doubts really affect my confidence. I certainly know its geared toward Heath education however that may come about but currently feel very unsure of my path. Only because my focus hasn’t been in school as I’m learning things that contradict my beliefs. I tell myself my true intention is to help people, I have a journey to share and want to set an example but I often feel I am not enough as is at the moment to be this authority figure. I hate to sound all negative but what gave you that push to pursue what interests you anyway? I guess being authentically who you are, to embrace your journey is the only way to go. I mean who else will embrace you if you don’t embrace yourself right.

  • You’re very welcome. I think that a lot of people’s paths are not linear, but when we idealize their lives, they appear to be. Your path has definitely had merit, and I’m happy that you’re so self aware, and that you are able to see that. I’ve always felt like I was on another path “out of the box”, but I also know that it was the route I had to take because I am me.

  • It’s not easy sometimes. When you feel “worse”, are you comparing yourself to an ideal that you truly care about? Many times I realize I’m making myself feel bad when the object of my desire isn’t something that I really want. But sometimes it is, and when that happens, I understand that different things were important to me before or maybe I had to evolve first in certain areas.

  • Nikki

    Hi Kevin!
    I’m Nikki, and I’m from India, someday do take a trip here, its beautiful and colourful and chaotic, but loaded with a rich heritage and its amazing how little people have here but how much they make of it and stay happy. It is a life lesson in humanity. Anyway, I felt like I was constantly comparing myself with others and was unable to get over my past. I felt angry with myself with the decisions I made and the people I hurt. But yesterday I reached a point where I finally decided to forgive myself and move on. Your beautiful post affirmed my feelings and gave me the idea that self nurturing is important,it is a journey that is unique to my life and I must accept it, I must try to be my best self and finally, that it is enough to be me.

    Thanks a lot, I feel better and will make a conscious effort to stop comparing myself with others.
    Take care,

  • Ash

    Hi Kevin. You write really well. Thanks for the post.

    I too struggled through 15 years in the corporate world only to find it to be an empty and soulless environment.

    This statement in your post really resonated with me “The work felt honest and the people even better, and those are two of the most valuable things in life to me.”

    I applaud you on following your own part like many other great individuals before you e.g. Steve Jobs.

    You have probably already heard Steve jobs address at Stanford but if not I strongly encourage you to check it out. it will reinforce your wise choices and probably leave you feeling vindicated:

  • Ash

    More power to your cabin. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to resist temptation/social pressures of accepting lucrative offers as and when they came along last year. I intend for 2013 to be different

  • Ash

    Hi Kathy. You know the interesting thing is when I am completely focused in the present moment a lot of this stuff seems to fall away.

    I think there is a lot of wisdom in living completely in the moment. A huge percentage of our unhappiness arises from memories of the past, projections into the future, or comparison with others – all of which happens in our thoughts.

    And most of the time our thoughts don’t relate to the here and now.

    Focusing on bodily sensations esp the breath is also a very powerful thing. It brings you back to the here and now very effectively.


  • Ash

    “college>>career>>marriage>>mortgage>>family route” Beautifully put! Really drives the point home when you present it that way.

    Personally I’ve headed down the same path … But I no longer believe that’s the only valid one. I see is as one path of many (the only one which society has endorsed so far)

    Interestingly the real pioneers often don’t follow that beaten path which is what makes them pioneers in the first place.

    Fear drives us so much more than we realise.

    Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Ash

    Hi Nicky. I am originally from India too. I agree that there is an incredible lesson in humanity. I migrated to Australia when I was 16 and on my first trip back to India at the age of around 18 I was blown away to see India from a completely different perspective.

    I have had the opportunity to grow up in in two very contrasting cultures and have learnt from each of them and also from the differences between them.

    What part of India are you from?

  • Ash

    “It is difficult sometimes to separate what we want from what we think we should want.” This is so so true!

  • Ash

    Fantastic point.

  • Hi Nikki. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I’m really glad you were able to connect with the post. It’s great that you were able to be fair to your past-self and move on.

    I’d love to spend some time in India. I know I’ll make it there one day, and I look forward to the perspective and inspiration that it brings.

    Best to you.

  • Fear is so often a catalyst. Great thought.

  • Ash

    Absolutely! I have been practising mindfulness for some time now and when I applied it to my tendency to procrastinate I found there was a lot of fear driving my behaviour.

    Eventually I was able to overcome my tendency to procrastinate by watching my mind closely at those times.

    I even wrote a blog post about it called how I overcame procrastination in three steps by watching my mind :

    I hope to apply this process to my entire life.

  • Hi Reenie. I can relate to what you wrote. There have been times where I could imagine how I wanted my life to be, but I had no idea how to get there. When I need that extra push through tough times and self doubt, I think about how good it feels to carve my own path and direction. Even if I don’t accomplish all my goals, at least I did things my own way. No matter what happens, I feel like that’s something I can look back on and feel good about.

    Also, no matter what we try, we sometimes can’t find that extra push. That can sometimes mean that we need to re-evaluate and maybe change direction a little bit.

  • HM25

    This article really spoke to me. I am a 28 year old in the midst of a lot of change. My fiance and I broke off our engagement after 7 years together and I have spent the last year piecing my life together. I work as a teacher and am surrounded by many women my age who are committing to their partners through marriage and I feel like I am on the sidelines. Feelings of panic and frustration have become commonplace for me, as it feels like everyone around me is taking the traditional road to happiness while I’ve broken down on the side of the road with an uncertain future. Little by little I’m accepting my situation and the unknown road that lay ahead, but it can be difficult when you feel like you’re “catching up.” Thank you for this article, it is very comforting.

  • Ish

    Thank you so much Kevin for this amazing post! I am truly inspired. I’m 23 years old, my two best friends are graduated from colleges/universities, with very respectable degrees and getting married very soon to their long time sweethearts and I will be a bridesmaid. That, and among many other things, made me realize how far behind I am in life. That put me in serious depression, and I think I have officially hit rock bottom..went on “shut down” mode , where I deactivated all of my social media (facebook, instagram), and even decided to shut off my cell phone. So I can use this time alone, get away from all that noise, and truly find myself. This is one of the first articles I randomly stumbled upon on the web, luckily, I was amazed at how perfect it fits my situation. I now know I am not alone, and this is a huge motivation to love myself, and keep moving forward at my own pace, and go wherever life takes me and be happy about it. Once again, thank you very much! 🙂

  • You are very welcome. I’m glad you were able to connect with it. While you’re on this unknown road, perhaps there will be insight and experiences that you would have never gotten if you hadn’t detoured for a bit, things that you can carry with you no matter what path you are on in the future. Best to you.

  • Hi Ish. Always love yourself. As you grow and spend time with yourself, you might realize that the things you thought you wanted weren’t really what you wanted at all. Or maybe they are, but that clarity is valuable either way. We all develop in different parts of life at different rates. I’m really glad to hear that you are taking the time to be with yourself. Be well.

  • Felicha


    Thank you for writing this article at a time in my life where I feel pressure from society to confirm to it’s “social standards” the most.

    Job. Marriage. House. Children.

    That’s totally not my way of life.

    I went to school for art about 3 years ago, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in photography when I was 21. While I loved every moment of college and grew from the experience, I’m 24 now and I am struggling with what I want to do with all I’ve learned.

    It’s incredibly overwhelming to live in a world like this at times, but it’s beautiful to get to know and love myself fully amidst the madness of my life.

    I have recently landed a job with Marriott and it’s the first job I’ve ever really enjoyed. I hope this will help me mesh my love, and curiousity of travel with art.

    Best of luck on your journey.

    Cheers to the unconventional paths.

  • You are welcome. I really like your words about seeing beauty in madness.

    Cheers to you and your path Felicha, and thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to it. Best to you and your journey!

  • Calendula

    It bugs me that I’m 25 years behind…and confidence notwithstanding, it isn’t realistic to expect to catch up at this point. So, if I begin advocating that I’m just not into money-grubbing, most people will just hear/see the “sour grapes” theory it action. I think I better off to simply admit to wasted opportunities.

  • Tony V

    Hello Kevin. This was an eloquently written post & i thank you for it, as it seemed to appear just as i needed it. I am a 27 year old who came from a broken home. I had to learn by making mistakes & with that spending years recuperating & getting back on my feet. I’ve hit rock bottom quite a few times & was devastated to learn that i’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 21. I was beat up by the disease for the first 4 years. One day i decided to fight back & i essentially researched for days on end and long story short, realized that the proper diet would be what was going to save my life. After converting to extreme vegetarianism, I’m glad to say that it did & iv’e gone 3 years without any major instances of being rendered useless by the disease. Unfortunately, with being out of commission for several years, i had to build not only my physical strength up from ground up, but also my financials & credit, as i had a financed vehicle. Its been hard living with my parents at my age. I went back to work with my family & it was a difficult for me at first to humble myself, as i was being paid roughly half of what i had earned prior to falling sick. Today i’m preparing to take on a lucrative position at work & i’m preparing for a life changing moment in my life. The problem with this is essentially described in your post except, what happens when you have a loving girlfriend in the mix as well? One who wants to have children soon & get married? If that weren’t difficult enough of a situation to take on, what happens when you’ve aways wanted to travel abroad & experience all that life has to offer? I find myself at that cliche fork in the road, Kevin & i haven’t the slightest idea which one to take.

  • Emily

    Kevin, Thanks for your post I really enjoyed it. Recently I have been dealing with a feeling of regret….I am at a company that I was interviewing for 5 years ago and they were giving me a managerial position before instead of the coordinator position that i have now. The job i took instead of this one when I was younger, was for an opportunity at one of the worlds most successful sports brands…i thought that because it was so successful it would be across the country and i would only have to live in the pacific northwest for so long and then i could move. Well, the job was lesser than the job that was offered at the company i am at now. So i started at the bottom because i was excited about the opportunity to move somewhere completely different. Turns out i hated it and it rained so much that i was depressed. I then took another job in DC where all of my friends lived, and i didn’t like that one either because all I want to do is be in communications. So i quit and here i am…in a much lesser position than i could’ve been years ago, and still not even in the field i want to be in. I am in events, luckily they are allowing me to write and do communications things but i needed a job so i had to take this one. I keep having the feeling that I’ve made so many mistakes and am so far behind where i should be. Not because of other people, but i am at the bottom after so many years of being at the bottom I still haven’t moved up. Granted, I enjoy this job far more than the other two i had….but I am haunted by all of my choices and all I want to do is be on the right track and I feel like I’m not. Please help!

  • Carolyn

    Thank you so much for this post, you cant imagine how much it has helped me. I felt the same as you, Im 20 years old and after High School I was compelled like most of my peers (and my ambition driven, former military father) to start school right away and begin a career that was supposed to support me for the rest of my life. How is a kid fresh out of high school (I was 18) supposed to know what they want to do for the rest of their life? Like you, I’ve had a lot of problems with my social anxiety, (and various childhood problems) for many years unfortunately. Up until I turned 16, I could barely look people in the eye, let alone work in customer service. Which is incidentally why I got fired from my first job at that age. After High School I did not feel ready for college, I was smarter than most of my friends, but because of years of comparing myself to others I lost track of real life, and what I wanted to do. I was lost, feeling as if I lacked ambition, like I was falling behind. Im 20 now, and Im not in college yet, but these past few years have been amazing. I naturally lost all my friends after High School, like most people do. But I am more confident than I ever thought possible. I have experienced new things I never thought I would, and when I talk to people, I look them in the eye, I laugh and smile and convey confidence like never before. I have a job that I actually like. Slowly over time I have started to find myself, so-to-speak. I still have quite a journey ahead of me, but I am ready to go to school and be passionate about something that I truly care about.

  • Andy

    I too have walked a different path in life to what society told me to do, although I have graduated a top university, got a job and a house, my heart was never really in it so I a few years ago totally embraced who and what I am. I am a martial artist, an accomplished one. even had the opportunity to train in a martial art few in England have ever trained in. How many people from my past can say the same? I know its a bit cheesy I don’t want to sound like an idiot but this article reminded me about the ending from blade trinity, with the hustle and bustle of a city reflected in his glasses, he pays no heed to it and rides off into the night air following his calling…..

  • Maria

    Tiny buddha always lands me on the right article for some strangely great reason–I was reading your post and I was like “Oh my, someone else lived this too?” I bounced through schools and career choices like there was no tomorrow. I finally found something I could live with but deep down the urge of leaving and traveling is still inside of me. I can’t jump and do it because school is keeping me trapped here aside from having financial responsibilities. But I have found that all these crazy decisions have given me amazing memories. I’ve had a different path than the more “normal” one everyone takes but I would not change it for anything–Yes, I wish I was done with school, settled down and what not but maybe destiny has something amazing for me to live first before I do all that.

    Thank you, Kevin and Tiny Buddha for always sharing fulfilling wisdom–About to take a flight and read my Tiny Buddha with me 🙂

  • Mark Charlton

    I really love this. Thank you!

  • Hillary Place

    Thanks for the post. I needed this. A lot. I can’t help but feel left behind or stuck when it comes to life when I look at the lives of those around me. It’s a really hard pill to swallow that I’m so far behind my peers. Especially when you have the “type-A” personality type I do. Competitive blood runs through my veins and I don’t like being last. But in everything I do, I seem to come in last. My journey is complicated, I’m nowhere I thought I’d be. Or dreamed. But patience is a virtue… isn’t it? Thanks again Kevin. You’re awesome.

  • John Duncan

    Great article!

    It is a misconception that the conventional path is THE path or that any deviation from it somehow limits a person’s prospects.

    The reality is that half of those who have followed the conventional path are underemployed – holding jobs that do not require their four year degree. The greatest demand is projected to be in the middle skill job market, where some technical certification shy of a four year degree is necessary.

    To be clear, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a traditional four year education. But, it doesn’t have to follow the optimal trajectory. Starting out as a high school drop out, I have gone on to complete (2) different four year apprenticeships (in trades that I am still a part of). I have earned a technical certificate, an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree. My educational achievements were done concurrently while working full-time plus over the past 20 years. I have utilized every bit of my education and continue to learn a living.

    So speaking from experience, you’re not behind unless you are following. When you lead your life there is no one in front of you, you are your own guide.

    P.S., a great inspirational story and treasure is Richard Bach’s book, Jonathon Livingston Seagull. You can find a pdf copy on the internet. If you like it I would recommend purchasing a copy of it in appreciation to the author.

    Thanks again Kevin for a great article!

  • I know this response is very late, but I just wanted to say that I appreciate your kind words.

  • Bec

    You have written everything that i currently feel. Its amazing really! I’ve suffered with depression for 7yrs or there abouts and when i look at what people my age or younger are doing i feel like im so far behind them. I’ve lost friends have no job and im 27yrs old. I worry that il be 30 and still doing the same old thing. Having said that im a far better person than i was before (eg. Im curious not jugdmental and strive for happiness despite societies views on my life and i can see happiness in situations despite the apparent negative views.) travel is the most important thing to me at the moment, to experience life and to help others is why i feel im here and alive.
    All i can say is that i believe you will find your roll, by travelling and discovering a job that makes you happy and feel like you are contributing to the world or by just living in the moment and taking on things which are presented to you. At the end if the day everything changes and new opportunities arise! To be honest, you have probably affected people around you already by jusy being around. Career isnt everything, but spreading loce and kindness is the best thing you could possibly do. Without a doubt!!!
    Best of wishes 🙂

  • Yellowsunfluer

    Thankyou Mr. Sandness for this insightful post I myself am currently dealing with this issue and have yet to find common ground, but am happy to say that I intend to take things one day at a time and realize that we are all striving for the same destination yet we all take different paths to get there. I have suffered from depression and still do certainly some days are easier than others and understanding that I am not alone .Yet, it can be overwhelming thinking that there is no were else to turn but it is important that I remind myself to keep a positive attitude.

  • Lisa

    Hello Kevin … I have struggled all my life with anxiety and low self esteem due to childhood trauma , I constantly compare myself to younger people who seem to not struggle with self confidence and am at least 20 years behind ! I feel now mid 40s that It is too late as I am always stuck and when I do try and challenge myself it often seems to go wrong for me . Maybe I should give up trying . Just lately I witnessed a young woman 20 years younger than me do something I have been considering for 30 years and she got up and went in 3 weeks . I can’t seem to face the fear and it is painful feeling this way . I feel so weak and like a freak .

  • AB

    Thanks for the article. I am right now in the same place in life as you have described above. I just a short while back saw a guy, whom I knew quite well, way further in life than me, though I had a long head start, so to speak, than him. And there are lots of others that I know of who are way way ahead in life.
    I have never had foresight in life and feel that I have always made bad decisions, at least most of them. I always went for short-term satisfaction, never had a long-term goal and still don’t know what I want in life. The funny part is people around me think I am quite a courageous and bold guy, which in reality I am not. I don’t know how they got that idea. Yes, a couple of times I have done things you would consider gutsy and very different than the pack, maybe that is why, but in fact I am one of the most timid people you would find. An introvert, painfully socially awkward and always anxious, maybe depressed too.
    Now, I am 44, with kids, married to a person who thinks I am bold and smart. I fear to talk about my inner feelings to her since I fear of losing that last bit of love and respect. With a job that I hate to get up to every morning to. I am kind of trapped, mounting debts and all and with not much in the way of education. Been slogging like an ass since I was 18.
    I find the points that you have mentioned above very valid, but I find it very difficult to accept myself for what I am. I don’t know how to. Thanks for the post.