I’ve previously described the concept of “that one issue”. The basic characteristics include (minimally) one area in life where progress appears extra sticky with similar stumbling blocks recurring even when measures have been taken. Regardless of the amount of energy put in, the ball won’t start rolling or there’s a constant one step forward two steps back pattern. Meanwhile, while glaring around it’s apparent most peers don’t seem to be wrestling the same struggle, quite the contrary. This can create a feeling of missing out, being left out and with time a sensation of being left behind. Let me share a few example scenarios:
A hard working woman hoping to advance in her profession always ends up with employers who, although they value her work, never offer or give her a higher position. This causes her to switch companies from time to time in hopes it will higher the odds of an opening. Meanwhile, acquaintances and ex co-workers with the same starting point time wise and professionally, have all climbed past her on the career ladder while she’s having alike posts.
A person has since teenage years struggled forming friendships and repetitively ends up with “friends” who take substantially more than they give. This individual constantly feels taken advantage of, second best or like a back up plan. This pattern repeats itself regardless of where or in what context the potential friends have been found. At the same time, on social media, seemingly everyone (including those considered past “friends”) are surrounded and celebrated by close friends.
A man seeking a romantic partnership feels like a magnet to women who friendzone him. He’s very active meeting potential partners and has invested in personal development courses to up his game. Yet he can’t seem to leave the dating scene, often hearing that women aren’t interested in him romantically but genuinely would love to remain friends. His closest circle of friends since childhood have all moved on and settled with wives and kids.
A long term couple in their mid thirties are struggling conceiving. They’ve had several appointments with doctors and are busy looking into alternative treatments and methods. Meanwhile their peers are in the midst of the baby boom phase in life, most moving on to having their second or third child.
All the scenarios listed are understandably excruciating on many levels, the obvious being the non fulfillment of a desire or need. With time the additional stress of the “left behind” feelings can begin to play a major role too. On top of that, I feel it’s significant to mention a crucial factor for today’s day and age which adds a huge amount of fuel to the fire. It’s the emphasis on external progress or “proof” of success and forward movement rather than internal (you can’t post personal growth on Instagram). The lack of concrete “evidence” of developments to display while being in the loop regarding others business can a) totally discredit one’s own path and/or b) highlight and exaggerate the discrepancy between self and others progress. This will consequently reinforce the perception that one has come to a halt while the rest proceed.
But what if the experience of being left behind is based on an inaccurate evaluation? Could “that one issue” perhaps indicate an entirely different sort of process taking place?
Imagine 200 students enrolling in an overview university course in biology. The majority of these students, let’s say 170 of them, decided to wrap up their studies and enter the work field after achieving a bachelor degree in biology. Few postgraduates study on receiving a masters’ degree in biology and only one proceeded with the doctorate degree program. Judging on a superficial level one could draw the conclusion that the doctoral student, relative to past classmates, is being left behind. Still in Uni after 6 or 7 years?! The majority of biology students carried on to the next phase in life years prior, something must be wrong! Silly right?
We know that’s not an accurate comparison. In reality, the doctoral student is advancing in the subject of biology (“that one issue”). This includes repeatedly enduring lessons, exams, discoveries and attaining a greater understanding. The PhD program will be tougher and more challenging than a bachelor or master one in many ways. And I’m sure during the years dedicated to the PhD degree there will be hurdles ,redirections, unforeseen obstacles and comparisons made to those on a different and (at least) outwardly easier route. Plus, during the PhD program there won’t be many tangible milestones to “show off” to the public because the progress is transpiring behind the scenes.
On the flipside, graduating with a PhD in hand will prove a distinctive set of skills, qualifications and in depth knowledge few possess. I believe the most valuable ability with the doctor status is contributing novel information/perspectives, offering a specific expertise and support/guide those interested. The exact same can be said for people in regards to “that one issue” (for those who don’t “drop out” so to speak).
The point of the university analogy is not to put value on either experience. The purpose is to demonstrate that the comparison between“that one issue” and normative patterns is matchless and more like apples and oranges. So if you happen to feel delayed in a certain area of life with repetitive issues, it might be time to give yourself credit and realize you’re not “behind” or retaking the same year over and over. Instead you’ve been accepted to an entirely separate and more complex program than most. Along the way it will be tough and challenging, especially when you’re unaware of what program you’ve entered. And there might not be many physical signs of progress to show for your efforts for years on end. But all the while, knowingly or unknowingly, you’re heading straight towards a doctorate conferment ceremony.