As recently promised…
The top athletes, entertainment participants at the highest level, there is something remarkable about them, not to overstate as I shall provide further examples to diminish their exclusivity.
These people, though not special, if they are truthful, feel privately special to themselves. (And I suppose to their fans, though I know very little about that. I did, however, meet Jimmy Stewart once and felt detectably weak-kneed, and I followed Henry Fonda into a Baskin-Robbins just to hear him say, “I want Cheeocolate.”)
You had a dream, and you made it. You have beaten enormous odds, gaining entry into “The Club”, becoming members of a select and elite minority – not the kind that is unable get a cab, the kind where a nice car (and a driver in a quality suit) seem always conveniently to be waiting for you.
But it’s not just the perks that feel wonderful, though you, hopefully gratefully, take comfortable advantage of them all. It is the irrefutable feeling of accomplishment.
“Look where I am!”
the achievers rarely reticent about mythologizing their destinations. Baseball honors my profession by nicknaming the Major League level “The Show.” And I am not aware of chartered accountancy ever calling itself “The Business.” (Though they might, and keep it quietly to themselves.)
Personal Experience Of Exaltedness: I was standing in the lobby at the Emmys and a recognized comedian aware of my “elevated status” is trying desperately to make me laugh. I felt uncomfortable, but also, you know, “Look what he’s doing!”, imagining, “I must really be somebody!” To my immeasurable shock and surprise – and also secret satisfaction – I was the high school “princess” the boys were eagerly trying to impress.
You have arrived at your destination and you are enjoying the benefits (here’s where I throw in paralleling examples in other arenas) – the CEO’s corner office, the principal’s office (as the principal, not a student miscreant sent in to see the principal, though if you’re a gang leader, you are in a similar situation), the United States Senate (or any other political office without term limits), a prestigious law firm’s founder, the chief surgeon in the hospital, the head coach or manager of any organized team.
… and a list of other positions, too troublesome to accumulate.
You are “Top Dog” in your respective profession. (Or an accredited includee. “Top Dog” merely accentuates the condition.) You have a “team jacket” to prove it.
The next step – and it is never easy –
Is to stay there.
You do everything it takes. You work hard, upgrading your performance, boasting a consistently winning record.
And they allow you to stick around. Patting you on the back. Regularly sweetening your compensation package.
But at some point, and it’s surprisingly soon…
You hear the proverbial “footsteps.” Somebody is gaining on you, hungry to displace you, knock you permanently off of your perch. The transition is breathtaking. In the seeming blinking of an eye, you go from “Talented Rookie” to “It’s time for a change.”
The thing is…
You are not ready to go.
And it goes without saying why.
You step down, hang ‘em up, or are intentionally moved aside…
And you are no longer an “Anointed One.”
With all that that banishment entails. (Including being relieved of your jacket.)
In baseball, they say, “They’re going to have to tear off my uniform.” I can imagine a corporate counterpart releasing with agonizing reluctance the key to the Executive Fitness Center.
Due to its tangible and symbolic meaning to you, you are unwilling to give it all up, doing whatever it takes to tenaciously stay in the game.
I have witnessed this phenomenon. I have experienced it myself.
Personal Observation: I have watched a loftily regarded television writer stooping to easy laughs and transparently suggestive “low road” pandering, struggling desperately to hold on. (It didn’t work.)
Personal Experience: Sparing both you and myself the embarrassing details, I have seen myself subverting my integrity to prolong my career. (And it did work. Temporarily.)
During a recent mealtime conversation, I was asked, concerning the activity I had aspired to, had participated in and was required to relinquish, “Do you miss it?” I turned to a retired physician in the group and I said, “You know.” His look of longing and regret gave indication that he did.
I am unsure I can articulate that feeling. And if you have been there, I don’t have to.
There is little better than accomplishing your dream.
And little worse than surrendering it.