You know the film Dumbo? You know at the start when the storks are delivering the babies to all the animals in the circus? Mrs Jumbo looks up hopefully as every single stork flies by and misses her out?
I’m Mrs Jumbo.
Here’s the situation.
I know we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others. It’s not healthy for the mind. I get that we all have our own paths to follow. I understand that everybody else in the world has their own journey with their own challenges to overcome. To compare your own achievements and setbacks with someone else is pointless.
But we still do it.
I was dreadful for doing it when I was growing up. Comparing first kisses, first boyfriends, first time you had sex, first jobs… And all it did was make you feel shit about yourself.
And the irony is, for every person that you would look upon with envy for their life and achievements, there would be someone else looking at you in the same way. We are always so quick to see what we don’t have, rather than what we do.
I feel I’ve made peace with that now I’m in my 30s. I look back on my teenage self and wish I could tell her not to stress. Tell her that I may not be kissing boys at 15 and shagging them at parties by 16 like everybody else seemed to be at the time, but that I’d have plenty of fun with guys once I’d left school. That I’d actually hook up with one of those bad lads from school in a bar when I’m 20 and go on to marry him. That I’d forge a successful career in the same profession I had my heart set on from when I took my GCSEs, when many others would still be flitting from job to job. That I’d be in the fortunate position to buy my own house at the age of 27 when so many are trapped in the rental market or even still living at home with their parents. That I’d be able to travel the world on exotic holidays and weekends away when others would be struggling to pay the bills. I wish I could just tell her to chill out and trust whatever destiny had in store for me. Because it’s all worked out anyway, whether I cried myself to sleep about not having a boyfriend at 16, or not! (Waste of damn tears, girl…)
But I also wish my 60 year old self could come back and visit me now to reassure me that my happy ending DOES happen. That we’ll end up with our rainbow baby and then accidentally fall pregnant immediately after – with twins – and we are blessed with many grandchildren and the patience and heartache would prove to all be worth it.
It’s like I am competing in a race that I didn’t want to enter. I’m racing against others who are also in the same situation, but there are also those at the starting line that are not in my situation at all. It’s an unfair race before the whistle has even been blown.
And I don’t want to run.
I know I’m not going to win so I don’t see the point in starting. But those on the sidelines cheering me on say I can do it and I shouldn’t stop trying so I wearily get into position and wait for the whistle to blow.
Sometimes I’m running alongside someone who has done no training whatsoever, and they sprint ahead of everyone and win first time.
Sometimes I’m running alongside people who have to pull out because of injury. They are helped off the track crying and heartbroken. They don’t know if they’ll ever be able to compete again. But I know they’ll be back, once they’re stronger.
Sometimes I’m running alongside people that don’t even know they’re in the fucking race but they still seem to finish before everyone else.
Sometimes I’m running alongside people who have already won a previous race, and now they’re back again for a second time. And guess what? Yep. They win that race too.
Sometimes I’m running alongside someone who has been next to me since the first race we ran together, and then they sprint off ahead of me and ending up winning. I don’t mind that so much. But it hurts watching them disappear into the distance and leave me behind. I hope they come back to the starting line to cheer me on next time.
Sometimes I’m running alongside somebody who has paid thousands to be there. It’s always a good day when they win.
Sometimes the races get cancelled. And you have to wait another month until you can compete again. It’s a long wait when that happens.
Sometimes you get so weary from the constant racing that you just want to stop. You collapse before the finish line, on your knees, aching, crying. Someone from the sidelines walks over to you, puts a comforting arm around your shoulders, picks you up, smoothes your hair, lets you rest but then gently encourages you back to the start line, where they give you a smile and a thumbs up.
I have a racing twinnie who is alongside me for every single race. We often start at the same point and finish at the same point. Sometimes she’s a few paces ahead of me, sometimes I’m a few strides ahead of her. We’ll cheer each other on, whilst bitching about those who overtake us. More often than not as soon as we cross the finish line (with no prize of course) we’ll head straight to the drinks tent and get wasted. Smug shits, already bestowed with their prizes, will occasionally come up to us and say we should be in the yoga tent doing our cool down stretches, or eating in the organic vegan tent, or thrusting a water in our face and giving a ‘should-you-be-drinking-that-cocktail?’ face. We throw said water over them and sashay off to get another 2-4-1. At the end of some races we’re made to attend the prize-givings, and play games to celebrate that they won first place. Twinnie and I will more often than not show our faces, but we’ll sit at the back, messaging each other and wishing we weren’t there.
The worst kind of competitor is the one who sidles up to you after winning the race to give you suggestions on how to improve for next time. Bitch, I’ve raced so many times I’ve completed a motherfucking marathon. You’ve done a 100m sprint. Fuck off with your advice and leave us running pros to keep doing what we’re doing.
There are times when I’m stood on the starting line, and at the finish I can see my friends and family all waiting for me to get there. Sometimes it energises me to run the best I ever have. Other times I can barely see them through my tear-filled eyes as I mouth to them “I’m sorry. I can’t.” And pull out of the race.
On the other side of the field the men’s race takes place. I will glance over to see Dave trying his hardest, focus in his eyes, determination in his stride. There aren’t quite so many blokes on the sidelines there, because their race isn’t quite so well known. But the ones that have turned up to cheer him on are ready to give him a pat on the back and a pint when he finishes. They don’t talk much but they head straight to the beer tent. Us ladies leave them to it.
Every now and then, I’m at the start of my own race, and I just wish that nobody else fucking turns up. Just for once. Let me win. Please.
This week I learned another woman in my life is pregnant.