July 16, 2023•803 words
A few weeks ago I went on a backpacking trip with some of my childhood friends. We spent two nights camped out by a pristine alpine lake in the Sawtooth mountain range in Idaho. It was a much-needed break and a fantastic trip.
Backpacking is one of my favorite hobbies because it gets me away from the normal pace of life and helps me reconnect with myself and my body, so I was already guaranteed to have a great time. But being able to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in years was the cherry on top.
I'm not on social media and terrible at keeping in touch with anyone I don't see on a weekly basis, so everything I heard from my friends was news to me. Stories of battling cancer, wrangling five kids, starting businesses, becoming the boss at work, and more were swapped as we sat around the campfire wondering where the years had gone. Overall everyone seemed to be in a good place in life, which made me very happy!
Over the last few weeks since getting back home I have been reflecting on my life compared to my friends' lives and how the choices we made changed how things have turned out.
Some of us stayed in the same city we all grew up in, while others put down roots in neighboring states or across the country. Most have multiple kids; just one other friend and I do not. Some have taken the leadership route at work, others (like me) enjoy being expert individual contributors in our fields. Half of us have dogs. Most are still practicing Mormons. We spanned the range of the political spectrum. Most are married, and only I have been divorced. Most of us work way too hard and should stop to enjoy things like backpacking trips more often (myself included). And all of us were happy to be there enjoying the company of old friends.
While comparing yourself to others is a great way to screw up your self esteem and happiness, I do think it's healthy to occasionally look back on your own life and consider the other paths it could've taken. Catching up with my friends and getting a peek into their lives after a decade of very different decisions showed me a variety of ways my life could have turned out.
And I'm really happy with how my life has turned out.
This is not to slight my friends in any way. They seem happy with their decisions and I'm very glad they're as happy with their lives as I am with mine!
But I don't think I would've been happy if I would've stuck to the path that was set before me growing up as a Mormon boy in Idaho. In fact, I know I wouldn't have liked it. I started down that path and found that it didn't fit me, so I made changes.
Some of the decisions I've made in my life puzzled my friends (the funniest argument of the trip is when the group was split on how life-changing bidets are). My rejection of my childhood faith, my veganism, my progressive politics, and my love for big-city living are so radically different from most of the group that I couldn't help feeling like an outsider during the trip when listening to discussions about their lives. They were all very cordial and were genuinely interested in learning more about veganism or living in a big city, so it was fun to share why I love so many things that were completely foreign to them. But even though we all had a good time, it was often difficult to connect on a deeper level than what great movies and shows we've seen.
In my day-to-day social circle, the way I live my life is quite normal, so hearing from others who think my life is a weird way to live reminds me of the staggering diversity of the human experience and just how much there is to see in our big ol' world.
People can be happy in many different ways, and my friends and I were glad to see everyone else in the group living lives that made them happy! While I was nervous that I might get snide comments about my veganism or that some argument about Mormonism would inadvertently erupt, I ultimately knew that I still called all of those guys friends for a reason. We still care about each other, regardless of the small differences in our personal lives.
That's what friendship is: Celebrating how others learn and grow and change over time.
So if you haven't been home in a while, you should consider rounding up some old friends and reconnecting over an activity you all enjoy. The fresh perspective is illuminating!