In psych there's a thing called the 'Availability Heuristic.' (heuristics are falling out of fashion, but meh, it works for this example.) Gist of it is, you judge the state of the world by information you've recently seen, that which is available to you. Pretty much all of our news works this way. You see lots of stories on CNN about shark attacks, you think the oceans are swarming with man-eating sharks. You read a story about a giant finger crawling out of a drain, you look twice when you take a shower or wash your hands.
Mostly the heuristic is used in the media to make people scared or insecure, for me it's the insecure. Media like NPR present these SuperPeople, intellectuals and dreamers that seem more profound and meaningful than anything you could conceive of. The guy who surfs on horseback in California while penning music in his mansion while he fucks a geek girl (who speaks twelve languages) and makes his living selling sculptures of surfing horses made out of driftwood. Any time I hear anything about someone like that, I feel like I've totally wasted my fucking life.
I have to keep reminding myself
1) These are not
real people. I'm only seeing very small portions of them, essentially all of their goodness condensed into a half-hour radio show. I'm not hearing anything about their failed marriages, their drinking problems, their idle hours spent doing nothing. (Unless it's one of those "he's only got one arm and half a leg remaining, his wife left him, his dog ate a land mine and exploded all over him
, and he still
wrote the Great American Whatever" stories) It's like when I write a resume; I can make it sound like I've led a pretty damn impressive life if I have a small enough space to write it in.
And if they really are
like the radio portrays them, they're almost certainly hopelessly lacking in other areas. I've known people who've traveled the world so much that they had no home, no lasting friends, minimal family contact. Being worldly and shit is portrayed as making you into an exalted being, but enough of it can just fuck with you.
2) These are people who have been working for a long time. NPR's audience is yuppie 30-40somethings, and the guests are of appropriate age. People who appear to have lived impossibly good lives
are almost always like a decade older than me, and no one had ever heard of them until like five years ago. They've been gradually building themselves up, they didn't just instantly receive fame and excitement.
3) It's good that I'm bothered by these people, if it makes me want to improve my life. After enough job rejections, however, I worry that I'm to the point that I want to succeed merely so I can unleash a torrent of obscenities at the companies that never even fucking replied. That and I want a Scion tC with Flint Mica paint, side impact airbags, and a Speed Star shifting knob. Still, petty, stupid reasons are better than none at all.
As I get older, I have to accept that some possibilities are fading or have passed. My days of being a college quarterback sensation are now a complete impossiblity, and the chances of being a rock star are dim at best. Still, I refuse to believe that my destiny lies in an office somewhere, a cog to be used up and spat out when I'm 55. There may be people that are better than me, who have done more with their lives, who are in a better place, but they don't matter
, and most of them are a sham anyhow. My confidence that I'm on equal footing with the great people of today is what will ultimately lead me to a place similar to theirs. Someday when I'm sitting at a stoplight in my Scion tC with Flint Mica paint and side impact airbags, Xeni Jardin will be crossing the street in front of me, and I won't feel inadequate or useless. The constant fight to prove myself will have subsided just a little, enough so that I can wave and smile to her, and swear, swear, swear.