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Rich Living: I Am Not Paul McCartney

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

–Oscar Wilde

If I want to really feel insignificant, I just compare myself to Sir Paul McCartney.

Face it, the man has more money, fame and sheer and absolute coolness than I can ever dream of possessing.  My net worth is spare change next to his collected assets.  His impact on history is the Grand Canyon where mine is a little line scraped in the earth with a stick.  By the time he hit my age, he’d already transformed the landscape of popular music as a member of the Beatles and was still knocking out hit songs with a little band called Wings.  Me, I’ve got a few bright ideas and some blogs, and this weird art thing that I’m doing that some people tell me is pretty neat, but that most people don’t even know about.

But, you know, sitting around and feeling insignificant isn’t a hell of a lot of fun, so I try to avoid weighing my lifespan against that of Sir Paul.  Actually, it’s best not to weigh your life against any standards, even, strange as it may seem, your own.  That way lies a different kind of madness–the one where you constantly berate yourself for where you should be by now without taking any pleasure in where you are.  (I should be published by now.  I should be married by now.  I should have a house by now.)  Even comparisons between now and your past self can trap you in misery, because lives do not always progress on a neat upward slope.  I could look back at the time a few years ago when I had the stable job and the hot boyfriend and compare it to now where I have . . . neither.  Yeah, maybe not such a great idea.

It’s a mental trap that snares many a hardy soul.  So, how do you get out of it?  Start with the one thing you have that nobody else does.  Yourself.  You are the only you there will ever be on this earth.

I’m typing this while I’m in front of a window that faces a dogwood tree.  The leaves are starting to tarnish into their fall colors.  Nobody else at this moment is able to see this.  Nobody else can–if somebody came in and looked over my shoulder, what they would see would not quite be the same.  Even as I try to clumsily describe it to you, what comes up in your mind will not be what I am seeing.  If I take a picture, it’s still not quite the same because you’re looking at it on a computer screen instead of as I am now.

view from desk

See what I mean?

Every moment of your life that you are aware of is a moment that you are a unique witness to.  No one, not even Sir Paul with all his millions, can buy it from you.  Artists do what they can to translate their points of view into tangible form, but even then they are doomed to fall short.

I have driven home on rainy nights with a Nick Drake song playing on the iPod hooked into my car stereo and it feels like I’m in the middle of the most beautifully shot art film.  Yet I’m the only one in the theater and I’m never going to see this scene again.

Step back from where you want to be and look at where you are.  Really look at it, because nobody else is able to, not in the way that you do.  Treasure it, savor it, embrace it and you will find that where you stand in comparison to others doesn’t matter.  They’ve got their lives to live; you have yours.  And nobody else is able to do the job of being you.  So make the most of it.

I may never be as cool as Sir Paul McCartney.  But I will always and forever be as cool as Sheila O’Shea.  And that’s all I really need to be.

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