You are not special

If you were like most kids in middle class Australia with functional parents and a modicum of intelligence you probably grew up being told, and believing, that you are special.

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YOU are destined for great things! You could be Prime Minister of Australia! You could save the whales! You might even be on TV!

It is disheartening enough that being on TV will just place you in the unenviable D-grade celebrity list, saving whales will have you hated by the Japanese or accidentally killed by a breaching beauty, or both, and becoming Prime Minister will see you hated by at least half of the country, not to mention Kevin Rudd.

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But there is something even more disheartening – the reality that you are really not special at all.

For some reason we are capable of sussing out the Santa Claus lie by at least age ten. Most of us figure this out sooner (thanks Bro) but keep up the charade in fear of losing the annual loot. By the time we are 17 we’ve figured out that ‘he’ probably isn’t really the ‘one’ and by 25 we realise no one cares about high school grades anymore.

But come 30, many of us are still clutching to the fairytale of how special we are, tighter and tighter still.

Then dawns the Santa Syndrome; the facts really aren’t adding up, are they? How could one fat man fly around the world in one night delivering presents to everyone except the poor,who clearly must have behaved terribly because their only gift was left by Whiskers in the dead of night? How is that you are special above all other people despite there being nothing particularly remarkable about you whatsoever?

Maybe – GASP – you’re like everybody else!?

If you haven’t already, some of you might soon pop out a few kids and rest on the idea that you are special because you created life! No. A few billion people did that before you. Not special, just capable of procreating. Congratulations on your functioning sexual organs.

“But my boss said that I was” – no, not special. You have a good work ethic. Not special – unless you work in government, then you might be considered above par. Congratulations on not wasting public money. (I work for government and alongside many folk with a great work ethic. I’m referring to the community perception as much as anything. Don’t poison my coffee on Monday.)

There are talented people, no doubt. I thoroughly enjoyed eyeing a painting by Vincent Van Gough at my local art gallery today. I saw it, considered it an enjoyable piece of work, then moved on to the next talented artist. But if talent is the same as being special and Vince is anything to go by, you can take your life of syphilis and mutilated aural specimens and shove it up your Pic-asso.

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I certainly think it is okay to enjoy praise; anyone who knows me for a minute is aware that I’d take praise over a pay cheque any day of the week, except every second Thursday when the rent is due. Just last week I had completed an item on my to do list and looked up to the ceiling to imagine an array of balloons cascading from the walls in celebration.

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But the problem with holding on to the belief that you’re special is that it requires all other people to not be special. It’s a superiority complex and it’s bad for your health. As soon as you rip that expectation of ‘being special’ from around your neck you will see the deep red impressions of anxiety that have been squeezing your larynx every time you’ve felt unremarkable next to your fellow human.

I am preaching, admittedly. But one writes what one knows: i’ve always had a very healthy self-esteem and couple that with good grades and flattering family members and I was on the fast train to Special City. Fortunately for me a series of life events occurred akin to a fat cow on the tracks and I got derailed big-time. I went from climbing the journalistic ladder to living in a backpackers in a new city waiting tables at a Japanese restaurant. It did not serve whale.

This was my watershed; my chance to discover that, despite being a quirky little upstart, I was just a dot in the world, moving around other dots as we slowly degrade the planet. Actually that would make us all like pac-man, and the environment the dots, but I digress – as I often do, despite my training in media management and knowing the importance of staying on message.

So I repeat: you are not special and either am I . But it’s okay because special is nothing to aspire to: special is the insult a pc-naive teenage boy calls someone after suggesting they try to bite their own elbow. It’s what’s written on the sticker that is placed on some browning mince that’s long left the abattoir.

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Stop aspiring to be something that doesn’t really exist, except in the aisles of discounted food. It’s preventing you from celebrating your every day joys, and keeping you awake with the fear of disappointing all those folks who thought you’d be somebody. You are some body, you’re a human who is conscious thanks to a few million years of neurotransmitter evolution and congratulations on being the fastest sperm to head-butt your way into a squishy egg. If you have to strive for something, strive to be good. At least that way Santa just might console you by dropping off what you really want for Christmas.

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