Hi there! This is a Public Service Announcement. You are doing a great job. No! Shoosh! Stop it. You are. In fact, even if you are a terrible person - a narcissistic politician, say, or a boss who gaslights everyone in the office into needlessly fretting about spreadsheets and nobody meets your eyes in staff meetings - you are still doing a good job. You are! If you recognise yourself in either of these descriptions, chances are you should quit your actual job, but if you look closely, there will be, somewhere in your life, significant areas in which you excel.
The idea that we must all strive together, and that in striving there is virtue and, eventually, reward, is the lie of capitalism come to taunt us all. And nay, we shall not succumb to this fantastical fiction. For some of us enjoy not striving. Some of us have had a rather nice time failing too. Some of us enjoy the small moments in the middle of meaningful moments even more than we enjoy the meaningful moments, for life is made up of lots of things and some of them are the way a trail of ants carries a butterfly or the sound of a dog barking two streets away while the kettle boils in the kitchen.
So: you know when you’re watching a movie and there’s a character who you don’t know if you’re supposed to like and then the character casually connects with the dark, brooding kid who nobody else can talk to and then the kid totally opens up and when one of the other characters comes back into the room they discover them laughing together? You know that character is a hero. Are you the kind of person who makes an effort with the weird kid? Well done. Congratulations. You’re the good guy.
Same if you can talk to animals. It’s a real pleasure, and a lot of people don’t have it. If you can do that, you’re doing a great job.
Here’s to the calmer-downers. If you’re stressed, they make you laugh at yourself. If you’re anxious, they talk you down. They grin at you when you thought nobody was looking backstage before your big performance. Can you think of a better skill? Capitalism doesn’t pay the calmer-downer-ers by the hour, but hooboy are you people worth your weight in gold. Send a message to your calmer-downerers. Tell them they’re doing a great job.
The joiner-uppers are great too. You’ll be relating a story to a joiner-upper and they’ll say, oh that’s like this other thing and you’ll think GOOD GRIEF! HOW DID I NOT SEE THAT THOSE TWO COMPLETELY SEPARATE THINGS WENT TOGETHER? WHO IS THIS TRUTH WIZARD? This also works with quotes. Some people are geniuses at quoting something at just the right moment. This is a rarified skill and one that, in the right moment, can be truly astonishing to witness. Great job.
If you are a good host - if you guide people through space like an angel and remember people’s names and make them feel like the most fascinating person on the planet while you prepare tea using fresh leaves you grew in the garden like it’s a choreographed dance you’re doing with all the guests and the cups and the tea paraphernalia and the hot water dancing with the leaves in a perfect glass teapot while you tell an amusing story that is also humble and charming and astute and amusing, you’re doing a great job and also when can I come over and do you bake?
Maybe you’re good at diving under water. Not the flashy outside diving that gets to go to the olympics but the diving where you feel like a dolphin and your mind goes kind of quiet and your breath feels surprised.
Perhaps you’re the sort of person who knows when to be silent. When to sit with a person and hold their hand. When to look into a person’s eyes and not make a face or say anything weird or try to make a joke. Seriously good skill. Well done.
Maybe you are a master at plaiting hair or folding sheets or packing car boots or putting people at ease at parties or finding lost earrings.
You are not a list of achievements measured against other people’s. You are you, and nobody else is as good as you are being you. Fight the power and own it: you’re doing a great job. This has been a Public Service Announcement.
This was originally published in The Big Issue, which is an excellent publication and a social justice organisation all in one. Support in when you can.