The Only Thing Worse than Being Talked About

One day when I was 14 years old, my mother asked why I looked so down. I muttered that I was upset because some kids at school were talking about me. We were in the car, and she was driving. She glanced at me and then looked back at the road. “You know what the only thing worse than being talked about is?”

“No. What?”

“Not being talked about,” she said. Now, I have no idea if she was just being clever to make me laugh or if she really believed that. I also have no idea if she knew she was paraphrasing Oscar Wilde of all people. But that moment has always stayed with me. At least I’m doing something interesting enough for people to talk about. God forbid I be boring.

This afternoon, I told a couple of ex-colleagues about my book and about my website. I got very tepid responses. “Good luck with your new venture.” I sort of felt bad for a moment. My mind went to them forwarding the website address to other ex-colleagues. I imagined them saying, “Who the hell does he think he is?” and “Oh please!” And then I imagined people talking about starting an entrepreneurial venture and having people hate on it and say negative things.

I’m not concerned about that per se. These are both very nice people. I have no idea what they thought about it. I didn’t expect them to be excited about it when they heard about it. This is just about what was going on in my head. These ex-colleagues have no idea how these things are done. They have no idea what the possibilities are. They have no idea how to go about doing something like this, so of course it’s going to sound impossible to them. It will probably sound ridiculous.

Also, let me stress that this was all happening in my head. I have no idea what they were thinking or what their opinion is. It was a part of my brain speculating.

It should be stated that most of these people (including Fred) are Dutch. I feel like most Dutch people have very little ability to dream really big. Most of my ex-colleagues dreamed for a permanent contract at their job and they stop there. That’s where I’m very American. I believe that if you reach for the stars at least you’ll land on the moon, or how ever that saying goes.

As I was standing in the kitchen drying dishes thinking about this situation this afternoon, the thought popped into my mind that I should imagine my former colleagues smiling and saying, “Good for him!” and “Impressive! I wish him the best.” I was reminded of the word pronoia, which is the suspicion that the whole world is conspiring to shower you with blessings.” I decided to get a big fat case of pronoia.

I called a friend and told her about what my mother had said in the car that day. I said I was going to “cast the burden on the Christ within and go free.” I decided I was going to not worry about it.

Matching my spiritual approach with her own, she said, “Yeah. F*ck them.”

Our approaches are, you know, similar in a way.

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