Winning by losing

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Today I had some stubbornness come out, or possibly some self-pity. It’s actually hard to tell with me sometimes. Let me walk you through it.

I ordered a BLT for lunch from the cafe downstairs from the office. Another guy called John came through next and ordered something else – a chicken schnitzel sandwich, I think. We both stood waiting for our orders, then one came out. “John?” called the employee. Other John grabbed the nondescript paper bag with a quick “Thanks” and darted off. He was a bit too quick for me to interrupt, and the girl behind the counter didn’t seem to bat an eye, so I figured maybe he’s a regular and they know him? And maybe his order takes less time than mine would? I let him go, but I thought that was probably mine. A few minutes later, another order came out. “John?”

At this point, I thought I’d better double-check, because I had a strong suspicion the two John orders had got mixed up. “Is that the BLT?”

“Ah, no, chicken schnitzel.”

All the employees turned to each other. “Was there another John?”

“Yeah, there’ll be a couple coming through.”

*mumble-mumble*

“Shit.”

The schnitzel got shelved, the kitchen seemed to get a new order and I had to wait a while longer until, finally, “John? Sorry about the wait.”

See, this is my problem. I don’t speak up. I occasionally take this passive-aggressive delight in being forgotten, overlooked and kind of screwed over by other people paying insufficient attention to me. When you feel awful because you neglected me, I win by losing. Nobody wins if some other guy takes my lunch. He doesn’t get his correct order, the cafe wastes food and loses reputation, I wait longer for my food.

But, says part of my brain, you taught them all a valuable lesson about paying attention to you and to their surroundings. Well, brain, maybe I don’t want to be teaching the world a lesson. It’s not my job, and it’s not my problem, except where it directly affects me. That point, where it affects me directly, that’s where I should speak up. It’s when I need to step up and overrule that self-pitying part of my brain that tells me how great, how delightful it’s going to feel when they forget me, because it doesn’t, really.

I guess I’m just tired of the fact that I have to get up and shout about myself in order for the world to treat me as if I exist, in even the smallest and most ordinary of situations. I don’t want that to be how the world works.

Achievements and Accomplishments

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Achievement badges, in the gaming sense, are a meaningless tag assigned to make you feel better about the grind. They’re a way of quantifying the otherwise-intangible results of your labour. They are trophies emptied of all meaning of “winning”. They are milestones on a long, boring, vacuous road. A point that goes “ding” as its one and only purpose. A byproduct of going through the necessary motions.

The thing is, it’s easy to feel like this is the case with life, as well. Your lifetime achievements can feel like just the inevitable side-effect of going through life’s motions. You can write off any of them by saying you had no other option – you fell into a promotion because everyone else left. You finished school because that’s what everyone does. You bought a house because, duh, where the hell else are you going to live?

It’s easy to feel like that if you’re looking at the milestones instead of watching the road. “Yeah, of course I passed the 50km mark. I’m on this road, and it goes past there. There’s no way around it.” It’s the fact that you are on this road, however, that matters. Is it the right road? Is it heading in the right direction? If so, then whether or not you feel your achievements are worth anything or just inevitable, you’re doing great, because you’re on the right road.

This is at least as much advice for myself as for anyone else, but was inspired by a friend: Accomplishment. I think we’re both on our own right roads.