“the other man’s grass is always greener” – petula clark (1967)


I never really know what I want. Or, to phrase it more correctly, I do know what I do not want. I feel like I know myself pretty well, though I am constantly learning and growing. And sometimes, I surprise myself when I find an aspect of my personality and humanity, I was not aware of before.  There is also the possibility I may rediscover something lost before.  Things change, within me and around me, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.  Other times, change is welcomed.

I think about why it is difficult for me to confidently and affirmatively know what I want.  Perhaps it is a lot of things.  For one, I think that uncertainty is a product of being young and ambitious in a city full of competition.  There’s stress that comes from that.  There’s the good stress that keeps me motivated and driven and there’s the bad stress that makes me question my worth.  There’s also the stress of being the dog who finally caught the car.  When I do finally reach a goal I have worked very hard to achieve, what then? Will I be happy, or will I have realized that said goal was meaningless and a distraction from something much larger and more important? What if it turns out what I thought I wanted was actually not what I needed?

These are big and important questions. If the answer was easily and readily available, then we would not have big and important questions.

I have several friends, when I discuss these matters, who tell me things like “everything happens for a reason” or “listen to the universe and it will guide you.”  That’s all well and good and I see a lot of value in those philosophies.  While I do know that while luck plays a major role in how one’s life turns out, you’re not entirely without control.  You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.  In this case, I’m a big planner and try to work on several paths at the same time.  The reason being that I have some vague semblance of what I want in life and I know it takes work to achieve that.  I guess I just have some anxiety about whether or not it is all worth it.

Sometimes, I think about how I would live my life if I had the resources to live an unburned, worry free life.  What would that look like for me?  If I never had to worry about money, I would live a quiet, middle-class existence.  I would exit the rat race and not work, but I would volunteer frequently with several community organizations.  I would spend my free time reading, trying new hobbies, and taking two or three modest trips a year.  That is the dream.

However, my life is not like that and life like that requires some work and planning.  Some people may be lucky enough to have that kind of life, whether it was inherited or something they worked to achieve.  So, in the meantime, I am left trying to figure everything out as best as I can.

In my early thirties, I have noticed how I think about things differently than I did throughout my twenties. I sure as didn’t know what I wanted in my twenties.  I thought I did, but life events happen and you have to adjust.  Still, I kept my eyes on certain goals no matter what had come my way because that is what ambitious young men in their twenties do.  Now, in my thirties, I am left wondering If I don’t achieve soon what I wanted for myself in my twenties, then when is it time to move on? Or, on the flip side, I also think What if I get this thing and it turned out not to be what I wanted?  In either scenario, I wonder if I am wasting my time.

Then again, why worry about it anyway because my life, overall, my life is good.  I am healthy.  I have friends and family that care for me.  I earn an income that allows me to feed myself, put a roof over my head, and offers some disposable income for quality of life.  I have so much going for me and I have everything I need to live the fullest life possible.  So, why is that not enough?  It is for the most part.  Like Joe Walsh, I can’t complain though sometimes I still do.  But why complain at all?

One thing I know I need to do is live more in the moment.  Try and take things one day at a time.  Admittedly, I do sometimes worry or complain about things beyond my control. It is hard to not complain about that. And if I get what I want, what’s next?

Due these anxieties about existence and progress within my life, I would not say that I am happy.  I am content, but I am also aware that I can do things to increase the quality of my life.  How that happens, I do not know. What it is, I do not know. Will it being the chance I hope it will, I do not know.  All I know is that something in my life needs to change and I am on a journey to figure that out. And unless I get lucky, going on that journey could take a lot of time and work.

What I do know is that all of this is a process.  For one, a key step is to not compare yourself to others.  That is a big one because it can be incredibly hard to overcome.  This extends beyond coveting something someone else has.  This also applies to thought like Well I shouldn’t complain because this other person’s life is worse than mine.  Even if framed from a positive and well-intentioned place, it is still comparing yourself to others. I have made a lot of improvement in that area, though sometimes I slip up.  However, that is ok.

Ultimately, I just wish I could quit worrying about things.  I worry about not getting the things I want.  I worry about not appreciating the things I do get.  And what makes the worry harder is that is the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what you want.

Don’t get me wrong, uncertainty is good and something I do look forward to sometimes.  However, it is all about context.  When I moved to Chicago in 2011, I was uncertain about how things would turn out, but I was excited because I was eager to make that move to Chicago and it was something I have wanted.  I currently do not like my job and it is a negative, stress-inducing cloud and the uncertainty of settling for something else that I don’t really want gives me some anxiety and I have to work hard to reframe my mind and focus on the positive (in this case, it is ok to leave a toxic environment for someplace else even if it isn’t what you wanted because you’re removing something actively toxic).

What I am learning in my thirties is that all the questions and uncertainties in my twenties do not always get addressed and resolved.  Life is still vague, complicated, and everyone is just trying to figure things out.  The only difference is that I am becoming aware of the fact that while I still do not really understand or know what I want, I am becoming more comfortable with it.  Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am growing more comfortable with it, but I know I am.

Until I figure out what I want, I have to be more active about living in the moment.  Sometimes that is easy and sometimes that I hard.  Though, I do imagine it will get easier.  Or, at least, I hope it does. Some people have it figured out and they live with peace and happiness.  I envy that, though I know I shouldn’t.  They are on their own journey and I am on my own. And, if I obtain something I thought I wanted, I can always shift my priorities.  I don’t have to be stuck with something.  It may take work (and I know the idea of working hard to get rid of something you worked hard to get is maddening), but you’re human.  And humans and their priorities change.

I know this blog entry is vague and rambling.  That’s fine.  There are some discernible nuggets of wisdom from someone trying to figure things out. So, let’s get to the music.

In 1967, Petula Clark released her single “The Other Man’s Grass Is Always Greener” from the album of the same name.  This charming pop song, written by Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, addresses what I discussed in this blog post.  In the song, Clark sings Life is never what it seems / We’re always searching in our dreams / To find that little castle in the air / When worry starts to cloud the mind / It’s hard to leave it all behind / And just pretend you haven’t got a care.

Clark sings about the burden everyone experiences at time or another about the desire to just escape one’s humdrum life and step into someone else’s shoes. Though I feel like my own confusion and uncertainty is unique and no one gets it, I have to realize how narcissistic such a position is because that is something everyone feels.  We all fantasize about how much better life could be if we could live a different life than our own. However, we only know our journey.  We cannot assume someone else’s journey.  They grass will always be greener on the side so, as Clark sings it, be thankful for what you got.  I know it can be hard sometimes, but do what you need to do to live your life one day at a time.  I know we all have worries and it can be hard work to get rid of them, but there no wrong paths.  Life your life and do what makes you happy.

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