What is ‘special’ anyway?

I read an interesting article during the week by a woman that she no longer felt the need to strive to be ‘special’ – she was, perhaps, happy just to be average. It sounds like a typically indulgent article of the age. I can’t imagine it being written 20 years ago. Still, it stirred up my thinking, as I know it did others.

My initial reaction was somewhere along the lines of ‘good for you’. We all make our choices. You can strive or choose not to strive and no-one will care much either way, and whatever you choose ultimately is probably who you really are anyway – and that’s fine. It’s just not me.

I went about my work and only afterwards did I wonder at the nature of this ‘special’ thing. What is special after all? And what does she mean – to be recognised as special, or simply to be special?

I’ve got a different notion of this. Special is a very personal thing, and each of us in our own way has a share of it anyway. There’s hardly a person on earth who doesn’t have some particular talent or inclination. It’s an anodyne notion and sure, just a little greeting card-ish, but I reckon even if it’s just a small thing there is special in all of us. It’s just that some people have more of the thing that is special, or perhaps it goes deeper or soars higher, or maybe it’s just more obvious. If you’re talking about what makes people recognised as being special then I think a lot of it is just happenstance.

My sister – a very different character to me – used to go off at me accusing me of thinking myself special. I would agree with her, of course, I am special – because I’m me. Naturally, that infuriate her further (a bonus), but I didn’t mean it in any arrogant sense. It’s just that I’m me, and no-one else, just you are you. I’m always surprised when I find people don’t understand that, or feel it – everyone should. You can’t feel yourself special then you’re missing out on a lot.

There’s no-one else in the world, and throughout history, who has same perspective and history as you do, no-one else who can see through your eyes nor feel what you do in the same way. Your thoughts reading this are yours – they may not be entirely original, but they came at you and are articulated in such a way individual to yourself. You may not be special in the commonly understood definition of it, but you are unique – and that makes you special. That’s yours, cherish it.

I’ve never really doubted much of that, but there are more conventional ideas of ‘specialness’ I’ve also strived for. I’m not like the woman in the article. I don’t seek recognition for being special (I couldn’t care less), but I want to know in myself that what I do can be special. I strive for that. I don’t want to waste anything. If I’ve got something I want to use it up. I want to be what I can be. It’s like an understated mission that has become more pointed as I emerge from the dark years. Time was a wastin’, now I have to make it up, and more.

One of the ideas that fascinates me absolutely is the theory that there are parallel worlds to ours where there are infinite versions of ourselves. The world – the realities – vary subtly one from another. In one world the version of you made a decision the opposite to the decision you made in this world. Add up all the possible variations and the realities diverge in an infinite number of ways. It’s easy to be caught up contemplating a very strange concept that many reputable scientists think more likely than not.

For me, once more, thoughts of this become keener when I contemplate how the alternate versions of me managed themselves through what I call the dark years. If this theory is true then there are a multitude of ‘me’s’ whose reality would have branched off before then and never experienced the darkness. There will be versions of me married with a bunch of children, versions of me that achieved success and were even recognised for their special qualities, and undoubtedly versions who experienced calamity and death. Of those who went through the dark times there will be some who managed it better than me, and others worse. There’s probably some who never survived it.

It’s all very fascinating, but for me, it’s a reminder of how things could be – the good, but particularly the bad. It reminds me to keep on it, to keep striving lest one of the less favourable destinies becomes mine. I – this me – does not want to be the loser in this.

Ultimately it’s just a hypothetical. This is the version I am. This is my life. Whatever happened in those alternate possible realities has no bearing on this one. There may be other me’s, but only one me – if you understand. This is what I’ve got.

If this is what I’ve got then it’s my responsibility to make it count. That’s a very personal thing, but what it boils down to – I think – is to be yourself utterly. That takes self-awareness, self-knowledge, and I think an inquiring mind. That’s not an end point because it’s in a state of constant evolution, but that’s okay, in fact, it makes it interesting. It’s okay to step back. It’s okay, as this woman in the article seems to have done, to accept that what you really want may be different from what you thought it to be. The important thing is to search for it, to be an active participant in your own life and not just a passive observer. So I think.

For me, knowing myself as I do, I know no matter how often I might yearn for it I cannot simply let things be. It’s my nature and philosophy that I can’t rest if it’s not right, and I’m coming to accept that. Earlier in the year I set myself the goal to be more humble – and by that I meant to let things flow about me without seeking to interfere with it. That’s not who I am though. Instinct is that I cannot watch without acting. That may change one day, but for now I can’t help but stick my oar in and having a paddle.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be recognised in the conventional sense as being special, but I’m pretty certain I’ve got some special stuff in me and I want to use it up. Nothing is forever, but be here while it is.

 

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