Become Somebody by Being Nobody
Do you ever ask, “Who would do that?”
My whole life I’ve wanted to be somebody. I mean, doesn’t everybody? You want to be important and liked and loved and have all the perks that come along with it. But I don’t come from money. Neither do you probably. I’ve had to work for everything that I have. That’s probably you too. And the truth is, at least for me, when you’re on the grind of just trying to make it by following the Formula™ (birth → school → work → family → retirment) you start to do things not because they’re in-line with the trajectory of your dreams, but because it seems like that’s what you’re supposed to do at this point in your life. You start to become somebody you’re not. Then the existential crisis comes up and you question whether you’ve made the right decisions. I think I have an answer.
Truthfully, I feel like I am somebody, I just don’t know them very well. If you’re like me, you sometimes feel that the person you identify and know as yourself is not the same person that everyone else knows. It’s hard to blame them. We’re good at pretending. Especially when I keep making decisions based on what somebody else is doing. Like I’m trying to cloak even the shadow of my real self from the scrutiny of other people’s opinions. God forbid I allow myself to be vulnerable and express what I really think. I’m ashamed of myself, so I’ll be somebody else. I’ll hold their opinions and believe their beliefs so that my day might be a little easier and they’ll like me a little more.
So how do you become somebody (that you are) by being nobody and avoid the feeling that you’re an actor in your own life? I had the idea while I was reading a poem in a college class written by a classmate. It was . . . okay. It wasn’t violent or obscene, but it was honest and descriptive. I admired how vulnerable the author was considering that she had to look each of us in the eye for 50 minutes twice a week. If you or I said those things and stuffed them into a loose rhyming scheme, we’d hide. For certain. After a brief emotional recovery from the poem, I thought to myself, “Who would do that?”
Nobody would do that.
Nobody who wants to be somebody would say those things and then share them with the class.
Nobody except this girl.
Then her brilliance slapped me across the face. Instead of trying to be somebody, she decided to do what nobody would do and be nobody. She just wanted to write her poem because it made her feel good. It would be nice if I had a good opinion of it, but that’s not necessary for her. She’d rather be herself, a nobody, instead of pleasing me and the other people around her.
The inherent assumption underlying the pursuit to become somebody is that before you are somebody, you must be nobody. If you are trying to become somebody then you are still nobody. For the sake of argument, this is an all or nothing proposition. I think this most accurately reflects the feeling that I have. Some days I’m somebody, other days I’m nobody.
The biggest question here then becomes: How do I know when I’ve become someone? No clue. After your first million? Third movie? Big promotion? Nobody knows. My best guess is never because as long as you are asking the question and trying to become someone, you’re nobody according to the airtight logic above. Therefore, the only way to become someone is to be nobody. You have to stop asking the question and just say yes to yourself. You have to do the things nobody does. Just do you. Don’t try to be somebody else, just do the things that nobody but you does. Then, you’re guaranteed to be somebody.