I am withdrawing from the meritocracy

I have been obsessed with being the best. It has been a big part of my life, and a big part of American culture in which I partake.

I’ve wanted to be the best at things I’m passionate about. I wanted to be the best DJ in college. I’ve wanted to be the best at nonprofit marketing when I was in that field. I wanted to be the best entrepreneur when I started freelancing.

There certainly has been a cultural influence on me when it comes to my desire to be the best. However, it is primarily driven from the trauma that I experienced in my early childhood years.

That trauma told me that I had to be perfect or else I was going to get hurt or, even worse, die.

If I wasn’t perfect, then I was in huge trouble.

Ultimately, pursuit of being the best and being perfect has left me with a life largely un-lived and in hiding.

Many people have pursued paths and they have successes, failures, experiences, connections, wisdom, and other things to show for it.

I, too, have all of these things, but I also have many many years spent in hiding. Spent starting a project and almost immediately stopping due to fear. Spent in isolation. Spent practicing to get the details right for something that never came to fruition. Spent practicing conversations I wanted to have but never did.

Though I recommend everybody exit the meritocracy, I am exiting it because it exacerbates my trauma that I want to heal.

What do we actually get if we become the best? How do we know that we’re the best? Who’s making that judgment call? Are they qualified to make that call?

Do we actually know who the best are? Or do we only know from a small selection of people that are in front of us? I’ve been a basketball fan for a long time, and there are so many kids who are good enough for the NBA but never make it because not enough exposure, not enough money, not enough you name it.

If we are deemed to be the best, what do we wind up doing? Making the rich richer. Unless we find a way out of that trap and create our own wealth through entrepreneurship. Otherwise, we are busting our butts for years and years to be the best, and once we get there, we are earning a small fraction of what the CEO of our company earns.

I wonder if the concept of meritocracy was set up by the ruling class as way of making themselves richer and keeping us busy making them richer in pursuit of being “the best”.

It doesn’t sound very naturally human to me, and I’m sick of it. I am pursuing a life that I enjoy and don’t need to have the pressure of being the best at anything. The pandemic has presented an excellent opportunity for me to do that (I realize how privileged I am to be able to say that and how the pandemic has completely wrecked the lives of so many).

So far, my life includes:

  • A soon-to-be wife that I love spending time with and is a fabulous partner
  • A job that doesn’t pressure me to work long hours and hit impossible-to-achieve milestones; it’s fun work that makes a differences in people’s lives with a supportive team
  • Picking up cycling since I’m too injured to run, and boy, is it fun (though I still find myself giving myself pressure to hit certain distances and speeds; work in progress)
  • Getting back into DJing and mixing Latin music because it gives me a huge amount of joy
  • Cooking
  • Hanging out with friends, mostly virtually but increasing in-person hangouts with social distance protocols in place
  • Writing and sharing my story
  • Podcasting and sharing the story of others (taking a pause on the podcast for now since healing is calling very strongly)
  • Helping my boxing trainer get his business fully online
  • Volunteering for the election this year
  • Getting married in a month

I am allowing myself to live more fully, connect more with people, and experience the full range of emotions life has to offer. It’s much easier to do when you make your way out of the meritocracy.

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