We dreamers have a lot to give to the world.
After all, so many of history’s painters, writers, dancers, leaders, scientists and inventors have been idealistic. Not trying to toot my own horn and proclaim that only idealists are talented: one, that’s not true, and two, it’s usually not talent that matters the most, but persistence. And what fuels drive? A vision. A dream. An ideal.
But despite the enormous barge of gifts that the shimmery minds of humanity have bestowed, often crossing turbulent fords along the way, many weren’t appreciated in their lifetime.
Have you noticed this? Scientists that died without their theories accepted, painters buried before their artworks were acknowledged. Writers, like Edgar Allen Poe, whose works only rose in fame after he had been tossed into the grave, or Emily Dickinson, who had trouble getting poems published and whose oeuvre, reams and reams of poetry, were only discovered after her beautiful spirit whistled out of her body.
Can you imagine the loathsome, crushing defeat, to not have your genius recognized by your contemporaries, knowing that you have something wonderful to offer but not being given the opportunity to give it, or being rejected? That’s a kind of bitterness that no other experience can parallel. Though I don’t believe in life after death personally, sometimes, I wish it did exist just so those unappreciated souls could be acknowledged, praised. I’d love to shove a published volume of Emily’s poems in her ghostly hands and see the joy in her face or grab Edgar by his thin, inchoate shoulders and say to him, my voice wild, that you made it, you’re famous, you’re a genius, do you see, do you see? Your mind was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.
It makes my heart hurt just to think about it.
This got me thinking about the unappreciated in our generation. In this age. Now.
All the introverted, sensitive, lovely, talented dreamers scattered over the globe, with flowers blooming in their hearts and nightingales singing from nerve-synapse branches inside their brains. Though we’re not all devastatingly talented as Emily Dickinson or Edgar Allen Poe, and perhaps there are many talented people who have simply faded into the wash of time without ever receiving recognition (Oh, the suffering!), we have lots to offer. Lots to give.
As much as I disparage myself and my own talents, as much as I hate my own writing and scorn my own meager abilities, I still think I have something to offer, no matter how small or poor. We all want to put our own special, handcrafted gifts underneath the Christmas Tree of Humanity, to be opened and enjoyed by posterity for as long as people exist.
But we’re not heard, are we?
When I think of society, I see a raucous party, a clashing, banging march, a psychedelic celebration of artificial color and synthetic smells, everything bright, metallic, cold, dead, everything beautiful in a horrible way, a phantasmagoria of shiny lips and shiny teeth and shiny eyes, laughing, cheering, giggling, on and on, senselessly, like a bunch of chattering sugar skulls, winking in the light, disgustingly saccharine.
We don’t belong in it. Sure, we can pretend to belong. We can polish our eyes and teeth, stretch the face muscles in a plasticine resemblance of happiness. But that’s not real and it makes us feel awful. And because we don’t belong, we’re often not heard by the people in it. People like people who are like them, so they don’t want to hear our quiet, solemn little voices speaking pearls of truth, they don’t know how to hear or they can’t.
I remember sitting in class as a student in high school, putting up my hand, trying to add my own touch of wonder to the classroom discussion even though it was terrifying for me, and then being ignored by the energetic teacher or having my voices drowned out by my vivacious, extroverted contemporaries. I tried to hard to express who I was, to tie a ribbon of my own to the gift, but I was drowned out, the present snatched from my hands, the festive tree felled to the ground, left in the cold snow.
I wanted people to see me, but they wouldn’t, couldn’t. It wasn’t just in school – it was at work, at home, at family gatherings, with friends. I tried so hard. I even tried pretending to be an extrovert, putting on a cloak of authority and confidence while my bones shivered underneath my skin, trying so hard to say, here I am, this is me, these are my thoughts, these are my works, these are my ideas, can I be listened to, acknowledged? Just because I don’t have the gift of the gab doesn’t mean my inputs are worthless. Just because I’m not charismatic, it doesn’t mean I don’t have something worth listening to.
It was like talking to a wall. No. A wall that had transformed into the dark void of space, glittering with faraway stars, an emptiness took away the sound of my voice before it left my lips.
It hurt me. Because I’m human just like you. I yearn to be acknowledged, appreciated, listened to. I know I have things worth sharing. And though they’re pitiful compared to the gifts of distinguished creators of art, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be appreciated.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t need people to appreciate you.
All you need to do is appreciate yourself. It’s the only way. You know your own worth. Be objective about it. You know you have these wonderful thoughts that bubble like champagne in your mind which no-one has heard, appreciated or listened to. You know your work, your efforts, mean something. Whether you are introverted, sensitive and idealistic or not, you have a voice.
But you don’t need others to applaud that voice. It’s so hard, I know. Sometimes, we don’t feel like real people unless other people tell us we are. As much as we try to dismiss it, our worth is often based on the opinions of others. But it can’t go on like this, because it just makes existence miserable, shouting into that void again and again until your throat is hoarse, with the stars only floating towards you and coalescing in glittery appreciation after you’ve stopped screaming, or maybe never at all.
Instead, just be happy in creating your gifts. Tying and snipping the shiny ribbon. Selecting the perfect wrapping. Rejoice in the joy of the experience, no matter what you are giving to the world, art, hope, monetary donations, dreams, aid.
Place it under the tree. Then walk away. And leave with a smile, because you gave, and the creation of the gift made you happy, the giving made you happy, and maybe one day it will make others happy, and that’s all that matters.