‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’
As a boy, I spent my early years playing. I did not endeavour to please anyone as I did so, though my parents no doubt were happy to see me having the fun that all children ought. I did not seek to play better than those I played with – what would be the point? I simply played, and was glad to do so.
Then came school and, though I did not seek to impress, I was, from time to time, rewarded. Stars for pleasing the teacher. And I saw that the number of stars I received was compared with those that were bestowed on others. I was, I realised, in competition with my peers.
School continued and the tasks set me became more complex – the rewards more contingent on my reaching a certain standard. ‘Work hard’, they said, ‘and you might do well – you might progress’. Which I did. But there was always a next stage, never a point beyond which one could simply stop and rest.
And so I continued on to university – where those who strived hardest secured the best jobs. Then, inevitably, came work. And the rewards dried up, replaced now by the threat of sanctions. Instead of rewards for achieving, now there were punishments – even for those who were simply standing still. Good enough was no longer good enough. ‘You must improve’, they said, ‘You must be better, you must do more’.
And then, finally, came criticism. Initially implied, then explicit. It was not merely that I was not good enough, rather it was that I was to blame.
So harder and harder I worked until, finally, I stopped – exhausted – defeated.
And I realised I had grown old. And not only in years
Oh for a lesser load, and a little rest, for a yoke that was easy and a burden that was light. Oh to be treated gently, by someone strong enough to cope with my weakness, someone who, rather than treating me harshly and constantly demanding of me ever increasing levels of perfection, was lowly of heart. Oh to be cared for by someone accepting, someone forgiving, someone who could, and would, provide for me the long desired perfection I had long been striving for and thereby offer me rest for my soul.
And so I remembered my days as a boy. And I sought to become like a child again, someone who was wiser than the foolish adult I had become, someone who accepted his need of help. And as I did so I looked to simply enjoy doing what it was that I was meant to do.
Because the world can be a cruel taskmaster and competing in a misguided attempt to prove our perfection makes losers of us all.
Perhaps though there is someone out there who, even now, is glad to see me imperfectly endeavouring to do what is right, someone who cares for me, someone who isn’t only out to criticise and condemn. Perhaps there is someone out there who loves me that much.
I happen to believe there is.
If I’m right, what a relief that would be!
[‘My Back Pages’, is the title of a song by Bob Dylan from which the line ‘Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.’, is taken. It appears on the 1964 album, ‘Another Side of Bob Dylan’. This blog is an updated version of one originally written in 2018. It expresses, of course, more of an aspiration of where I would like to be rather than where I actually am. As with much in life, we journey on to become what we already really are.]
To read ‘Rest Assured’, click here
To read ‘“The Medical Condition” of “Hannah Arendt is Completely Fine”’, click here
To read ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’, click here
To read ‘Professor Ian Aird – A Time to Die’, click here
To read ‘Expressive Individualism and the Drive for Perfection’, click here
To read ‘Nicky Alexander’, Dr Perfect?’, click here
To read ‘Don’t forget to be ordinary if you want to be happy’, click here
To read, ‘The Already and the Not Yet’, click here