Maybe You’re Not Special

Photo of socks with various stripy patterns on two feet standing on a hardwood floor, shot from above. Red filter over image. White text in the centre reads: "Maybe it's okay to be a regular person." Handle @sage_pantony in white in bottom right corner.

Maybe it’s okay to be a regular person.

Maybe you don’t have to be special, talented, unique, different, or all that interesting.

Maybe you’re not one of those people they’ll tell stories about. Maybe no one will make a movie about your life.

Maybe you’re an average Joe, just some guy out here trying to get by.

Maybe you don’t have to prove anything about yourself to be valuable.

Most of us are regular, average people who aren’t going to do anything outstanding with our lives, and that’s fine.

We’re fed all of these stories about outstanding people, and sure, these people deserve to have their stories told. They can be noteworthy, interesting, and inspiring. Their lives make for good stories! I wonder, however, if this leads many of us to develop a complex where we believe we have to be special. I think most of us regard ourselves as unique and different. Ours is the only consciousness we experience. This can give us the impression that we’re special because we experience ourselves in a special way. But we wouldn’t have the concept of average if most of us weren’t average. We may be under the impression that we’re different or destined for greatness, but does the rest of the world agree? Likely not.

I understand why we celebrate outstanding people. I understand why we’re fascinated by the geniuses, the prodigies, and the gifted. I do worry, however, that our fixation on these folks can lead us to believe that we have to be one of them to matter.

I’m almost thirty. If I were a genius or prodigy, I’d probably know by now. I have about average intelligence, talent, and skills. I’m probably not going to make a huge impact or change the world. My impact will likely remain small, mainly affecting the people in my life, but that’s important too. I still matter. My life is still valuable.

Also, being an outstanding person looks fucking exhausting, while being average is pretty comfortable. I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t have to put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. I’m just a regular guy who’s trying to survive and get some enjoyment out of life. I think I can live with that. I think that’s all most of us need.

Published by Sage Pantony

Sage Pantony is a writer, poet, and zinester. They write about gender, sexuality, mental health, trauma, creativity, and the best ways to cook eggs. They are the author of several zines, including a trilogy about transitioning as a non-binary person. Sage’s work has appeared in publications such as Coven Poetry, Idle Ink, and The Varsity. They currently reside in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal with their pet dinosaur, Peter.

4 thoughts on “Maybe You’re Not Special

  1. It’s demeaning that we prize the person who stands out, but not the person who does show up day in and out, maybe toiling the same company job for years, so they can provide for a family. The person who dropped out of college to support his parents because of their advancing age or failing health. The parent who’s partner cheated or walked out on them, and now has to wrestle with the patchwork system we call welfare to support their kids.

    Also, we don’t celebrate the workers who DON’T want to stand out. I’m one of those guys who hates we prize “natural talent” instead of dedication and hard work. I hate when companies seem to prize workers who gloat to attention, rather than the workers who band together as a team to get company goals done without bragging about it. When we praise students who get good grades, but don’t value students who may get average grades because they also still have to work to support themselves. Praising the CEOs who bring in record profits when it’s the workers who do instead.

    I can turn this into an all-night diatribe, but I am holding myself back. I’ve walked both worlds, where at home we celebrated the Everyman and blue-collared values, but at school we cherished the Luminary and noteworthy, and if you didn’t stand out you weren’t working hard enough.

    The art my family does are from family or friend artists they’ve met over the years. Art that wouldn’t show up in an art show (which Adam Ruins Everything. shows is just all rigged anyways) but my parents cherish because they love it.

    I was the second in my family who was supposed to be the break-out, go to a great college, excel in a STEM field, make the big bucks because I was “special” according to the school system (my parents did their damndest to make sure I was still grounded, which I ignored). I walked away from a full-ride scholarship out of hubris because I thought I could go anywhere (and not just the state school my scholarship restricted me to), yea that didn’t work.

    I just started a new job because I told the manager hiring me that I’m not there to stand out, make a name for myself. I wanted to be there to be part of a team that worked together to get our jobs done, be part of team that valued everybody’s contributions, that was so I would continue day in and out wanting to wake up and show up and at day’s end could stand tall and sleep knowing I gave it my all.

    Our entire culture needs to stop valuing individualism as it does, because it’s breeding the narcissism we are seeing with the anti-vax movement. We need to move back to a group-minded or communal-minded sense of self, and that values the everyman instead of the breakout.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true! A lot (though not all) of the outstanding people we celebrate tend to have privileges and opportunities not afforded to the average person, or may not face as many barriers. We often value the people who stand out without looking at what may have helped them to do so.

      I wonder if some companies celebrate workers who want to stand out on their own as opposed to workers who band together because of the deep-seated anti-union sentiments present in both of our countries? Food for thought. Some companies are terrified of their workers truly teaming up, and may favour workers who seem more willing to throw their colleagues under the bus.

      Damn, yeah. I think that regarding ourselves as special or “too good for something” can end up biting us later. I also hate the whole good/bad school binary. I chose my school because it had a reputation for being one of the best in the country, but I was miserable there. I wish I had chosen a little artsy school with a less impressive reputation but higher student satisfaction instead. I believe it would have provided a better experience (and education).

      Yeah, we lean too hard into favouring individualism for sure. I think we need a balance. Like, yeah, value yourself as an individual, be your own person, but recognize that you are a part of a greater community and culture that you are a valuable member of but not superior to.


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