Daily prompt: Does it really matter?


Until I was about 17, I appeared to have a purpose in life. Academic achievement.

Since that’s been off the board – chiefly, in retrospect, because I had minus zero interest in academic achievement and managed to shoot myself in the foot every time it looked possible – I have bumbled about doing things I never imagined I’d do, until here I am in old age with nothing noteworthy to show for it (unless you count four adult children).

This used to bother me, back when I was still of an age to agonise over ‘achievement’ and the meaning of life. Now it doesn’t. Life is what it is. You do your best, and in the final analysis, who’s going to care what I did as long as it was harmless?

A lot of people will disagree with me there, of course: those desperate to have their name in lights, real or metaphorical; those desperate to change the course of the world; those desperate to have lots and lots of lovely money. But the way I see it, we’re all links in the chain, and everyone changes the world in ways we may never know, simply by being in it.

So maybe in my bumble through life I actually did some good, or maybe I was just human filler.

But even filler has its uses, doesn’t it.


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10 Responses to Daily prompt: Does it really matter?

  1. Yep. I think about the 10,000 students I taught and there were some winners, real winners and they may have gone on to forge their link and so on and so forth. I think (as an old person) one of the yuckiest things about our society is our fascination with potential. We LOVE it. “He has so much promise” and we’re all enamoured. It really ought to be the opposite. We should be enamoured of fruition. “You raised four healthy adult? Way to GO!!!” Because than can’t be easy. “You taught at least 10,000 post-adolescents how to write, research and think? BRAVO!” because honestly to be a “star” one’s gifts must converge with the zeitgeist — it’s luck. 🙂

    • One of drawbacks of potential is that you’re given a hard time if you don’t live up to it. I think who you are is more important than what you are, in the end – or maybe that’s a rationalisation to justify ‘wasting my potential’.

      • I think “potential” is a bunch of hooey. I had a prof cancel class when he learned I was planning to get married. He took me outside into the winter night to lecture me about how I could really “DO” something but he never said what and I was 19 and I had no idea what WHAT was. All I knew was my dad was dying, my mom was a druggy, my brother was MIA and I was trying to get through school to go somewhere, do something. I think that whole “potential” thing is a cross no kid should have to bear. I have written three good novels. They’re well researched, interesting, compelling, and important. They’re NOT on the public pulse. I was thinking last night how many “great writers” write ONE book their whole career, and I think I am a failure and did not live up to my “potential.” Fuck that. I surpassed it. 🙂

        I think of the end of Hopkins’ poem “The Windover” —

        “…shéer plód makes plough down sillion
        Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
        Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.”

        That is life.

  2. “Life is what it is. You do your best, and in the final analysis, who’s going to care what I did as long as it was harmless?”

    I’m aiming for this. In spite of bumbling along myself, I still feel that I’m disappointing… who, exactly, I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the Geography teacher who expressed his disappointment at High School Commencement ceremonies when I told him I was working at the phone company and not enrolled in university.

    Yes, filler does have it’s uses. I find I’m a tagger-along-er – a supporting member. As a friend said to me, rudders are equally as important as the wheel.

    • I do hear you, Maggie, I really do! Some days I feel such a failure I want to crawl into a hole and rot. But then I think to myself, do any of us know what we’re really here for no matter what we might like to think, given the intricate interweaving of all of our lives. Maybe I was never meant to be more than a frog for other people to leap over.

  3. Aunt Beulah says:

    I wish more people had the wisdom to think, as you do, “You do your best, and in the final analysis, who’s going to care what I did as long as it was harmless?” As a teacher, I often heard students say, “My sister is the smart one,” or “I’m not good at math,” or “My parents insist I go to college and I don’t want to.” It’s sad that we can’t let one another be.

    • It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, and even now it’s patchy! I think a lot of the problem is the western world’s obsession with ‘success’. What is it, really? Money? Fame? And then you’d have to ask, ‘is Donald Trump a success?’

  4. lwbut says:

    ” You do your best, and in the final analysis, who’s going to care what I did as long as it was harmless?”

    I actually find that a little sad. (not that i mean you should live your life up to my expectations – God forbid!)

    Do you care that some people have invented or created the things you appreciate in life? Do you care that people have died for the life you were able to lead? Do you care that people have written great books, painted great pictures, opened up distant lands to explore and populate?

    My point is that we are free to choose if we try to be ever better than we are or if we just settle for what we can get. Struggle against the odds is what makes us truly human – it brings out our best – if we achieve success – or it can drag us down if we never do.

    Doing no harm is indeed commendable in this world. Doing all that you think you can is probably more so, doing what you think you couldn’t is the goal we should all aim for – even if we don’t actually get there.

    Who cares if we do? the only one who truly matters is us.

    As for feeling ‘less’… research has shown 75% of all people think they are of above average intelligence! The truth is more like 25% are. 😉 🙂

    Some people don’t know what they can achieve until they are encouraged to try – that is why we should all encourage others to try to go just that one more step, all the time…. and to do no harm in that process.


    • 🙂 Watch it, lwb! Yes, I care about a lot of things – and a lot of people I’ve known who did indeed leave their mark on the world. The fact that I accept that I’m not one of them doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled against some pretty impressive odds and done more than I thought I could more than once. I haven’t sogged through life like wet weetbix, just haven’t ‘achieved’ what I was expected to achieve. (Being, as it happens, proven to be in that top 25%.) And perhaps coming to terms with that and learning to be philosophical about it is an achievement in itself!

  5. lwbut says:

    Couldn’t agree more! 🙂

    and for what it’s worth – i care.


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