The power of being unimportant

Blows from life teach us humility and force us to focus on the priority of our life. Despite its unpleasantness, being taken down a peg or two can have unexpected benefits. In fact, being unimportant can be an empowering role.

The universe has conspired recently to remind me how unimportant I am. Just before Thanksgiving I was laid off from my job. (My employer had a compassionate tradition of not conducting layoffs during the holiday season. As a consequence, the blood flowed thick in early November.) This was just the latest in a series of heavy-handed thumps on the head to put me in my place. My mother passed a little over a year ago. My father-in-law dove deep into dementia before passing six months ago. We’ve had legal issues with both estates. I got another job, where I now work harder for less pay, perks and self-determination. I could be forgiven, perhaps, for believing Someone Up There has it in for me.

This is just life, of course. I tried to take it with philosophical detachment. Seasons, ashes to ashes, that sort of stuff. I’ve grieved, I’ve sighed, I’ve paid more attention to my own life as it flashed by. The layoff, though, was particularly galling, not the least because it was an understandable action. I would have fired me sooner and give my employer credit for giving me the chances it did.

But now, everything is topsy-turvy with my career. In fact, I don’t really have a career any longer. I’m doing the intellectual equivalent of sweeping floors and taking out trash. I take orders from the head man, tip my hat respectfully and trudge off to my drudgery. Given where I came from, I should be pissed. And I am, at least a little bit. But, surprisingly, I’m having trouble working up an appropriate level of indignation. In fact, I’m almost content.

What the hell is going on?

I’ve discovered an unexpected benefit from my recent demotion. Since I am not important, I don’t have to worry about running the world. I didn’t realize it, but I had gradually been promoted to Head Shouldmaster, responsible for keeping everything running as it should. Now that I’m just a peon, and a junior one to boot, I don’t have to worry about the world anymore.

The role of Head Shouldmaster was a difficult, thankless job, but I took it seriously. I constantly scanned everything about me and compared what I saw against my measure of how it should be. Whoever was in charge obviously was not taking his role seriously. Just look around–everything is off the rails. Consequently, I was constantly stressed, annoyed and upset, especially since I knew what everyone should be doing.

I’m happy to say I don’t feel that way anymore. It’s not my job now. Since I’m unimportant, I’m not responsible for everything else.

It’s a great feeling.

I don’t remember applying for the job of Head Shouldmaster. I suspect none of us do. But it creeps on us on the sly. There’s nothing wrong with having an ideal to live up to. It’s okay as long as it’s confined to your life. Your life is under your control. You are responsible for what you do. The rest of the universe, though, is off limits. You can’t control what everyone else does. And they have their own ideals. You can’t impose yours on them.

The world bumbled on pretty well before I came along.  I suspect it will continue to do so without my constant oversight.  I guess that’s the way it should be.

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