A chill goes through the air as two women walk by each other on a narrow sidewalk. One is dressed in the outfit she found the day before during a sale at the mall. She looked for hours for the perfect outfit, and finally settled on this skirt/blouse/heel combo. Sure to be the spotlight of everyone’s day, she sets out on her trek to the cafeteria with a smile on her face and her hair just so.
The other is walking back from the cafeteria, dressed in the same outfit.
As a wild west theme plays in the background, the two walk toward each other, pace for pace, each refusing to move, as if owning the sidewalk will somehow make up for the fact that the most embarrassing of the embarrassing has happened.
What’s so embarrassing about owning the same outfit? We didn’t make the clothes, but somehow, as soon as we see the outfit, it’s ours. No one else’s.
It isn’t only outfits. It’s ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, parking spots and class seats. It’s even music. Telling someone about a new band will inevitably result in someone else saying, “I can’t believe you just found them!” which will then result in an argument about who found them first.
Life is about experiences, but each person wants to own his or her experience, as if no one else has had been in their spot before. If we stepped back and looked around, we’d realize that we’re all pretty much the same, but instead, we feel the need to compete with each other in almost literally every aspect of our lives.
It must be bred into us when we’re little. “Make sure you sing loud enough that I can hear you,” our mothers tell us when we’re at our first concert with our first grade peers. “The rest of those kids probably can’t sing like you can.”
“I bet you’re the coolest one in your class!”
Then we graduate into history class, where we find that people have been doing this since the beginning of time. It’s a competition to fight off the Huns, to run out the American Indians, to have the best cirle of friends and come up with a cool name like “Knights of the Round Table.”
It goes on and on until we’re in a constant cycle to try to be better than the next person, until every facet of life is us maintaining our struggle to be the best, the smartest, the coolest or at least the only one on campus with that outfit.
But really, the question is, why? Why can’t we just let it go and enjoy ourselves for who we are—without comparing that to what other people are doing?
If we could do that, perhaps we could walk around in peace. Perhaps people would stop glaring each other down when they see another person with their ex. Perhaps we could all listen to the same music and just appreciate it, instead of arguing about which of us have been to the concert and which of us haven’t.
Just remember who to credit with this idea.