There are all kinds of schemes hanging about, promising you that THIS is what will make you happy, THIS will make you successful, THIS will make you skinny, THIS will make you loved. We all know they’re bullshit. But maybe this time, THIS one will work, just for us.
The exception that proves the rule, right?
Because, really, we’re special. Not like all those gullible idiots out there. That’s why it’ll work for us, this time. Soon we will be accomplished, and therefore happy. What we want, what we need, is this new thing we didn’t know about until two minutes ago. But we definitely need it. No doubt.
So we push ourselves through workouts, training schemes, diets, qualifications. We endlessly strive to reach the next level. Level up! Ping! Now, Super Mario, you have everything that you need. Now, you can be happy. Maybe even Luigi, too.
Constantly pursuing a goal, however clear or defined it is, is exhausting. Constantly moving, acting, achieving, don’t stop to breathe. Keep going.
We chase these things not to achieve them. We chase them to talk about them. Or at least, that’s my experience. What we want isn’t to be a better human being; it’s to be recognized as a being at all.
What we really need is very simple. We need the validation of others.
It’s why we blog, Tweet, Facebook. We joke about how things aren’t ‘real’ unless they’re ‘Facebook real,’ but there is a kernel of truth there. What do we use status updates for? If I feel an emotion, and no one else registers it, it has no tangible effect. Scientifically, its impact on the world is imperceptible. And if your emotions aren’t tangible, how do you define your self? Can you exist, divorced of your emotions?
Perhaps tweenagers understand this more than any of us. They put every aspect of their raw angst onto the internet. It must be seen, it must be acknowledged. Hence hideous Myspace pages abound, with endless photos taken in the bathroom mirror. Hey, if no one sees those pictures, how will they know how good you look? In the collective consciousness, you’re still pretty average looking until everyone has seen those hot-damn photos with the contrast waaayy up. Every aspect of their lives in the open, acknowledged, therefore true.
At some point, we realize there are parts of ourselves that we don’t want to be acknowledged. Parts that we don’t like, and wish we could totally erase. Things we’ve done, thought or felt. From the ‘Oh-god-I-can’t-believe-I-did-that-last-night’ variety to the ‘Why-can’t-I-just-be-more-normal’ variety. We stop exposing our entire selves to the public eye. We’re embarrassed.
In some ways it’s a shame to lose the easy, total abandon of the teenage years. This newfound restraint brings up the doubt: who are we if no one knows our unedited whole?
How do you define yourself? Through your experiences? Or through how you present those experiences to other people?
Probably neither of those. We define ourselves through our relations to other people. We are mother, husband, lover, sister, teacher, friend, son, enemy. Without links to other people, we disintegrate. We need anchors to society. To label someone is not to negate them. Even derogatory labels, whilst unpleasant, acknowledge a place in society, somewhere to belong. An identity.
And identity is relative. Without anyone to relate or react to, there is no identity, only isolation. To ignore a person, to deprive them of the labels of relationships, is what truly negates them. It robs them of their identity, and denies their humanity.
Everyone in the world needs to be able to believe that they are real. And to be real, you have to have an impact, you have to make things happen, have an effect somehow. Everyone needs to believe that they matter.
We don’t need a new hobby, skill or ‘hilarious’ travel photos. We need someone to matter to. Someone who will acknowledge us, validate us, and not make us feel pathetic for needing that. Someone who knows our whole.
Until you find a person who you can really trust to hold the flowing quicksilver of your self, keep having experiences. Create relationships. Make an impact. Don’t just feel – be felt.