Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On Not Becoming Rich and Famous

My summer has revolved around a series of painful flashes of self awareness. I experienced the first one in late April. It happened shortly after a visit to my therapist. I had been telling him about a co-worker's delusion of grandeur (someone, in my opinion, was taking the job a bit too seriously). In my estimation, that particular individual was probably not employed in the sort of job that their education or background had promised, and overcompensation was a way of coping with those ruined expectations. In my own backwards, haughty way, I surmised, "I feel oddly lucky that I wasn't raised to have any expectation of being happy or successful. It saves me from that kind of disappointment."

My therapist gave me a funny look and turned the subject back to me trying to get along with my co-worker. "So, this person thought they would be doing something better than this job. But in this economy, they should be happy that they even have a job. And here you are - coming from your crazy family, with the alcoholic father - and now your life is pretty good. You have a nice husband. You aren't a drunk or an addict. You're making okay money. You're doing alright."

He went on to say some other stuff, but I was distracted by the sting. When I contemplate my life's trajectory, I don't like to think of myself as "pretty good" or "alright". I prefer "awesome turnabout!" to describe where I'm at. And yet, I know that "pretty good" is pretty good descriptor for my life, and that's pretty damned lucky in this harsh world.

And then, the moment came. I was working out at the gym later that afternoon when it hit me - I will probably never become rich or famous. You see, even though I was not raised with any expectation of accomplishing a goal, or getting an education, or finding a husband, there has been a little part of me, going all the way back to childhood, that assumed that I would someday become rich and famous. That assumption was so ingrained in my psyche that I never even thought to question it - until now. Talk about delusions of grandeur!

I brought up my revelation at my next therapy session. What I really wanted to know was, do other people have this delusion, or am I special kind of crazy? My therapist chuckled and told me that everyone daydreams. And daydreams do affect the way people live their daily lives. But discussing one's daydreams is generally a taboo, even in therapy. In other words, "who knows?" answers the first question and "not really" answers the latter.

This idea of not being rich or famous has changed me forever. For one thing, I've been forced to ask myself why I would want those things anyway. I mean, I could always stand more money, but I know too many unhappy rich people to assume that it would give me much pleasure. And I know I would suck at being famous. I'm too shy, too much of a loner. I can't even handle having a Facebook account.

I guess the thing that I long for is recognition. I don't need to be famous, but I do need to know that my self-expression is appreciated. Like, there's this woman at work who tells me every week that she enjoys reading my corny, pun-filled meeting minutes. And as pathetic as it may seem, that brings me joy. I think the highlight of the last month was when I sang "Turn to Stone" at a seedy karaoke bar in Dearborn Heights, and I guy came up to me afterward and said that I sounded like the singer from The Motels. I don't even like the song "Only the Lonely," but he does, and I can take a compliment like that any day.

My more recent conundrum is this - the more recognition I receive, the more I want. I discussed this with my therapist at our most recent session and he says that this is some weird thing called "ambition". He claims that this new found ambition is a good thing, a sign that I am progressing in the style of a happy person. I would rather return to those blissful days when I had no desire to make myself more recognized, but here I am. Oh, well. I guess I can accept that there is some middle ground between "dirt poor and unknown" and "rich and famous".

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