Graduations. Weddings. Accolades. The month of May left me feeling a bit behind the curve. I really started questioning where I stood in life. No professional degree, no significant other, and no notable accomplishments. It took Saturday afternoon in Costco to finally break through the doubt.
It was pure luck that I was standing with my friend Sarah S. when she received an eleventh hour plea from Aneesh Chaganty. An old friend of Sarah's and insanely talented film maker, Aneesh was asked to deliver a commencement speech. A project he was honored with many weeks before, but was still writing only hours before taking the stage. Pressure makes diamonds...before reading, I already knew I liked this kid.
Due to the tight deadline, we immediately sat down in the outdoor furniture section (the chairs that accompany the fire pit are stiff - wouldn't recommend the purchase) and read the speech. I cried. Over commas. Yes, commas.
Aneesh reminded me the most successful people are the people with persistence. The ones who have the courage and will power to try once more. He blamed the commas for making it so easy to overlook their moments of struggle. That simple punctuation mark does more than separate one accolade from the next as they run along multiple lines of paper. It hides the countless rejections and never ending determination. The comma serves as the accomplice in the crime of comparison.
Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Before May, I always thought of this quote in materialistic terms. But after reading that commencement speech, I realized it can also apply to life experience. Few things suck the happiness out of life quicker than measuring your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 20. The comparison is both painful and damaging. It brings into question every decision and belittles every personal achievement. Things we fought so hard for, suddenly feel so trivial.
The comparison steals our self-worth, and the commas cover up the crime. They are the spark notes that skim over all the chapters it took to reach success. Chapter 8 of exhaustion. Chapter 11 of failure. Chapter 17 of a bold risk that paid off. Those pesky commas allow us to discount our own capabilities and discredit our own accomplishments. They rob us of the faith we have in ourselves.
Thanks to Aneesh's words, I've finally locked up those dirty little thieves. A punctuation mark will no longer over simplify the success of others, nor will it diminish my journey. Everyone is on a different path, and this is mine. I am right where I am supposed to be. A Boston College graduate, single and ready to mingle, and author of SCOPES. These are my accomplishments. Mine. Don't let the commas fool you into thinking they should be yours too.
June brought rain, so I brought my favorite power color: red. Let's start writing those chapters...