I am afraid we have become a nation of Entitle-ists, Swanning Divas, and Petulant Toddlers. As our elders pass on – those in the Don’t Speak Until You Are Spoken To/Know Your Place Generation – the Baby Boomers and all those Gens that have followed have so crowded the mirror that no one can actually see their reflection in it. It’s not pretty.

I will now wildly blame children’s television host Mr. Rogers and pop/novelty singer Ray Stevens. In their well-intentioned attempts to boost the radical new social idea of “high self-esteem” to large groups of impressionable children and/or hippies, we ended up with EVERYONE believing the UTTER NONSENSE that they are SPECIAL. Let me make a crucial qualification: everyone is unique – this is confirmed by our friend, Empirical Science – but not everyone is SPECIAL, in the sense of superior, interesting, awesome, fascinating, extra-talented, massively hard-working, etc. AND, I may further interject with more capital letters, NOT BEING SPECIAL is IN FACT, NORMAL. Why is “average” such a slur now? IT’S OK TO BE JUST “OK!!”

Sigh. You know what I’m talking about. It’s a plague, this Specialness. Everywhere you turn, someone wants More And Better Pie. Everyone demands an “A” in school or expects a bonus at work just for showing up. The corporate managers climb on the backs of other managers to be the Most Managery Manager of Managers. And none of it seems to be based whatsoever on an honest assessment of personal talent and effort. Baby says, I WANT, and is cut to the core if the M and B Pie doesn’t arrive instantly on a gold platter with angels singing the Hallelujah chorus.

“You were overspoiled with a thousand toys, but still you cried all night.” The Rolling Stones, “19th Nervous Breakdown

Word up, Mr. Jagger, you got that right, and all the way back in 1966, too. There is so little opportunity or support for the development of thoughtful self-assessment. How can one improve as a student, worker, or human being if you don’t have a reasonable sense of who you are now? It’s OK to struggle, it’s OK to not be the best at everything (or anything, for that matter!), and it’s really OK to not crave PIE PIE PIE. I’m not advocating the Dickens’ Model of “God Bless Us, Everyone, Because We Are All Just Worthless And Put Down By The Man Anyway” Self-Esteem. But when we have a country just filled with mirror-hogging pie-gluttons, we have (naturally, in the Empirical Science Nature way) very frustrated and unsatisfied people who will never be able to direct their energies properly. For when everyone gets great grades for not-great schoolwork, praise for substandard, dull, shoddy (fill in the blank), and a 10K bonus for playing Farmville at work all day, all of a sudden everything starts SUCKING and then we wonder why and blame the government or The Man or Kids These Days, Huh.

It’s vital to believe that wherever you land on the actual scale of Special, that until the day you kick off you have the incredible gift of trying to make the best of yourself, for YOU and not to gain some outside reward, praise, Manager of Managers Award, or the World’s Largest Pie. This is an extremely valuable thing, but only if you understand something: you may work as hard as you can, every day, for years, and still not be “great” or “special” or honored or appreciated for it. And you gotta suck that up and deal. If you do, you are going to be a lot happier, and if by chance you do become great at some point, it will be a delicious glop of ice-cream on your already-baked and cooled-on-a-rack homemade pie.

Poet Robert Frost Standing in Oxford Field with His Hand over His Face