At my Mom’s house, there was a glossy red plate with curly white letters that said: “You are special today.” I believe it was a bonus gift from the multi-level marketing toy company Mom repped. As an only child, that was “my plate.” I see myself with fashion ahead-of-its-time, eating my Egg McMommy, a whole-wheat, spinach situation. Every day, this plate stared up at me: You are special today. Was I special that day? Am I special today?
As a teen, I lived in catalogues from boarding schools with ivy in every photo. Until I was 18, I spent every waking moment working on simultaneously getting out of the middle of nowhere and becoming someone special. I remember several birthdays sobbing myself to sleep because I hadn’t unlocked some secret level. I wasn’t a prodigy, I couldn’t play violin like Mozart, I wasn’t Nadia winning the gold in the Olympics. But just because I hadn’t done it as a child didn’t mean I was out of time.
Am I out of time now? I am no longer a child. I’m still in the middle of nowhere, still making art and telling my friends about it. Still struggling to define what I do and why I do it and wondering every day if I am still special. Does potential have a half-life? What is greatness? Do I matter? Does anyone?
To be special is to be different than those around you. If you are in the 99th percentile of everyone, then you are living above the world. What is it like to be Rumi, Shakespeare, Ghengis Khan, or Picasso? When did they know? Did they know? When are you certain you are ordinary? I grew up feeling I didn’t belong anywhere I was. My real life was waiting for me elsewhere because I was special. But what good is that sort of thinking if it separates you from the world around you?
I think the answer is that everyone is different, and every day we are different, and that means we are all special every day. Now that I think about it, I didn’t get the “You are special today” plate every day. I wasn’t always at Mom’s house. It wasn’t always clean. We didn’t always eat food that went on a plate. So, even though it was often, it was just rare enough to be special. Even though it is definitely insincere that the plate said that to everyone every day, it was always right.