When it looks like everyone else is having more fun
My parents are currently in Miami and my mother sent me this photo of the view from their hotel:
And my partner is currently in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and sent me this one from hers:
Meanwhile, I'm back in Portland. The Spring Fakeout has subsided, and it's a very familiar 50 degrees and overcast here. It's supposed to rain today. I have client work to attend to and will likely be inside most of the day.
If I size up my situation compared to theirs, it looks pretty glum. But that's not the whole story.
My mother, immediately before sending her photo, told me she hates Miami and doesn't really want to be there. And my partner had to suffer an erratic sleep schedule to make it on her 6:00am flight to Mexico.
It's easy to compare our circumstance to those of our friends and family and feel left out, isolated, and lesser-than. But the reality is that our suffering follows us wherever we go. It doesn't care if you're on a beautiful beach. It doesn't care how much money you have. No matter where you are, comparing yourself to others will rob you of the magic that manifests in every single moment.
The tourism industry exploits our tendency to compare our present circumstance to that of others. They're aware that we'll glance at a picture of a sunny beach and believe whole-heartedly that if we could only be there, we'd be contented.
The reality though, is more complicated. Some people are content when they're on a sunny beach, but they're probably the same ones who were content in their prior circumstance. Some people take their misery with them wherever they go and wonder why they can't escape it.
You and I have everything we need right here, right now. It's completely normal to become envious—it's in our evolutionary makeup. But by gently reminding ourselves that no one's experience is as ideal as we pretend, we free ourselves from the delusion that things would be better if only we were someplace else.