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Monday, August 19, 2013

Being "Cool"

Being cool so often means having potential but not using it. A while ago, on one of my many surfing adventures through the interwebs, I came across a poster (I think that's what it was). It was called ‘Possibility Girl’, all about a girl who has great potential. People say she could be great if she just took the plunge, but she doesn't. She just sits on the edge of possibility, loving all the praise that she gets for her untapped potential. In a lot of ways, I felt like I am her. I've been blessed to have a loving, supporting, caring family. I never felt a want for praise as a kid, whatever I did, my parents and teachers and now even my friends always told me, “Wow, what a great start, you’re talented, why don’t you do more?” And more I did...or so I thought. The truth is that I never gave all of myself to anything. So, I was good, I had potential, but I wasn't getting any better.

It wasn't until I changed schools and was introduced to an entirely new set of people that I began to realize, I was holding myself back. Like Possibilty Girl, I was afraid to give all of myself to anything that I tried. As teenagers, we lay a huge emphasis on being “cool”. For a long time, the true definition of “coolness” evaded me, I felt as though I was excluded from this huge club of people who “knew” what cool was and how to be cool. If there’s one thing that high school has taught me, it’s this: That in order to be cool, you can’t try hard. It’s the people who do things with ease who are cool. Sometimes, in order to maintain the level of ease, we don’t work hard enough at some things, because that wouldn't be cool. I saw it in my classmates, I saw that I had missed this in my old friends. Most of all, I saw it in myself. But I realised that that is not coolness, it’s just fear. Fear that you won't be as good as you hoped or that someone will be better than you. Obviously, that’s a bullshit reason, if everyone gave into their fears of not succeeding, we wouldn't have Sylvester Stallone or Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfrey or Rosa Parks, we would be a race of people who take pride in mediocrity. Possibility Girl fears that when she takes the plunge, she may not live up to her potential. Perhaps, people will begin to see that she too, has limits. I would never want that. Everyone wants to be seen as limitless. I've always feared that once I plunge into something, I will lose my identity. Perhaps it’s because it’s taken me a long time to build this identity, I am petrified of losing it. Even scarier: what if I’m not good enough? What if no one likes the work I do? Insecure as I am, I've always found an ego boost in hearing and knowing that I could be great at something. But that’s not enough anymore.

There’s a way I found to solve this. I’m still testing the waters with it, but so far, it hasn't let me down. I redefined coolness for myself. Like Wil Wheaton said, “… it’s not about what you love. It’s about how you love it.” ( Now I know he was talking about being a nerd) And what you do out of that love for it, that’s what makes you stand out, and standing out, my friend, is cool. When you look at all the people we love and idolize, celebrities, writers and actors, it becomes pretty clear that they did not get to where they are by “being cool”, they got there by working hard and refusing to give up, despite all the people who laughed at their dreams and ambitions. Sure, people will call you nerdy, or lame or a loser, but are those labels really more important than doing work that makes you proud to be who you are?

Be Cool.

1 comment:

Sush said...

The image of the Possibility girl paints a sad picture in my mind. Oh anna there's so much I need to learn from you. I need that drive quite badly. People around me are making me realize how inactive and constant I've been all my life (Don't worry Singapore had an alternate world line of its own and it seems that I've been snapped back to reality.) You're so right when you say 'how you love it and what you do out of that love for it.' We should be defining coolness right? I don't want anybody or anything let you down :) you have a legit path in mind and an unknown, mysterious end point which will without doubt be awesome if you follow your legit path. The unknown part should be interesting. Sorry if I don't make sense but I think I'm sick :)