Let me start by saying that I have never been a specialist in anything very special. I never possessed any marketable, in demand vocational trade skill like electricians or plumbers have that would make me a valuable, indispensable commodity.
In fact I made sure to go the other way; losing myself deeply in the most non-descript, quick to graduate liberal arts degree possible. It was guaranteed to bring logjams of other clueless applicants all having already tried the doors I was knocking on just before I got there.
I want to be special. But sad to say–apart from my family and God’s all seeing love, I am not considered special at all to the outside world.
But in my time I must say–I have responded swiftly to many calls for help from friends and co-workers of mine over the years who were mighty glad to call upon me for primitive, grunt work type chores such as lifting furniture or screwing in light bulbs; in other words–if it can be done with strength, or due to height, or a willingness to sweat, than I might fit the bill and be just the man for the job.
And I have enjoyed this non special status of being healthy and energetic enough to being one of the first called upon to haul a heavy load to an open car trunk or to do something as specific as removing a wasp or bee out of a classroom gone hysterical.
Perhaps, in my own humble way, this makes me SPECIAL at not being special! True God given talents are not always manifest as special, at least by those that value career ladder climbing at the exclusion of all else.
And as a married man who is a tad trigger shy when it comes to operating electronics and assembling kits–as well as not having the aforementioned knack or know how—I acutely feel my lack of prowess when it comes to the “honey do” list. My wife reminds me of it all the time. There is much more pressure to get it right—especially if someone is looking over my shoulder.
If company comes over and there are any able bodied men present, she invariably will put forth an earnest plea for help in regards to any neglected or unfinished projects around the house—“You wouldn’t by any chance be good at putting a gazebo together would you? Ours is still lying out on the lawn after one month.”
All of this lead to a guy not feeling very special quite a lot and being reminded of it too as this world is full of “I told you” types and choosy consumers that love looking a gift horse in the mouth several times over. This brings us to the flip-side of the respected “made man” syndrome. This reserved for those men who, while maybe not DOING the chores themselves or knowing how, at least have great connections IN hiring the companies to do the work for them. This makes the visible appearance of a meticulous lawn or a quickly shoveled driveway after a snow storm, as his badge of honor. Their liquidity and leverage, in other words, is their big asset that they wield as proudly as opposed to the Mr. Fix it guy that gets everything at the local hardware store and installs it himself.
This is especially true when we feel we are surrounded by talented craftsmen who just happen to be our friends and are willing to come to our aid when we feel helpless. Such people need to be carefully cultivated, especially as we become old and increasingly lose independence.
Sometimes I too feel more macho and empowered when I am instrumental in hiring someone else to do a household job than if I had done it myself. I recall the time I enlisted members of the high school rugby team to rake my yard while only paying what I wanted as a donation. I felt briefly glowing inside. Until I noticed the next day that the rugby workers had been in a hurry to finish and had even broken my rake.
It means I have resources right? Perhaps it is some type of secondary feeling of pride and leverage that middle aged men feel as their physical skills deteriorate.
I can see the tell-tale signs about SPECIALISTS now loom more prominently regarding my diminishing skills and advancing old age. I have hired a guy to rake my leaves and I looked at his business card— “help to homebound people.” I fear that I am on that slow slide of middle aged, pre-retirement guys that choose to simplify their lives by increasingly paying for accommodations in order to handle specific scenarios.
Seems I am always adding some new tedious chore to the list for seeking outside help in unclogging the gutters to removing branches from a tipping tree. Where does the help end? Hiring a house maid for several times a month? Pay for specialists to string up my Christmas lights in scary places? Hire the next door neighbor kid to mow my lawn? And what will do I do when I am no longer able to pop open the plastic covering inside the box of my favorite cereal?
But it isn’t just old age anymore is it? In our society, we are rapidly paying for specialty products and people to do almost ANY physical task that seems tedious and stressful. Indeed, only our eyes and thumbs seem to do much of any work nowadays. With all the eliminated examples of manual labor removed we now are free to go to pay for health clubs in order to pay specialists to coach is in some special fitness program.
And I will never be able to cash in on ANY of it! Me the stuck in the middle, average liberal arts student. I can’t name my price as a computer programmer. I can’t rake in money as a plumber or tutor rich kids in some higher level calculus class. I can NEVER sense some kind of lucrative trend BEFORE it hits the front pages of the newspaper no matter how hard I try.
No I can only hope to be the consumer—if the government helps me out enough. Because, inevitably at some point I will probably need a full time, round the clock weight consultant to keep tabs on me. Our dog might need a professional dog walker. I will need a live-in computer helper for every weird occasion when things go wrong.
But before it ever gets to that I need to continue my formula of being SPECIAL by not being special. The dream remains. This means not panicking and scuttling it in the belief that I need to pay for some self-help specialty course to fix me. You will see me stick to the course. And who knows? Appearances are deceiving. Eventually, what looks like a decidedly Unremarkable and un-empowered life as a NON specialist, may end up looking special in the long run after all.
Perhaps transcendental moments are like that and are cultivated best by renaissance thinkers anyway. Big ideas and inspiration come from fools in the rain and loiterers in coffee shops. Specialists tend to push them away in single minded pursuit of their specialties.