I see a lot of people chasing something I can only call “legitimacy.” In quotes for the reasons I’m about to outline.
I see this chase played out mainly in two social arenas: professional “advancement” and academia. None of this is to diminish the value of either of these things in and of themselves- it’s a question of motive.
If someone wants an “advanced” (see how the class and social herding functions are baked into the linguistic cake?) degree because it’s a hoop they need to jump through to do something they truly want to do, or if they want to do it for its own sake, kudos.
But be real- how many people who have gotten or are trying to get such accolades are truly internally motivated? As opposed to how many are doing it- though they’d never admit it- to appease mom and dad, or a spouse, or impress a potential future mate- or most of all, to satisfy some deeper sense of inadequacy, that only once they’ve “achieved” x, y, or z will they be worthy of- whatever it is they need to feel worthy of?
It’s a rare breed.
In the case of professional (again this is a code word we use for class status- all professional actually means is you make money at something; we functionally use the word “professional” to separate important work from supposedly unimportant work, and thereby important people from, well, you know) advancement, you could apply all the same dynamics.
I wonder how different the world would look if more people were able to ignore the external and internalized narratives of what they “should” be doing- how they are to attain “Legitimacy”- and we’re able instead to realize, finally:
This is YOUR life.
Not your mom’s. Not your boss’s. Not your uncle’s or your sister’s or your granddad’s or your asshole brother-in-law’s-
It’s YOURS. You are the one who has to live it, live with it, and yes, die your death.
You are the one who has to taste your regrets, and your victories. Only you can measure them.
I hope just one person reads this and recognizes some place where they are chasing “legitimacy” in their life no matter how big or small.
No papers, no job, no promotion, no degree can ever make your life more or less yours.
No one’s approval or critique can give or take anything from you.
You own your life. It has meaning or doesn’t according only to how you see it.
Choose your carrots well folks.
Oh- and Guitars Ruin Lives.