Isn’t it weird how often we let go of skills?
On one hand I get it. We live in a world where specialisation is rewarded. What else does capitalism tell us? Do what you’re good at and you’ll be rewarded. Why would you bother with the rest? Someone else who’s good at that will do it. Stay in your lane and pay others to handle everything else. Being a hedge knight, doing a mediocre job at many things seems less important than fulfilling your worker bee quota and bee-ing the best you can bee. Why put yourself out there only to be outshone? Especially at a time where being remarkable comes with a large ribbon. The highs in 2016 are so far beyond the lows that we’re taught to shoot for the stars every time, to gamble and hit that jackpot.
Weird, I was just gonna write about how I tried going for a swim and was crappy at it. This feels like something else entirely to pursue. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but not in any depth. Forgive me if I sink in the middle of the lane.
Very few of us are remarkable and that’s okay.
I’m not and so many people I’ve met aren’t either. We can go ahead and forgive ourselves. I know we all want to be the protagonists, but in reality so many of us are extras. We live mediocre lives where we’re sustained by a combination of intangible dreams and inertia. Being remarkable is really hard work. To truly excel means a lot of sacrifice, far more than 99% of us are willing to put in. Those athletes we see on the world stage, the celebrities we idolise, the scientists who bring new possibilities to life? That’s hard work. Athletes spend hours every day exerting pure physical effort. Their diets and social lives are meticulously cultivated. Free time means something very different to an athlete and the stage on which they perform is so much larger than we could imagine.
There’s this idea that being a celebrity is glamorous. That it’s an easy life purely full of privilege. I’m sure there’s a lot of that, no doubt. The other side is having your existence revolve around criticism. Millions of people decide who you are and it’s your job to try and shape that. To influence people worldwide. To adhere to marketing strategies where your trajectory is analysed and predicted. To conform to the image created for you, to be someone that the public decides they want you to be. To lose that autonomy is what it means to gain idolatry instead of infamy. You could be doing your best and one wrong sentence or dumb action could irrevocably change everything you’ve worked for. How would you like walking a razor’s edge every day? I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty fucking unpleasant.
I don’t know who you are and that might be a bigger blessing than you realise. I’m a nobody and because of that I get to go home, spend quality time with my girlfriend and shape my life around who I want to be. I don’t get to go to big swanky parties surrounded by social climbers, but I also don’t have to. I could have things so much better in life if I worked for them, but I could also have them so much worse. I don’t have to worry about basic needs, but I also don’t need to stress too hard about the ramifications of my professional activity and how that might affect others. I have very little at stake and there’s something freeing about that.
Isn’t that mediocrity in a nutshell? Ignoring the sink or swim mentality and instead comfortably treading? Things could for sure be more fulfilling. I’d love, in fact, to be challenged more and be engaged in where I’m moving instead of drifting with the tide.
All I’m saying is that it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re shitty at breaststroke. It’s not like you can’t learn to be better.