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Work • Status & Success

Giving Up on Being Special

We’re likely to try out many sorts of lives before we land, finally, on the quiet variety. Rarely does anyone start out aspiring to the kind of life where we try to be in bed by ten and are intensely grateful when nothing has gone dramatically wrong in the preceding hours. First we might try out the life of fame, the sort where we dream that someone will stop us in a shop or train station and say, ‘Aren’t you…?’ or ‘Don’t I know you from…’ That is a not-negligible thrill, especially if you didn’t feel too noticed in childhood and if, in adolescence, it was always someone else who was able to make people you loved smile. Or we might be drawn to the life of melodramatic relationships, the kind where we’re constantly wondering whether they love us or we love them, where we break up every couple of weeks and are calling them, frantically, to come back from their parent’s house and we didn’t mean all those crazy words we said, we were just scared.

Painting of a pear tree by Gustav Klimt.
Gustav Klimt, Pear Tree, 1903

It can take a lot of pain before we make our peace with so-called ordinariness and accept it for the wonder it is; before we can deeply love a day when we have ‘nothing’ to do other than wake up early, finish the dishes from last night, shower, read a few poems, answer some emails, maybe go to the museum to see some African masks or a canoe from Oceania, buy some bread, fry some eggs. 

We might become rather fierce at anyone and anything that threatens this hard-won achievement; at well-meaning people who invite us on complicated excursions or worrying parties; at newspapers that force us to think about driven types starting companies and releasing a new film or record. We know how much these stimulants can cost us.

It takes great confidence to give up on being special. It takes kindness to oneself to interrupt the longing for suffering and anguish. One might have needed to try out almost everything else before realising, in the end, that it was calm we always really wanted.

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