Written with Wonderful Wonderful by the Killers playing on repeat in the background.
Evaluation, they say, is essential to improvement. Improvement, logically, is the way forward. Practice makes perfect and so forth. But then they also say that you can never be perfect, so what’s the point, you may ask. The answer I can give you is that I don’t know.
You know how it is when you are compared to somebody who’s supposed to be your peer. You didn’t work hard enough. They had a work ethic that made work blush a brilliant pink. You were reluctant to commit, perhaps. They did not know anything except an Unbreakable Vow to work until they got where they are. Maybe, just maybe, you were never good enough anyway. Maybe you’re not made for this, but this is what it is and so you have to do your best. But you didn’t. They did. Makes you wonder what it would’ve been like if you’d never ever gotten top marks in that grade one spelling exam. That’s where it all went wrong, you reflect, where all the expectation started. But then what do you do? If you go with ‘it is what it is’ how will it ever change? And is ‘it’ really just a single thing or does it encompass all the ‘it’s you’ll ever attempt?
Now see here, it really is the wrong thing to do if what you do is rail against the successful, the winners, the class toppers, because they really did work hard, most of them, to get there, it must be admitted. I have never known a person with a photographic memory, and so while I admit there are such people in the world, it is essentially the same as saying that of course there are giraffes in the world somewhere, even if I haven’t ever seen one outside of nature documentaries. Therefore, either these guys are good or they’re really good, so they’re where everybody else wants to be.
But then maybe you are the one who I just said works hard. Maybe you are the success story of your class, every party you ever get invited to but maybe don’t go to, every family gathering. It gets tiring I bet, and the when you slip up and lose one subjective point of success suddenly everyone’s talking about you.
The question that must be asked here is who the bloody hell these everyone really are. They seem to govern whether you’re successful or not, they judge you and you have no choice but to submit to yet another examination. But it isn’t like they’re really weighing your heart against the Feather of Truth, mostly because you may or may not subscribe to the ancient Egyptian pantheon, but probably because it really isn’t the test that will decide whether you have the right to be happy or not.
In some or the other movie I saw, most likely one called The Pursuit of Happyness, which has got Will Smith in it, Will Smith’s character remarks toward the beginning that the American constitution grants all the right to pursue happiness, and how it is strange that they should realise that it is something to be sought, never to be had if the fabled ‘everyone’ can help it. But I don’t know. Plenty of people are happy in a very real way. They are not all successful, not all top scorers. Not even most of them fall into that particular subset of humanity. Indeed, it all really depends on what success is to you, doesn’t it.
You know, we look at tech leaders and millionaires and movie stars and so forth, the public heroes and villains, and they are all, to us, successful. But as I said, there are a large number of people who believe that they are happy without being the top ten percent. How does that work then? It seems you have to decide whether being definitely and deeply loved by a handful of people, and making them and yourself happy counts as success, as opposed to being the darling of millions for one cosmic instant. The problem with the much glorified latter condition is that the millions are fickle. The crowd has no individual brains. It is one, large, baffled, and mostly idiotic mind, a rare case where the whole counts for substantially less than the sum of its parts or even each of its parts taken separately. When the crowd adores you, you are just a number, a statistic, the author of a bestseller at best. There is nothing wrong with that, oh no, and I expect people are not wrong to aspire to it because it must feel nice. But then, after you’ve had a taste, being even second best engenders dangerous feelings of bitterness. There are many and varied outlets for that particular emotion, and not a lot of them can be discussed at any sort of length if we’re going to talk in a family friendly setting.
Aspiring to the heights then, is not bad provided you keep yourself grounded, that is another thing they say. So how are you to go about becoming the best ever at something? The common, inspirational blog answer is to develop a work ethic. Cool. That works just fine. But then you need to set milestones. Compare yourself with your peers, just like in the beginning, and also go one step further and compare how far behind you are from your nearest betters. Then work to become better than your immediate betters. Then repeat. But another question that comes around is how to pick these betters? You cannot directly want to become >insert name of very-awesome-at-something-person here<, just as you cannot directly become them. There are steps. And then some more steps. The lift has been out of order since it got built. Again, the only answer I can give you is that I don’t know. Just arbitrary hard work then, is what we do know at this point as the definite way to becoming better. Because average is everywhere, and all you have to do is just be slightly better. It’s true.
Seriously though, sometimes you may find yourself wondering, reasonably enough, whether your achievements really matter, whether they are achievements at all, whether you will be judged by them alone. You may wonder who you’re waiting for, or what, or whether you’re waiting at all, as opposed to just being. It is only fair to wonder why your name is not yet up in lights even though you’re already sixteen or twenty or twenty-five, because of course those are the ages when one expects to have gained a worldwide following.
Even that frustratingly circular question of striving for perfection which you can never have may bother you. Is it worth it? Is it worth compromising on those things that you enjoy or you’re good at, you ask, just because ‘everybody’ thinks, knows, agrees, explains to you how you’re really supposed to spend your time trying to become perfect or at least better at an arbitrary something else.
Really, all these and more thoughts full of discontentment and death metal will drive into your mind. But there is a fix.
You have to accept that there are some things which you’d like to become better at or you must. You need to understand that just because the system is broken, you can’t just fold your arms and legs and sit in huffy silence, that you need to get through the system, get above it, and changing it is only possible if you use it, bend it, morph it and poke it in its own eye. Then you can watch it howl and hop around, as you proceed to fix it. You’ve got to get the fact that either you can accept your current situation, or think of ways to change it, and you can’t do both.
And most of all what you need to know, what this is all about, the golden truth, is that when you’re thinking these thoughts, there is a high chance you’re just hungry, which is making you so angry. This condition, or so I’m told is called, using a rather small leap of semantics and logic, ‘hangry’.
All you need to do is have a nice dinner, and rehydrate. It all goes away after that. This act is bound to dispel at least part of your bad mood. The rest, if there’s any left can be dealt with the knowledge that someone somewhere, according to Greek mythology this time, is made just for you, and that all you have to do, as The Killers say, is just keep praying for rain.
That is some real sage advice.
Bruhad Dave is a Zoology student at St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad.
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