A Word of Advice

Psst!  Hey you!  Yes, you, right there, looking at the screen.  Come in close, would ya?  I’ve got something to tell you.

Look, I know you.  No, don’t try and shake your head at me.  I know you.  You seem pretty well put together at first glance, make a pretty decent first impression.  Or at least a second impression.  You’re not a bad person, you’ve got some natural talents, some gifts, you’re not the dullest tool in the shed.  And hey, you know this.  So then, why are you so… what’s the word…

Ordinary?

Yeah, that’s it.  And I know that, deep down inside, you don’t want to be ordinary.  You want to excel, be unique, stand out from the crowd, have something about you that no one else has.  Because hey, don’t we all.  Look around.  Everyone wanted to be normal as a kid, and now they want to be unique as an adult.  Paradoxical, ain’t it?

But no, you want to excel.  At something.  And hey, don’t we all.  But we’ve tried, and I can certainly attest to it, it’s damn hard.  Trying to be good at something takes work.  And to be great?  Good luck, there’s always someone out there who’s further ahead, further down the line.  And at some point, you stop and say to yourself, might as well give up now, huh?  Call it, not waste any more effort?

So here, I’ll help you out.  Lay a little truth on you.  You see everyone else around you, all those people who are better than you, who can somehow always have the right thing to say, to do, for whom everything always seems so damn easy?  See them?  The people who somehow seem to have it all figured out?  See them?  Know them?

It’s a lie.

Everyone, every single person around you, is scared, paralyzed, in mortal fear that you can see through the chinks in their armor.  They’re all projecting out shells of knowledge, of confidence, trying to seem impenetrable, while inside they cry and mewl in helpless despair.

That speaker, confidently giving his presentation?  He’s spent months slaving over this topic, and is scared to death that someone will ask him a question he doesn’t know, or he’ll blank on the answer and be booed off stage.  That guy effortlessly chatting up the babes at the bar?  He’s been rejected so many times, and he remembers every one of them, each with its own unique, exquisite sting of failure.  That girl strutting down the street, dressed in high fashion and making every man’s head twist to follow her figure?  Just this morning, she stood in the mirror, observing every minuscule flaw and hating herself for them.  They all seem so sure of themselves, but inside, they’re just as fragile as you or me.

So, what’s the difference?  If we’re all the same inside, why are they able to pull it off?  How can they step forward when everyone else hesitates or steps back?  What do they have, that you and I lack?

Really, it’s rather a chilling answer.  They know that they will fail.  They have failed before, have taken those wounds, sustained those scars.  And they kept on going.  It’s not natural talent, or trained skill, or confidence, or poise, or ability, luck, happenstance, or fortune.

No, it’s raw, bloody, dogged determination.  They refuse to hide away, to stay safe from rejection, failure, disappointment and sadness.

It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. 
Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.

-Sophie Scholl

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