In one of my favorite episodes of This American Life, there’s a nugget that was sort of memorable to me. And that says a lot because the episode is a gem, with a break-up song phone consultation with Phil Collins and a vintage All Things Considered interview with a young girl during the Koch administration. The show was called “Break-up.” (I highly recommend.)
Ira Glass: “…Even in the middle of that raw state, she was acutely aware, and said herself that everything she was going through was a cliché. A cliché she was forced to live through.”
Lauren: “That’s the crazy thing about it. Breaking up with someone is literally the most common thing. Like, everyone you know broke up with everyone they ever dated, until maybe the person they are with right now, if they are will someone right now. But when it happens to you, it feels so specific.”
Thankfully, I am not talking about or going through a break-up here. I am, however, talking about the benefits of remembering you’re not the only one going through whatever it is you’re going through.
So often we’re told to relish our individuality. We’re told to remember we’re unique with singular gifts only we can offer to the world. Well, sometimes, it’s nice to know you’re not so special. Especially if you’re experiencing something that seems so life-altering. So specific. So supremely impactful in your own life.
A couple of things happened this week that threatened to deflect my focus and attention from the pursuits that are most important to me. I spent a great deal of time and attention neurotically focusing on these incidents. I would predict conversations, then hash out what I would say if the other person said what I thought they would say. It’s such a futile exercise and one in which I indulge far too often. So, first, I had to endure the initial instances, which were troubling and annoying. Then I had to live through my reactions, my rehashings, my predictions of future related altercations, and then the replaying again. All the attention devoted to these things only served to annoy me further.
Then I dawned on me: the two things that happened, happen everyday, to people all over. To people I know. They may never have happened to me. They may be shocking. They may threaten some of my personal truths, if I let them. But they are not unique. The themes are ubiquitous. Someone has a story that mirrors mine. Someone can commiserate or, at best, offer advice. It helped to remember my experience isn’t mine alone. That other people might understand what I’m going through. It is a comfort.
One of my affirmations, which I keep typed up on the “stickies” widget on my desktop, says “I am unique.” It’s important for me to remember this in my endeavors as a writer. However, it felt good to abandon that theorem as it relates to what I went through this week. This is, unfortunately, common. You are not alone.