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October 8, 2012 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Terrified Of John Smith In The Mirror

Why I need to be somebody


If all you did before meeting me, was read my high school testimonial; my life would be much easier. If that piece of paper determined my future, I would be the frontrunner in the US Presidential Race, even as an immigrant, pro-choicer. People would flock.

Then University happened. University at Victoria, the 256th best university in the world, brought with it the dreadful fear
of mediocrity, of commonness. It is that innate desire to be the exception that kindles this dread; the hubristic thought of being outstanding, or at least of standing out.

Growing up I could successfully quash this desire. In my formative years, I wasn’t that bright (a late bloomer, they call it). My handwriting was illegible and my knowledge of Aztecs was substandard. But it didn’t matter. I was cool. I was a 7 year old in North London (it’s like being 21 in North London sans Pimm’s). I was good at Football, girls didn’t exist and I had a pretty mean go-kart.

I was set for greatness.

Then I hit high school. I moved here. Girls became a thing. But not with me. I didn’t get to go to many parties. I wasn’t part of the social indoor football team. My social life was well and truly abysmal. Not that it mattered. I was smart. I got Excellences. Teachers loved me. Classmates made shrines around my essays. I had found the good life. Girls would come running soon enough. I just had to keep working. Get out this country. Flourish.

Here I am. Public Law.Wellington. One of three hundred second year law students. Still a romantic failure. Now no longer brilliant. The pond has got bigger or I have got smaller. Both are horrific conclusions.

So this is my issue. My one real fear. Perhaps it is arrogant. It certainly is self-centered.

What if I am no one?

I will probably pass my courses this year. I will likely graduate with a law degree. I may well even get given a graduate position at some huge law firm. I will put on a suit. Wear a tie. Get married. Live here. Have children. Worry about a mortgage. Bring a pack lunch to work. Use Gladwrap. Maybe make a few great deals. Speak well occasionally in court. And then die.

It’s not mediocrity that’s the problem. I can settle with an eccentric mediocrity. It’s normality. It’s not being known. It’s being forgotten. University engenders in people such a reliance on the future. Life is always an investment for another day. That day when you write for the New Yorker, get invites to the Oscars, have the loft apartment, be the legendary introvert at parties (it’s because he’s brilliant, they will say), and are broadly speaking someone. Finally, you will be known as a definite article. The tedium and rigmarole of university is all for that. But what if it doesn’t happen? What am I then?

This anxiety is definitely irrational. Living the good life should not be dependent on marrying Emma Watson. But it is truly horrific to think that we may not all end up in a movie. It is a fear of the inevitable very likely. I want to be a precious snowflake. I want to be there. Doing it. With them.

Please. ▲

Duncan McLachlan is a second-year LLB/BA student. Duncan has been a regular contributor to Salient throughout 2012.


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