My grandmother was picking me up from elementary school once, and when I got to the car, she told me, "I watched you come down the hill with all the other kids, and it was like you had a special light—shining just for you."
I'm an only child, and on one side of the family, an only grandchild and niece. I not only had a special light, I had a special sun. I believed I was the center of the universe.
Until I grew up and realized I'm not really special at all.
I don't think my belief that I had a special light was merely the "only child" thing. Our culture, perhaps now more than ever before, encourages all kids to believe they're special, that they have something magnificent to offer the world. I'm starting to wonder if that's a tad dangerous. I mean, I grew up during that whole self-esteem-building "Free to Be You and Me" time, but lately it seems like all that specialness they told us we had inside of ourselves has made us "Free to Be Assholes/Free to Be All About Me"?
There are other cultures that emphasize the group a lot more than the individual, and, sure, maybe people in those cultures aren't filled with pride over individual achievement, but people in those cultures also don't have to deal with jerks who bring a 900-pound carry-on bag to a crowded flight. And then take 57 minutes to cram said bag into the overhead compartment. "Me? Wait for baggage claim? Do you have any idea how busy I am?"
What I'm seeing is the Curse of Being Special. People think their problems are bigger than the next guy's. Their stories are funnier, so don't even bother trying to tell yours.
I knew a woman who'd just had a baby, and she talked about having to go to Lost Luggage at the airport (airports seem to bring out the worst of this Curse). Someone was already in there, but my acquaintance said, "I need to get ahead of you to talk about MY lost luggage. I have a new baby. This is just so much more important."
I practically had to pop a ball gag in my mouth to quell my, "Seriously?"
The Curse of Being Special is what makes people, when a lane is closed ahead, keep driving in the soon-to-be-closed lane, then expect everyone to get out of their way so they can merge at the last minute.
The Curse of Being Special means you think you were lucky enough to discover the one true religion, or political belief, or diet, and that anyone who isn't completely on board with you is evil, an idiot—or both.
The Curse of Being Special means the rules don't apply to you. Keeps hands inside car at all times? Pfft. Not for YOU.
There's nothing wrong with liking who you are, but I think what may be a healthier thing for all of us to do is stop thinking about how wonderful we are, and thinking more about how we can make the world wonderful.
It took me 44 years to realize I'm not going to become a princess or a movie star, which were my career goals when I was 6 and living under that special light. I don't have a special light, just for me. I'm average-looking, of reasonable intelligence, and people don't mind being around me most of the time. Sometimes they do, because I can be a real pill. The point is, I'm not special.
And it's such sweet relief. It's less stressful to feel ordinary. It gets hot under that shiny light.
No, I DON'T deserve to dodge the cancer bullet or to have a happier relationship than anyone else. No one does. Not even Robert Redford or Mozart, who were the two people who came to mind when I thought, "Yeah, but SOME people are more special than others, right?"
We're all just here, pointing at the same moon, as my stepfather would say, and it might behoove us to remember that more often. To remember we're kind of all the same.
Even Mozart wasn't special enough to bring a giant carry-on to a busy flight.