Loved by numbers,
You’re losing life’s wonder;
Touch like strangers detached,
I can’t feel you anymore.
(Guiding Light by Muse)
I’m not sure whether this blog has a theme, or if it’s various fantasies merging in my mind, but I’ll start with these lyrics. I was listening to it shortly after finishing uni, and it made me think about how we walk around life with labels stuck to us, and how many of these are self-imposed, invisible to everyone else. It’s possible to spend your whole life feeling inadequate because you feel like you’ve failed, but other people don’t view you this way. Imagine missing out on a 2:1 by one mark, getting a 2:2; this could be infuriating, and you could be haunted by feelings that you wasted so much effort, that you’ve been cheated.
But the true reality is that you would be the same person as if you’d got an extra mark, and what’s more, other people don’t see you walking around with your qualifications glued to your head. Numbers don’t define your talent or worth; it is these qualities and talents that enable you to gain the qualification in the first place. Your abilities and potential aren’t dictated by your qualifications or performance, it’s the other way around. Your hidden qualities breathe life into the external. Think Tom Daley: he crashed out of the Olympic diving semi-finals, but he’s still one of the greatest divers in the world.
That was my position before my mark got confirmed. But not to worry, as soon as that happened, there was a new standard to measure myself against: career success. Yippee! Trying to maintain an independent state of self-worth with nothing much to affirm it, while ploughing through endless job applications, none of which seemed to offer anything appealing. All I kept seeing were unanswerable questions, asking why I was such a special individual: Why are you worthy to be bestowed with the title of sales assistant, and all the honours and edification that come with it? Truly, after enduring endless days scouring the Internet for a likely role, sweeping floors and taking abuse off the public would seem like a blessing. I find it sickening when a multi-national corporation like Topshop is claiming to be as philanthropic as Gandhi.
Sorry if that sounds angry, but it’s easy to get lost in the inbetween phases of life, when we’re waiting for something to happen, and we don’t have any structure or form to follow. When the waiting is over, I often wonder what was happening in the bit before, and whether it was beneficial. No one ever pays you to search for jobs, or to hang on for good or bad news, but it’s an undeniable part of life. Afterwards it can seem that we have greater purpose or identity than earlier, but in fact we’re exactly the same person, except we’ve just gained a form of external validation.
The path of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings illustrates this well. The broken sword represents his fractured inheritance as king. It’s reforging symbolises that the time has come for him to assume his role, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t entitled to the position before. Broken or not, the sword belongs to Aragorn.
What does that mean? It means there’s no point waiting to live your life to the fullest. You can spend ages waiting for a sign, but even when it comes, it’s only a result of who you are, not some divine visitation of karma, or the Force bringing things back into balance. Your destiny is waiting; not for Morgan Freeman to give you a charismatic speech, Professor McGonagall to send your Hogwarts acceptance letter, or for Merlin to bring you a magical sword, but for you. I hate inspirational speeches. I don’t need someone barraging me with subtley worded phrases, to contrive a superficial self-belief, only for it to evaporate at the first hurdle. I need an inner awakening; to realise I am who I am, not what I’ve done or who I will become.
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14)
We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand-out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (Romans 5:1-2)