Everyone is better than you at something. Well okay, maybe not better than you. *looks directly at that one person* Still, working hard doesn’t seem to cut it these days.
Something has to be said for God-given talent and for those who can’t seem to find theirs. Admittedly, only recently has this become an issue of frustration for me. And even when I’ve come to acknowledge others are better at areas I hold dear and valuable, BAM! You get knocked down even harder! Because even the things you thought you were good at—honey, you haven’t seen nothing. It seems even those aspirations and qualities most valuable to me are slipping out between my fingers, until I’m only clutching air, desperately driving my nails into the palm of my hand. Perhaps this worry, more than anything, haunts me. Not because I worry about get a job after college or later down my career, but rather because, when is it enough to be me?
Throughout my life, I’ve constantly worked so hard to be better than myself. Highly aware of my own limitations, I’ve pushed myself—sometimes to unhealthy limits.
It’s not easy to say what you are, but I can tell you what I’m not. I’m not a bubbly, social person like I’ve seen with that girl in my high school who everyone knows and likes whether you’ve shared one class with her or ten. Despite fairly high grades, I wasn’t the smartest in high school—and I fought for every decimal on my GPA. Despite my fascination with literature, Tolkien, comics, and fairly anything nerdy, I’m not even considered “geeky” enough for friends to remember that I do, in fact, watch Game of Thrones just like they do. (But of course I still watch on my own. Who’s excited? It feels like they’ve been sailing to Westeros forever.) I’m not an entrepreneurial ingenue like a classmate featured on TLC for their company or a friend featured on the front of the Wall Street Journal for her work in venture capitalism. I’m not a musical virtuoso who has performed at Carnegie Hall or athletic tennis player turned pro, both as teenagers. Before you say, those people are rarities spread out across the country— I know each and everyone of these people all from the same region of California. So even those things that I can do—edit writing, run a magazine, layout, and organize coherent, conceptual, and thematic works for publications—I am again reminded that out there, there must be someone who is more qualified who can do that.
Having grown up in an inwardly competitive environment, we were largely high-achieving students. We didn’t actively compare, but established over the years a shared understanding of who was smarter than who. By the time we graduated, although our school did not offer a valedictorian designation, we all knew to whom that award would have gone to. At the same time, it instilled a seed of worry in my own achievements. When I accomplished a 4.0 GPA my first semester of college, I was plagued with the worry that this was fundamentally wrong and my college education flawed in some deep rooted manner. I’m not saying this in some twisted manner of “humble-bragging,” but rather to explain the context of my hometown–a concentration of highly talented, brilliant students across various disciplines that exposed me early on to the competition I expect to face. Forget the 1% of wealth, this is the 1% of academia.
It’s a bit depressing, but in a world that so many consider “overcrowded” what is the point of me being here? What can I offer that no one else can? And don’t say perspective. That’s as circular of an argument you can get, offering perspective on your own position in life which wouldn’t even need to exist if you didn’t exist—so why are you here again? I’ve always believed that purpose of everyone ties into a greater push for humanity toward a better future, but if there is nothing that I can do to help, if there is nothing that I can do that someone else can’t do better, then isn’t it a crime on the part of myself to try to do anything? After all, if someone can do it better, even if I were given the opportunity, wouldn’t I be robbing humanity of a better choice?
Let’s roll it back here. This narrative is starting to head down a path I wasn’t expecting and frankly, it’s getting a bit dark, even for me. I don’t know what I can offer that someone can’t do better than me. I have my strengths that I have worked hard to hone and achieve, but in the face of a competitive market or even competitive student body–is it enough against the skills and talents of others? Conversations relating to my career choices have always fallen at dead ends. The sciences and math? I can tell you straight-forwardly, it’s not my cup of tea. The humanities and arts? Even my best friend is naturally a better writer than me. Journalism? No matter how smart and outgoing you are, there are prettier girls out there, I was recently told. No matter the fact that I would run into a war zone if need be, that I would work myself to the bone, that I would get sh*t done, there will always be someone–either a guy or a prettier girl who is also smarter than you. So how the hell, am I ever going to be good enough?
Falling into the middle of the pack might just be the worst place because you fall through the cracks and become invisible. And what’s the point then? If a girl screams with frustration in the world and no one hears her, does she really exist?