I found myself discussing the meaning of my very existence with the toolman at 1.30 in the morning last Wednesday. What began as an innocent discussion about interest rates and inflation (the toolman being an endless source of educational information on the topic), ended with a heated discussion about what motivates human beings to get up and keep going every morning. The result was an emotional epiphany that revealed itself close to 2am.
It wasn’t earth shattering and it probably isn’t news to anyone that knows me. It may even be common knowledge that manifests in quiet whispers behind my back. It is of course, that my thirst for knowledge is a heavy compensation for my lack of aesthetic quality, even heavier than I am.
I spend much of my time reading, learning and searching for information. I fancy myself to be no dumb bum. I hope that others have the same fancy. I am in short however, barking completely up the wrong tree. I’m even searching for that tree in a city landscape. All this came about when the toolman asked what motivates me. Imagine that, a fully grown male, just throwing the question out there:
“But what motivates you?”
“What do you mean?” I’m thinking, now, tomorrow, in the morning, what is he talking about?
“What are you living for? What do you want from your life?”
“Oh, you know. Babies, of course. Love….Actually, no. Success, lots of success”
“What makes you successful though?” he asks with open eyes.
“I want to be the best. I want to be special. I want people in my field of work to think of me when they have a question. I want to be THE source of information”
I then broke down in frustrated tears. What followed were a tirade of scattered thoughts and the type of argument that comes from high emotion; that is, semi-screeching, loosely formed sentences and lots of finger pointing.
“I desperately want to be respected” I kept spitting out.
I felt backed into a corner, the only way out being a self-righteous speech about positive regard and admiration that made me sound very shallow indeed. I’d been in this position before. In fact, am often in this position with the toolman; the only way out is brutal honesty. And most often, not even I know what I am about to reveal about myself.
“Look, we go through life as social beings. As much as I like to think that I read, I learn and I groom myself for myself, we all know I’m doing it for others. The checklist goes like this (imagine now that I’m standing above the toolman drawing giant boxes in the air and filling them with vigorously sketched imaginary lines)”:
Good Hair: Cross (Yes, I actually brought my hair into this!)
Particularly Nice: Cross
Knowledge: Tick (I can control this, I can control this, I can control this).
“That’s my worth- can’t you see? If I’m sitting at a table with family or friends and I have nothing to say about a topic, with no good references to back up that said, I am genuinely saddened and disappointed because that’s all I’ve got to give.”
I recalled the day that I was asked the capital city of Canada and ran a blank. The memory of that moment tormented me for weeks. Shallow? Yes. Introspective? Yes. Issues? Yes. Crazy? Yes, yes, yes.
I had simultaneously, with my admission that night, wiped the illusion that my search for knowledge is less about me and more about what other people think of me, and made myself 100% less attractive as a human being. And whilst the toolman threw around concepts such as ‘freedom’, ‘happiness’ and ‘fulfilment’ as his motivators for grinding the day away at work and building wealth, I asked the question,
“But would you be as interested in building wealth if it meant representing a lower status occupation rather than being the small business owner that you are?”
He maintained that if being a (insert crappy, low income, low standing job of your choice) meant he could build a substantial portfolio allowing him personal freedom to spend time playing with our children (which remain to be seen), he’d be riding the back of that truck in a jiffy. And please, let us not be so good intentioned as to argue that these concepts of “status” and dare I say it, “class” don’t exist. I remain sceptical, believing that all things personal are only relevant in a social context.
Would you still pluck those eyebrows living alone on a desert island for eternity? Would you still look up that unknown word in the dictionary? Perhaps a good tacky romance might tickle your fancy instead?
I suppose what I am waxing lyrical about this time is that as an overweight young woman, it’s hard to find yourself a niche. Difficult to find a social currency, if you will. In the past eighteen months, I’ve quickly realised that to stay relevant, to be seen and to be heard, I have to draw on more than my aesthetics, my fashionability (or total lack thereof) and social standing; there’s none of that here, I assure you. The result has been a desperate attempt to educate myself on all things topical and regurgitate this information at top speed, lest I be seen as a fat blob with nothing to say.
And whilst I have been spending all this energy reading and “googling”, I could have been walking round the block, planning meals or heaven forbid, actually holding a conversation.
But then again…what would I say?
So I ask you- how much of what you do is for others? And is there any worth in knowledge if it cannot be regurgitated at some point to an audience who nod their approval? A more highly evolved or spiritual creature may have an enlightened response to this.
But how could I respond…I have no references.