The Hell of Being Extraordinary

a row of white buses. In the foreground of the photograph is a side mirror. Side mirror depicts the reflection of a yellow bus.
Image by Marcin Wichary / CC BY

I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.

-Billy Joel

*

There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it has always been: A people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea, that rustic people knew God personally once upon a time– or even knew selflessness or courage or literature– but that it is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy age than ours, and never a less.

Annie Dillard

*

“I think I’m about ready to give up on online dating,” he says.

“Oh?” I say. “Why’s that? I know a lot of people don’t write back.”

“They almost never do,” he says. “And in the rare case they actually do write back, it’s just… disappointing.”

“Disappointing how?”

“I keep running into boring people who also don’t want to meet up. I’ve pretty much settled on being unlikable.”

“Awwww,” I say. “But you’re not unlikable. They’re being unlikable. I’ve seen the screenshots. It isn’t you. Because you’re pretty interesting, to be completely honest.”

He smiles.

“And I’m a jaded fuck who gives up on the world every five minutes, so if I find you interesting, you likely are,” I add.

*

My generation was given a deep fear that we were ordinary. We were told that we were all special and lived in some kind of fucking Disney musical where not only could everyone follow our dreams, we were expected to. Anything less just wouldn’t do.

But it turns out I see a different story emerging in the lives of those around me: That the worst fate isn’t being ordinary; it’s being extraordinary. Because when you’re extraordinary, it’s difficult to find people who are like you.

It’s incredibly lonely. And that loneliness is almost enough to swallow you whole.

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