The Epiphany of Irrelevance

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If we were able to be honest with ourselves, we would probably all agree that there are times when we are relevant in one way or another, and then there are other times when we are completely and totally irrelevant. 

Selfishly, I am writing this because I find it somewhat therapeutic to see the words leave my fingertips, but as I have processed this small corner of an epiphany I wonder if there are not others who have noticed similarities in their own lives.

Allow me to give you an example. When I was in the second grade my mom was the elementary school’s music teacher. I went to a small Christian school and every year we would do two seemingly large school plays; one in the spring and one in the fall. 

One year I had a role which required me to sing a solo in front of the entire elementary school. I don’t quite remember what grade I was in at that time, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, but I remember that I perceived my “coolness” to be on the line when it came time to sing that solo. I assume that at that time I thought it uncool to sing and that if I were to sing, my vast coolness as a 2nd or 3rd grader would be in jeopardy. I think I faked sick for the first few rehearsals and faked a sore throat for a few more. One way or another, the time came where a decision had to be made as to whether I would sing this solo or not. I’m not sure if my mom was aware of the internal struggle I was facing, but she handled it like a champ, not forcing me in one way or another, but allowing me to make the decision and reaping the consequences good or bad.

I don’t have too many vivid memories of my childhood, but this is one of them. I remember feeling like the weight of the world hung in the balance of this decision and that a wrong decision here could cost me dearly.

I look back now and see how silly this situation is and how insignificant and irrelevant that moment is to my life today, but for some reason it is imprinted on my mind.

On another level, I look back at this story and wonder if I had chickened out of singing that solo, would that moment have altered the course of my life? Would a different outcome have shifted the totality of my life? Maybe moments have the potential to be important but are dependent upon specific outcomes relative to the implications they may have on the future.

I’m a fairly forgetful person in the sense that I have a somewhat poor recollection of events. I remember things happening a certain way, and through a series of conversational investigations, find out that the reality of the situation was something quite different. Knowing this about myself leads me to believe that there are probably a multitude of situations and circumstances exactly like the one I described in which the direness of what I was experiencing in that moment far outweighed its significance placed next to the whole of my life.

But does this idea negate the intense burden of a moment? Do we live our lives so ethereally that we neglect to be present? No! We do our best to find ways to engage the now, knowing full well that there may come a day when that moment is completely irrelevant.

I guess my epiphany has been one of a humbling experience. I have come to realize that as much as I think my life might be a big deal, on some level it’s not. Not even to me. It’s a series of moments strung together to lead me to a present state of awareness that allows me to operate with some sort of understanding of myself and the world around me. 

This humbleness breeds an air of confidence in the most simplistic sense. It allows for moments to be moments. And lifetimes to be lifetimes. And keeps them separated into the categories they need to be in.

This humbleness also breaks the legs of fear. It gives rise to the idea that I can make it through anything and that regardless of how bad I may think it is or could be, I will make it through and don’t need to be afraid.

I write about this not for my future, but for my legacy. I wish that someone would have had a conversation with me that would have allowed me to see the smallness of my circumstances as a kid. I wish I would have had the mental fortitude to be able to take on an idea like this. Maybe I heard this and couldn’t grasp it.

I’m not sure if it is even possible, but I do know that it’s worth a shot. It’s worth a conversation. It’s worth holding this very fragile tension.

Austin Smith

Charlotte, NC, USA