"Selflessness is the sweetest thing you can do for yourself…" ~David McCullough Jr., Wellesly Faculty, Commencement Speech 2012
I'm coming to think that when we were taught as children and teenagers that we could do anything, we believed it.
When stories of yore were told of how I walked early/talked early, used full sentences as a toddler, astounded adults with my vocabulary, and understood difficult concepts as youngster, I began to take pride in that.
When my 4th grade teacher told me she was astonished at my writing capability, thus beginning her tutelage of my secret writing career (secret because I was still too shy to show anyone), I settled down on that pride — especially when Mrs.Salisbury didn't stop at teaching me how to write books, but how to make them (cover art and all).
When my longest-running piano teacher told me I was her star pupil, showing signs of exemplary talent, I glowed inside knowing I had bumped children older than myself off of their stools — especially that bully on the playground who pulled little boys' pants down for fun. When I discovered musicians were trained for performance, I began to feel like a performing monkey and lost interest… humility? Meh. Probably too much pressure on an Aspie brain whose specialized interests lay elsewhere. I wanted to sing and play music because it sang to me, not because I wanted to perform. But… well… who wants to teach a student like that? College beat that message into me but good.
When my elderly 9th grade teacher told me she had never encountered such story-telling capability or writing skill in someone so young, I beamed. Who wouldn't? In my room at night, I wrote novels, lyrics, poems, short stories and prayers. I began filling up binders and empty journals. I felt I was the only kid in the entire universe with my pure, raw talent — creativity, intellect, isolation, and daring. What other kid would be nerdy enough to be like me, or would ever be like me again for that matter? Please don't ask for me to share any of my teen angst work, as I do believe it is next in line with the chaff to be burned.
Oh how hard it was to be me!
Well, the truth of the matter is I actually did show creative promise in writing and music. However, someone forgot to tell me that so did a few other kids. Someone forgot to tell me that trying to polish my differences as singularly endeared to accolades was perhaps… hubris.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like I have a tremendous writing career that pays the bills now (that's my other life); nor did I really share my writing with very many people at all well into my 20s. I kept my "specialness" a secret… wrapped under how special my rejection status was. There wasn't anyone else in the whole wide world who would understand how painful my teen years were; not a single person was able to see the world through my own len; there wasn't a soul alive who could see deep into my soul and accept me, love me, or approve of me as a young adult.
Ah, approval… my old friend. Wait… she's yours too? That's strange… I thought she only pandered to me. Traitor!
Was my rejection real? Yes. Very. And damaging. As it is so for many people.
Was my 'specialness' real? Yes. Very. And it is so for every people.
Hearing the stories of trafficking victims, the issues of self-esteem come up over and over again, and rightly so. Being sold as property has got to be one of the single most degrading forms of oppression our post-modern world has maliciously nurtured. Yet knowing perhaps the imbalanced message of "I'm the most special person in the whole wide world" of my youth, how do I go about loving a bruised reed, terribly raw, and terribly hurt? Do I overblow the pride thing? I'm hoping some years of Christ-centred wisdom, some months of healing from real pain & sorrow, some weeks of eating nothing but crow, and morning hours of solace with Jesus will have anchored in me His place as the centre of the universe. This blog will pass away in nanoyears; my writings will fade… as will yours… and yours and yours. It's okay. It's not what we're known for — or your amazing football spiral. Who cares if your Hail Mary eclipses oh… what's his name?
I know this video has already gone viral around the net, but it needed to. We seem to be raising generations – young and old – of narcissists. We remain in a constant state of need, a constant state of showing our lust for approval, a constant mixed-message of "I'm 100% different… just like everybody else". Always striving for 'different', but always in a state of insecurity. This is what we want to pass on to those around us?
I love to write.
I love writing.
I love creating… worlds, people, strands of words, plots, identities, daydreams, night dreams, terrors, fixations.
I love discovering… worlds, people, strands of words… you get the idea.
… you might too.
How can we celebrate our differences through selflessness? Is this the component we have neglected within ourselves? Are we so convinced of our own raw talent that we have to crow it to the world? Or keep it as 'secret pride'?
Perhaps putting our special differences into a healthy whole, and then deliberately choosing to go out and seek the differences of others with the intent to celebrate them might — just might — break the cloak of pomposity we are prone to wearing. It might also open up our learning… and our pathway to Life and Love.