Remember your juxtaposition

We all compare. What some of us may not realise is how much we tend to compare ourselves with things and people around us. That’s a pretty small radius.

Early this morning I went for a run in the gym, which is an unusual practice for me. Today is special because by month’s end three weeks from now, I’m supposed to take and pass an annual physical test that my country imposed on me as part of National Service (Singapore’s military conscription). Should I fail, I would have to attend something like 20 remedial training sessions. That is a frightening amount of time, and that’s what compelled me out of bed.

As I entered the small gym in my condominium, I noticed that my mother-in-law was the only other person in the room. Even though it was a little too early for conversation, we had one anyway, and then proceeded to our individual workouts.

I ran for 2km and did 40 pushups. Not bad for the first day, I thought. (I’m sure my Army friends think differently.) As I left the gym I waved to her briefly, knowing we’d meet upstairs in just a few moments. But since I was hooked on the audiobook I was listening to, I decided to walk around the complex two rounds before heading up.

By the time I made it home and opened the door to my bedroom, my mother-in-law had already come home and was sitting beside Mei, talking about something that seemed important.

Later I found out that she was telling Mei to be more like me, to get up early in the morning for a workout, because it is much healthier to do that than to lie in bed past 8am every day. This was intriguing to me, because before today I never woke up early to exercise.

I might have done it once last year at this time in order to pass the same physical test, but she wasn’t living with us that time. “Like me”, then, is not to wake early and go to the gym. I merely did it once, today. All there is is a today-version of me who happened to be at the gym during the same hour that she was there.

When she was the only one who maintained a daily exercise routine, not once did she let herself into our bedroom to exhort its benefits before we woke. (She sometimes did it in the middle of the day.)

What made today different? Today, I was in the gym with her. She was no longer the lone wolf. Me being at the gym had inadvertently served as an affirmation of her belief that everyone should wake early to exercise every morning. “If Nick can do it, and I can do it, so can and should you!”

All of us have been trained by school and the workplace to measure, compare and size things up. What many of us may not be aware of is how we’re constantly juxtaposing ourselves merely with those near us.

Distance and convenience play a big role in determining who we end up comparing ourselves to, unless we consciously reposition our sight on something farther and in the direction that we actually wish to head.


Here’s the photo of the day, a somewhat creepy image of roasted ducks that look like human babies…

roasted duck hung up at a food stall