“Raise your hand if you’ve ever been told you’re special. If you’ve ever heard someone say, ‘This girl’s going places,’ or ‘This guy’s going to do something big.’”

A few hands go up, but they’re timid—there’s hubris in admitting to this, even in a room full of people who are nothing short of deserving such praise.

“Now keep your hand there if you’ve ever felt like that’s a burden.”

New hands spring up until there’s a forest of them: five hundred and twenty fingers waving before two hundred and eight eager eyes in one hundred and four brilliant heads.  Brilliant heads that, in turn, share a body with one hundred and four vulnerable beating hearts, jointly striving for recognition, for the knowledge that they’re on the right path, for proof of their altruism.

It’s a clumsy pairing.

We’ve all been here for a few days. The words “So, what do you do?” have been spoken approximately 10,000 times, and everyone here can rattle off a staggeringly impressive resume in sixty seconds flat. But resumes aren’t people, and people are what matter when it comes to this changing-the-world business.

People are also surprisingly messy. Humanity is sort of like a massive improvised experiment, and the realization that everyone, even if they say otherwise, is making up their course as they go along hits like a kiloton of marshmallow fluff. It instigates this shift from viewing people as their credentials or occupations—a surefire way of giving yourself an inferiority complex if I ever saw one—to viewing them as potential friends, partners, even soul mates. You suddenly get that Charles from Connecticut who became CEO of an extremely successful social enterprise at age 18 is also just Charlie who likes to kick around a soccer ball at the park on Sundays. That Amy who is running for local office plays a mad trumpet solo. And, of course, that Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright Margot Tenenbaum sits in a bathtub smoking cigarettes all day.

People can be special. People can have trajectories that catapult them skyward. But that doesn’t mean they’re sure of each star they’ll pass on the way up, or even that they’ll be able to grab hold of the crescent moon.

And if your calculations were wrong and you miss, hey, you’ve still gone somewhere.

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2 thoughts on “

  1. Awesome post and how true! It’s quite intriguing how at the heart of everything, all of us are not just our achievements and our special powers/intelligence/skills. We are so much more than that. Resumes – as you’ve said – and applications can never give people the truth about someone like actually knowing that person and talking to that person. Human beings are complex individuals; we have different passions and dreams. Of course, many times those hopes lead to our achievements and our abilities… but there’s these little quirks that make us different than the scores of similar achievers – and we can never know where we go or how we get there. Life is just never set in stone.

    We can only hop onto the roller coaster and enjoy the ride, hoping that it’ll be a thrilling experience.

  2. So, the obvious question, why 959?
    And the obvious observation, can you even BEGIN to imagine the pressure that Charlie from CT must feel? He hasn’t even begun his first act and he’s already wondering how he’s going to top it. I’m afraid that the young people you’re describing may be a new type of ‘child prodigy’ (enabled by the internet); studies have shown their trajectories don’t always turn out well. So, I’m with Vivace – get on the roller coaster and enjoy the ride – because sometimes that is the destination.

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