When I entered the room for my first college orchestra rehearsal, I was nervous, but feeling pretty good. My best friend Jamie and I had led our high school section for two years; I was ready. I left the room an hour later with my ego pretty efficiently deflated. Everyone in there had been first chair in their high school orchestra, and for most of them that was the least of their credits. And Jamie wasn’t there.
Maybe it just demonstrates how terribly, obnoxiously arrogant I am, but I am still surprised and disappointed to find out that I’m not all that exceptional. Like when I have to shop for jeans. Or when I actually protest that I “have a headache” (for the record, I really did). Or when I see someone who knew my mom 20 years ago, and they mistake me for her, and as I listen to myself for the rest of the day I realize how easy a mistake that is to make. (Here, let the record reflect that if I succeed in turning into my mother, I’ll consider that a success. My mom is a good person to be.)
This year, I am trying to give myself credit for a job well done instead of wishing for the job mind-blowingly done. It’s hard, in this culture. We don’t give prizes for second place — it’s “Sole Survivor,” “Top Chef,” “America’s Next Top Model,” etc., etc., etc. There’s only room for one on the gold medal platform.
Then again, during election years those of us in the middle of the pack suddenly seem much more important. The airwaves, then, are filled with politicians from both sides of the aisle, all claiming that they’ll be the ones to pay the middle class back for all our hard work in “making America great.” We’re the workhorses, they say. Nothing could happen (i.e. they’ll never get power) without us.
So, if all of America is conflicted about this, I must just be … typical.