How Insignificance Shaped Me

January 12, 2011
One day my friend asked me a great question, what would be the worst thing someone can realize as an individual in his lifetime? I thought about it for several minutes, I always do when questions with any sort of implications are posed. I thought of many things: realizing that you’re adopted, that God never existed, that life is an illusion, that I’ve been chewing someone else’s gum for the past half-hour, which is highly improbable given I hate gum more than I hate cockroaches. So seven crazy thoughts later, I replied that realizing that you’re insignificant is the worst realization to be made as an individual.
Exactly as I was saying the words, I was realizing that I was (still am) insignificant, which can be highly oppressive for anyone, especially a teenager stung with insecurities, because insignificance can do two things, it can either serve as a breather as it can exempt a person from any responsibility really, or it can drive a person to complete and utter madness, and my brain, broody as it is, opted for the second choice.
When I realized that I was insignificant, I tried to caliber myself by comparing what I’ve achieved this far to what people, who are about my age, have achieved as well. For some reason I thought of Taylor Swift, I am incapable of humming any of her tunes, but I know that she has achieved more than thousands of people have achieved combined and that she matters to a large number of people. It made me see how small and inconsequential I am. If I decide to kill myself one day, there’ll be the traditional three-day funeral, thirty or so people will cry, learn to forget me, and my manifesto will be obviously be used against me, whereas if Taylor Swift decides to commit suicide on a Wednesday night, it’ll be eight million people’s worst Thursday, it’ll be Hollywood’s July 4th, and her manifesto will be displayed in museums after being auctioned for millions of dollars, and it will make so much sense that people reading it will want to kill themselves as well.
From that day on, I was in a very strange place of constant awareness of my being irrelevant—a miserable feeling. But I was also on an unclear, vague quest to be relevant, another miserable feeling because I had not defined relevant and what it meant to me. I had to define it, otherwise there is nothing concrete to reach and organically, a sentiment of failure will subside. I described significant as being of importance to strangers, people who are outside my immediate space. For instance, when I’m walking down a street in NYC or Ouagadougou, someone feels comfortable pouring their heart out to me and telling me that I changed their lives, even be it in the smallest way. If I’m able to achieve that or something remotely close, I’ll consider myself successful.
I have what it takes to attain that goal, I do, but like any teenage gifted underachiever will say, high school is in the way. Maybe we are procrastinating or maybe we’re scared to not find any substance underneath the safety blanket that is a misplaced self-confidence, but I know this much, post-high school life is the catharsis and the path to materializing any dream. It is our chance to start over and be bold with our choices because not only is it the only way to make a choice but there is nothing to conform to, every single person wants their fifteen minutes of fame and every single person matters in that sense. College is our shot to being significant and finally having that conversation with that stranger in Ouagadougou. If I wasn’t great and went by unnoticed in high school, I intend on radiating in college.





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