Sometimes we acquire people in our lives that can be described in no better term than “living gold”. By this I mean that they contribute the most to our cause, and in ways that only they can. But then we get so accustomed to their glow that we keep pushing them to be more or something else, often to their detriment. Such might be the case for a student of yours or an employee for example, and such was the case for me.
Those who know me well, know that I never indulge in self-glorification, and they always hated that because I never played the “Do you know who I am?” card in order to get certain privileges that could also benefit them (this was especially in high school). Often in my short lifetime, I have always made an impression on strangers that, for some reason, leaves them concluding that I’m different and therefore, living gold. As a result, some of these people make an effort to keep me close should they ever need me to contribute to their cause. Truthfully, I have never been able to see in myself what others see in me. I think of myself as a person who simply does as told in the best way I can, but self-doubt is natural.
Since I keep getting this reaction from new people I meet, a new orb of pressure always grows inside me, that pushes me to live up to their unspoken expectations. And since there are so many people you can meet in a day, you can imagine how many of those orbs I carry around.
When I was transitioning into 6th form at Bridgeport High School, I gave into the pressure of playing for the quiz team. Three of my most authoritative figures – my mother, favourite teacher and my principal – sat before me and put forward what a HUGE disappointment I would be to them if I didn’t play. My mother was the second-least successful of her siblings, yet I was the most intellectually impressive of my cousins, and she wanted all of Jamaica to know my face. My teacher wanted me to play since I was in Grade 9, and my principal got me into 6th form free of charge because I couldn’t afford it. I was always top student, but this was a non-traditional high school, so what better way to showcase that even small schools have bright students than to prove it on national television?
Playing quiz was the one time in my life that I fully understood that you should NEVER do something you don’t have a MODICUM of interest in.
Instead of improving, both my mental and physical health declined, and I lost my shine. I crammed so much info in that small period of time that I could no longer have lucid conversations. Composers, foreign phrases, actors’ faces and so much more uncommon knowledge floated around so disconnectedly in my mind that I couldn’t even say what the translation of “que hora es” was, or I’d probably give the capital of a country for the answer instead. My vision blurred, I became unfocussed in class, I had severe headaches every day, I stopped talking to anyone who wasn’t a teammate or my coach, my mind went totally blank in conversations and I was miserable. Soon, I shut down so completely that one day, I walked out of school and just walked around my community aimlessly till a friend found me. I haven’t been the same since.
A scenario like this can be likened unto a potter and her clay. She finds some material that moulds so well, that she makes the best vase out of them all. She puts it on her highest shelf, but mistakenly positions it at the foremost so everyone can see it. If persons don’t readily acknowledge the vase, she pushes it closer and closer to the edge. Of course, one day it falls and breaks.
I was broken by that experience, and the worst part is that I had to put myself back together because my fall was seen as my own fault. The problem is, in fixing something that’s broken, there will always be cracks in the new structure. I am no longer the same, even though I’ve had 3-4 years to mend.
The point is, we need to be able to recognize and APPRECIATE those persons in our lives who are literally gold to us. If you are an employer who has found someone who can seriously boost your business, know when to push and know when to STOP. If that person breaks and you lose them, then how would settling for someone who is less than, help you? You’ll be stuck thinking, “Boy, if so-and-so was here then this would be done better and more quickly.” The same applies to teachers, parents, and anybody who has authority over a group of people. At some point, you need to stop and think about whether a certain amount of pressure will be worth it in the long run.