The Emptiness of Trying to Become Something
Everyone has an identity, something they are known for. I remember dreaming up all the things I wanted to be known for when I was young. I was sure I was going to be famous one day – probably as an athlete – and then at one point I realized I simply wasn't that great of a talent. Then I figured I would probably become a famous rapper – but that didn't work out for various reasons you can probably figure out.. At one point I decided I would probably make some kind of earth shattering scientific breakthrough that netted me a lot of money and a big name – and then I paid a friend $20 to put my name on his science fair project because I forgot to do one and “we” ended up making it all the way to the big time science fair show thing – and I became very scared that someone would ask me something about it because I knew absolutely nothing about science. Then I remember recording my first set of songs in a studio with “RETURN HOME” when I was 19 and thinking that all it was going to take to get discovered was for some big wig record producer to hear it, love it, and call us. So we put together a band bio and a media kit and sent it to all the major record companies. All I ever heard was nothing. I realized at that point that our kit probably got sorted by a mail room clerk and promptly thrown into the trash when it arrived at someone’s ATTN. I never got discovered.
And in a moment of pure vulnerability I would admit that I still wish more people would notice me. I’m still waiting to be discovered. For my writing. For my songs. For my leadership. For something.
I follow “Humans of New York” on Facebook. Lindsay showed it to me a few weeks ago and I am really intrigued by the idea. It’s about telling the real stories of people on the street and getting their perspectives on life. Here is what one woman said today:
"I'm 33 and I still work as a bartender. To make it worse, my brother is a world renowned chemist. So when my father talks to people at weddings, he says: 'My son just got a million dollar grant. And my daughter lives in New York.' The thing is, I used to be such an overachiever. I skipped the last two years of high school. I got a full ride to college, but ended up dropping out. I don't know what happened.
But my favorite part of the post was what a girl in the comments said,
“Not everyone needs a world renowned chemist, but most people need a drink. Cheers to you!”
All the signposts in our culture tell us that our identity is all tied up in what trophies we can take home, what jobs we can qualify for, and how much notoriety we can get for what we do. But doesn't all that feel so empty? Doesn't the waiting to get discovered get old? Why isn't is good enough for us to just be faithful to who we are, wherever we are? Why do we chase the elusive titles and fading recognition? Isn't being known for something a superficial goal anyway?
I’m realizing that I’d rather just be known. I've spent a good deal of my life trying to become something – and all the while I should have been focused on becoming someone. That will end in a better place.