If you’re reading this on the Review’s publication date, I am on the Disney Fantasy with my wife and parents enjoying the last of a seven-day cruise of the western Caribbean. Along the way, we celebrated my mother’s 69th birthday, our 15th wedding anniversary and, generally, the joy of touring the seas on a floating city of magic.
I’m sure I had a great time.
I’m equally sure I could use a great time right about now as I sit here in the office on the night before we depart.
If you’re a Catholic, you believe in something called papal infallibility. That means you believe the pope can’t be wrong.
That’s not exactly what papal infallibility means but, for the purposes of our visit this week, let’s agree that’s it in a nutshell.
While I’d suspect Pope Francis is not one who will throw his infallibility in anyone’s face—he seems like a pretty down-to-Earth guy—at least he has it to fall back on and, if you’re one of the faithful, you’ll go along with him should he choose to assert it.
I don’t have that luxury.
I recently realized I am wrong about something, about someone, and I have been from the beginning of my experience with them.
You and I speak pretty frankly in this space each week. I value that and I hope you value it, too. But this week we’re not going to be quite as detailed as usual, largely because I don’t think we need to be.
You’ll know how I feel because I’m sure, at some point, you’ve felt this way too.
There are a lot of things we do in life because we have to do them. They’re our obligations and we enjoy them or we don’t; they have to be done either way. Most people would count their jobs among these things and, hopefully, you’re one of the fortunate ones for whom your job is an obligation you like doing.
I’d consider myself a member of that group.
There are other things we do in life because we want to. I’m not talking about collecting baseball cards or cruising the Caribbean on a Disney ship, I’m talking more about the things we do because we want to do them for other people. Those are the things that often define not only how we’re seen and appreciated by others, they can also shape how we see and appreciate ourselves.
When viewed that way, are they really things we do for others? I’d say so, but I think it’s a delusion to believe in absolute altruism. We do for others to fill a need in ourselves.
Not saying that’s a bad thing, just saying it’s a thing.
When we invest in others outside the realms of friendship or romance, we usually do it because we see a place where we can be of service. In doing so, I think we hope what we bring to that particular table will be noticed, appreciated and, in the best of scenarios, we will get to see the fruits of our labor as the person in whom we invested overcomes or improves or achieves or does whatever else they set out to do.
They overcome. They improve. They achieve. And so do we.
This all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? I’ll tell you what—and I hope you already know this—when it works, it is great.
Of course, in order for these investments to work, we’ve got to back the right horse, so to speak. The people in whom we chose to invest, for lack of a better word, need to be worthy of it.
What if they’re not? What if we’re wrong?
Well, then you end up where I am now; acutely aware of my own fallibility.
As I believe I’ve lamented in this space before, I’m going to turn 40 this year. That’s pretty far along in the game to butcher a character judgment as badly as I have. It makes me question myself to a degree with which I’m not particularly comfortable.
So what are the answers?
I think I’ve learned that, when I returned to an active, gainful life after 12 years on the sidelines telling people I was working on a writing career, I needed to feel like I had more to offer than news stories about the Village of Mamaroneck. While I’m proud of the work I did while I was on the beat there—and I hope those folks feel I did them a service—I think, looking back, I wanted to somehow validate my squandered years, to contribute to my new endeavor in ways perhaps those around me weren’t positioned to do.
And so I did, or tried to, and it didn’t pay off at all.
Lesson learned, I suppose, but not about life or anyone no longer in mine so much as about me.
I can still make mistakes—big ones—and there’s still room to grow and people from whom to learn.
I’ll invest again, I’m sure. But next time it’ll be from a stronger position.
Thanks for reading. We’ll talk about something fun next week.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas