What do we mean by ‘here’?
Is it a place, a location, a position? Something that can be pinpointed on Google Earth? Latitude X, longitude Y. Corner of A and B.
Is it the space you occupy? Your height, depth and breadth? Your mass, your volume?
Where are you when you announce “I’m here”? Perhaps you are standing at a rendezvous point. Or in a classroom. Or arriving at a meeting. Maybe you’re reassuring a worried child or responding to a concerned other.
And how often is your ‘here’ the same as someone else’s? “I’m here, but where the hell are you?” Isn’t it possible to be in the same place and yet miles apart? What does ‘here’ mean then? Something intensely personal. Something profoundly existential. Something utterly defining.
You are present, somewhere else.
I’m not talking about daydreaming or ‘spacing off’ or some imaginary flight of fancy. You are in a radically different place to the people around you. You are walking in a distinctly separate universe. And being from another place possibly makes you feel alien. You don’t speak the language. You don’t possess the proper currency. The guide book you’re using couldn’t be more off the mark. You’re out of step, out of touch and out of time. And you ask yourself – “How did I get here?”
The answer is not as complex or damning as you might think. And it probably wouldn’t be inappropriate to list off the various contributing factors of nature and nurture, environment and temperament. But it’s simpler than all of that. How did you end up here, in this particular place, at this particular time, in this particular state? (And by ‘state’, I mean emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and universally, not geographically!) How? I will tell you.
By doing the best you can.
We live in a hypercritical, hyper-analytical world where every misstep is scrutinised and anything less than supernova success is considered failure. Bearing that in mind you may not believe you have done the best you can, you may feel that you have somewhat underachieved or sold yourself short somehow.
You’ve done the best you could. Here’s a newsflash – nobody is perfect. I know, it’s a cliché, but there you go. It happens to be true. No one is on top of their game for every second of every day. No one. You show me that person and I’ll show you somebody who is pathological, deranged, unhinged and totally disconnected. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a manifesto of mediocrity – we can all excel, but those mediocre moments are totally normal. So say it.
“I have done the best I can.”
Nobody deliberately sets out not to arrive at their destination of choice. Most of us simply go after the things that make us feel good. We seek the approval, appreciation and love of the people most important to us. We develop over time a belief in the type of person we are and we act accordingly. Life throws its hilarious bag of tricks in our way to render us senseless and ineffective, but it doesn’t affect our core action. We bump and stumble and scramble our way towards happiness.
That’s right. It’s not rocket science or thermonuclear physics or even macro economics. It is action. We act in the pursuit of the things we believe will make us happy. To use the hideous phrase that peppers modern workspeak, we have desired outcomes. Phrases like that seek to sanitise and homogenise the trench warfare that is modern survival. And I deliberately use the word survival, not ‘living’. Because I do not believe that the headlong rush to be a drop of lubricant in the cogs of globalisation qualifies as life. Desired outcomes! Give me a break. Here’s my desired outcome: a life worth living. Vital. Fulfilled. Breathing. Giving. Loving.
So forgive yourself for being here. You haven’t committed any crimes. You’ve simply done the best you can. The only question left to ask is:
Can you do better?