What’s your thing?
IONA LOVERIDGE discusses the very nature of our being and argues that our resolution this year should be to give up trying to fit a mould.
Have you ever been asked that? ‘What’s your thing?’
It’s a question that lies comfortably with elderly relatives. You know the sort: ‘what’s your favourite subject?’, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ etc. etc. Engineered solely to make one squirm inside. At 5 I didn’t know the answer, at 20 I still don’t know the answer and at 60 I definitely won’t know the answer. I mean for starters, what if ‘growing up’ isn’t on the agenda anyway?
These questions are no better than the spittle flying willy-nilly from the denture-filled mouths of the aged. Squirm-inducing, sick-making, panic-mongering. BUT…there’s something more…something not so harmless, hidden in the fabric of these questions…something, in fact, that threatens our contented existence.
Think about it for a second. What is your thing? If you’re one of those smug people who have an answer happily to hand, well you should stop reading now and get back to whatever it is that is your thing.
My answer to this question lies (as with everything in life really) in two more questions. What is a thing? And how do you know if this thing is your thing?
To be honest, I’m not sure I know what a thing is. Is it something we enjoy? Something we’re good at? What if those two things aren’t the same? Let’s say I enjoy ballet but I’m really really good at tripping over my own feet. Is ballet my thing? Or is tripping over my own feet my thing?
This brings us to the question, how do we know if this thing is our thing? If I wanted my thing to be, let’s say (just hypothetically here), the comparative structure of beetles’ wings (obscure but possible) surely I’d have to make sure that no-one else wanted this to be their thing (unlikely but again possible). What if they knew more than me about at it? How then would I know that this was my thing and not their thing? This becomes all the more confusing when your thing is something more mainstream like football or ballet or, god forbid, your thing is science? How do all those NatScis cope? They get to Cambridge and their thing is suddenly not their thing, it’s everyone else’s thing.
So we’ve established that we’re not really sure what a thing is, and we have no way of telling whether a thing is our thing when it could just as easily be everyone else’s thing. The final question to answer is why should we have a thing in the first place?
I say we shouldn’t.
If, for example, your thing is X, you’ll be put in the X box (not one of those cool playstation-esque things, this is a more hypothetical and treacherous X box). You’ll be packaged up and sold on as something oversimplified and, frankly, deceptive (I’m no economist but doesn’t that sound just like one of those CDOs; packaged up debt, falsely labeled, accepted by everyone but bound for disaster). Ultimately, you’ll be cast forever into the shadow of X-thing.
And, if we’re in the X box, are we then excluded from the Y box and the Z box? You can be in two boxes, they say, open-mindedly. But what if we’re more complicated than that? What if I want to be in the X box, Y box and Z box, not to mention the A to E boxes, all at the same time and then, at other times, in none of them at all. Boxes don’t work like that, they have lids, and so do things. A thing is just a box with a lid.
What I’m saying is BEWARE. BEWARE those smug, septuagenarians, those probing, prying pensioners, those curious, questioning old codgers, anyone in fact who asks ‘what’s your thing?’.
They want to put you in a box. And the box, I tell you, is a terrifying one: pre-shaped and labeled, restricting and immutable.
So, whatever you do, don’t answer the question. STEP AWAY FROM THE BOX.