Why It’s So Hard To Matter

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If there’s one thing we need in life, it’s to feel significant. The need is right there next to water, air and Big Macs — slightly less tangible, but always present. Every time we go to a party, we want to feel that the atmosphere changes a little when we arrive, that we’re bringing something to the table, and when we’re not there, our absence is noticed. Our presence missed. That there are others who are inconsequential to the mix, but it’s not us. We want to know that we’re leaving a mark on the people we come into contact with — that our interactions change people, if even in the tiniest way. That we matter.

Our decisions have to mean something too. The ways we choose to spend our days must be impactful. Whether it’s that mother who gave up the VP position to stay home with her kids, or the girl that skipped college to pursue her acting dreams, our choices have to be the right ones. Our lines have to be crucial to the overall performance, or everything feels so empty, pointless. It’s why we use words like “fate” and “God.”

But there’s a dichotomy in this craving — our need to be special, a little better than the others — because we’re also driven by fear. Any time we’re inclined to take a risk where the outcome is unknown, there’s always a cloud of caution casting a shadow over the decision. It’s the flip side of the gift of consciousness — the ability to plan, consider, hypothesize. Our minds are more complicated than just blindly charging ahead.

The fear might not appear right away — for a few fleeting moments that current of inspiration will be crystal clear, the jolt of passion all-consuming. But then we’ll reconsider the logistics, look around us, and it will always be there underneath, whispering doubt under its breath. And after that reconsideration, suddenly the whole plan — whether it’s embarking on a new business venture or chopping off all your hair — looks entirely different, like a lover after you’ve fallen out of love. Suddenly that route that would differentiate us, that could actually make us matter, seems overgrown, difficult to navigate. And so often, we choose not to take it, melting back into fear’s open arms.

This angel/devil relationship has become so clear to me lately, as I’ve been arranging my life the way that I want it. Like most people, I don’t want to look back on my decisions and worry that I didn’t live widely enough, full enough, that I chose the sunny route because it looked safer. But it’s hard, sometimes impossible, to stay constantly aware of that, to consider your significance when a decision is so fleeting. Makes me wish I could capture all those little moments of spark in a jar, before fear could touch them, so they could buzz around like fireflies, a constant reminder of what could be. TC mark

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