Am I Special?

“(I’m) this generation’s closest thing to Einstein”- Kanye West. One a self-proclaimed genius comparing himself to the universally recognised epitome of intelligence.

I find mediocrity to be a very interesting concept. By the definition of the word, most people (read us) are mediocre, the Joe’s making up the average Joe image – slightly better than average at some things and slightly worse at others. However I feel like everyone at some point has thought they’re something special, something extraordinary – which even if inaccurate is a totally understandable feeling since you are the centre of your own world ultimately. On the flip side, I’m sure most people have also at some point thought that they represent the rock-bottom which is really sad but also inaccurate usually.

Cultural explanations for both ends of the spectrum are possible. Western culture with its emphasis on individualism can be summed up with the American proverb : “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. Opposed to this is the Japanese proverb : “the nail that stands out gets hammered back” showing the greater importance that Eastern/Oriental cultures place on the idea that working alone is a futile effort, implying that the individual by himself/herself doesn’t amount to much, mediocrity in essence.

College presents an interesting situation in this regard. Even if I say it myself, the college I go to is one of the better ones around which means that nearly everyone who enrols has been the brightest student in their family/locality/class their entire childhood. So much so that it could even be part of their personality by this point. Every year 250 such students are brought together, a sharp wake-up call for some. Suddenly the bar is raised, there’s always someone doing better than they are academically close at hand. Simply passing exams can seem like a grind when just months ago 90% would have been a disappointment. Suffice it to say some healthy internal cutting down to size and self-realisation is bound to happen.

The hero worship culture i.e.,the idolisation of sportsmen or actors and the like, also derives itself from the same place. Larger-than-life figures that apparently have something special to them that eludes us, the mediocre masses. We desperately wish that we were the ones that could stand out in such fashion and prove ourself to be similarly one-of-a-kind(generally without thinking about the raw hard work behind the facade of “natural talent”).

By all this do I mean that a sense of being special is wrong somehow? Not in the least, since most progress or achievement is driven by that very same feeling. It really does feel like a paradox since lacking that drive to prove that you are something special could seriously push you towards mediocrity or worse. As always theres the other side, the ever-present shadow to light, building up unreal expectations of yourself in your head inevitably leads to the depressing crash back to reality. Kanye himself is a prime example of both the beauty and the madness of it all. An artist with unbelievable confidence and ego simultaneously openly battling serious mental health issues. The reality by the way has stayed cold and constant (and weirdly comforting in my opinion) through your entire arc of self-hype and the consequent crash – that its unlikely that you’re the absolute best at anything but that at the same time it doesn’t make you a hopeless prospect by any means.

So what do I think is the solution? The path to walk on to balance both edges?Which culture has the right approach to this? I honestly have no clue. If you have an idea please let me know. I was taught in middle school that every article needs to provide solutions and conclude neatly or what’s the point of it all. By that logic I have written a really, really bad article since I asked a bunch of questions and provided no concrete answers, basically leaving more questions than we began with. But hey cut me some slack, I’m only 20, I still have time to figure it out. I hope.

The World We’re Rushing Into?

“Come in”
“Sir, I have an idea. Its a little daring, but after studying the trends I think it’ll be a novel move.”
“Cut to the chase, you’re in charge of advertising, your job is to follow trends. This better blow my mind.”
“Sir, I’m sure you heard of that video of police brutality that went viral.”
“Yes, yes. They even rioted and destroyed a few of our stores after that. I had to talk to the Prime Minister and have him assure me that the necessary force will be used and at the same time tweet about how I support this tomfoolery. What is even happening to this world? Are people not getting how this works.”
“Sir I know its annoying you greatly but I thought of a way that might just help us monetise this.”
“I’m listening.”
“Sir, that video has amassed millions of views in less than 24 hours. More even than the last song released by our pop star endorser got. My idea is this : If we find a way to get our brand logo or even name somewhere in these videos it would instantly reach out to tens of millions of people. Without them even realising it.”
“This could be a masterstroke. After all, any publicity is good publicity. But how do we make sure that our brand finds its way into the next video. Oh wait, are you suggesting…”
“Yes sir. Theres only one sure-fire way. If we orchestrate the entire video. Take for example this case. If we agree beforehand with the cop to protect him and his family legally and financially in exchange for committing the act, say.. in an incident related to our store or even just in front of one of our stores.”
“I love it but its a high-risk plan. What if it doesn’t work? What if we have to pay for the cop and his legal defence without the video going viral? That would be an awful waste of resources.”
“Sir thats why I don’t plan to use this as a one-hit wonder. I plan to start out with an experimental trial of ten such videos. Before putting the plan into action I’ll study the trends even further in these matters and see what really triggers a reaction, details like the frequency of these incidents, specific elements in the video itself that seem to generate the most reaction, etc. So far it seems that smaller crimes aren’t eliciting as much of a response as killings.”
“Consult with the finance team and see if the cost and clout we’ll have to use to defend the killing is justified by the ad money we would be saving. If this proves viable financially we could branch out into other similar forms of videos. The potential is insane.”

“Yes sir. I’ve already identified mass shootings, riots maybe even school shootings as the next potential forms we could expand to.” “Great consult with our legal team and prepare a list of cities where we have maximum clout. Give me a full report on how it goes.”

                 —————————————————-x———————————————

3 months later

“Sir, out of the ten killings two of the videos went viral. We planned it so that they happened outside our stores. According to our trends just these two videos alone have had a greater influence on the internet than all of the endorsements we got in the past 5 years. As the icing on the cake the cops have received the lightest sentences possible for the crimes they were charged with.”

“This has truly become a game-changer for us. Remember not to let our rivals hear of this genius idea. What were the other options you had mentioned expanding into again?”

If Only They Knew What To Say

“Why don’t you smile more often. Look at your sister, she’s always ready with a laugh to liven up our day.” He didn’t know how to respond to his mother’s chiding, sufficing with a glare. “Your mother is right you know. Most people would consider themselves fortunate to have what you have and still you’re gloomy all the time. It’s all in your head” He knew explaining to them was a lost cause, they would never understand that it didn’t necessarily take a specific thing to make one ‘depressed’ or that everyone doesn’t have to be happy all the time. Instead he did what he did always in the situation, race through his dinner and then make a hasty retreat back to the solitude of his room, his sanctuary. He had the same levels of success with his peers. “You always seem so ‘down’ all the time bro. Learn to chill out a little more. God!”  He invariably replied, “I’m just tired, not ‘down’ or anything like that. What are you talking about?” The ‘I’m tired’ explanation of course didn’t help after the first few times. Soon the comments turned to, “Leave him bro, he thinks it makes him cool. Being ‘melancholy’. He hasn’t realised it’s something that’s considered cool only on the internet.” He bit back a retort and instead forced a laugh that was now practised to perfection. “I told you I was just tired, I didn’t get much sleep yesterday. Besides I wouldn’t be hanging out with y’all if I was trying to be cool.” Some of his friends sniggered, he had successfully diverted the conversation away. Another group who’d never understand, that it wasn’t his choice to be ‘depressed’ or whatever the hell it was going on in his head. It wasn’t like he was ‘down’ all the time either, another concept no one seemed to understand. “Bro you were fine in the morning, what happened to you now? Why’re you so moody?” It was ironic how their image of depression pushed him deeper and deeper into the murky swamp in his mind. It felt like he only hit dead-ends in this mental maze everytime someone spoke about it. If only they knew what to say….

Day after Val

Yesterday night was my Valedictory night. Days of practice have gone into that one night. Perfection was a must on such a night after all wasn’t it. The atmosphere was surcharged with emotions from even before the program began. Walking to my seat itself was enough to bring up strong feelings. Although on the whole the program itself wasn’t as emotional as it was famed to be it was enough to leave a few of us in tears. Singing the school song one last time together was too much for some who broke down halfway through. However what really pulled on my heartstrings was the night – the dinner for namesake after that. Saying that hey or bye to people you’ve known forever, everyday knowing that you won’t be seeing them like that again maybe even never again threatened to push me over. Finally when it was getting out of hand I left the hubbub and sought a spot of solitude somewhere. Along with a single friend, best I’ve ever known, I finally found a spot far off from the spotlight – where many final meetings were happening, a spot of surreal calm from where we could survey the simple beauty of the whole night. Lit by hundreds of little lights and some huge incandescent bulbs which threw strangely beautiful shadows of the massive stone buildings and the food tents. Students hugging each other for what for many would be the last time. Milling around to find everyone, not wanting to miss anyone who had been part of their journey. Photos were taken by the thousand anyone passing by was pulled into the frame. This night wasn’t the night to care for whether you knew the person or not. Of course I couldn’t stay hidden for ever and soon my friends found me and I was forced to say my final goodbyes, broken out of the reverie the night had pulled me into. I had been staying away from my parents the whole evening, now wasn’t the time for them. I had already missed half a dozen calls from them. But who cared because it was all finally sinking in. This school and all these friends I have made won’t be my refuge soon. The currents of life will drift us apart and swallow us up in our own struggles and journeys. It won’t be this place I consider home anymore. Although many considered it a second home for someone like me I’d come to consider it as my first home itself. The first place I had forged true friendships which I hoped would last me a lifetime though I know that’s hoping for too much. It won’t be here I come to every morning ~ the place I could finally express myself freely. It hurt but I knew the night had to end and as it neared ten I called my parents. There was no point dragging it on, it would only be tougher to leave then. So, silently I left for home engrossed in thoughts the whole ride back not bothering to communicate with my parents. They were part of another world, not the one I was leaving behind, and I knew which was the one I wish I could stay in forever. As I reached home and changed out of my uniform it hit me that it’s over. The night I had looked forward to and and dreaded at the same time was over. I was almost overwhelmed one more time. But I made it through and went to sleep as soon as possible not wanting to delve on what the night meant. But one thing will stay imprinted in my mind ~ that image of school and every one of the outgoing batch along with their parents and teachers from that spot of calm on one end of the ground. Everything stretched out in front of me in the dim lights swallowed by the darkness of the night in places as the massive school buildings looked down on us one last time.