You should never apologise for your success, but…
When you’re a colossus, a titan perhaps
I can’t lay claim to being terribly successful. About the best thing I do is write and you can draw your own conclusions from quality of the writing here. However I do quite a good impersonation of someone of great success. I don’t know how I do it — it’s a knack that I’ve always had.
Mrs Albion and I use a car service for airport transfers when we can’t get out there to collect people ourselves — it’s a reasonably priced and high quality service. And so it was that I found myself in the back of a chauffeur driven silver Mercedes-Benz, paused in traffic outside the The Royal Courts of Justice the day I arrived back from the Balmoral Blogmeet trip.
It was bright, warm Friday afternoon a few weeks ago. The traffic was light, because it was mid-term break, and I was composing a post about how difficult it is to leave your family — especially your parents — to return to the grind of expat life. I admit the sunny afternoon was helping things along, but my heart was still heavy, and tiredness was making me emotional, and perhaps more sensitive to others’ feelings than usual.
As we paused I looked across the footpath to a family, sitting on the wall of the Royal Courts of Justice. Mum and Dad and two blond daughters between them. They looked hot, exhausted and happy. I knew the scene, I was there when I was a kid: cheap jeans stonewashed too uniformly, and too close to the colour of the sky; brand new trainers — best for long days of touristic pavement bashing; a rare trip to London, maybe even the trip of a lifetime;
No darling I can’t buy you a drink yet — it’s expensive — wait until we get back to the hotel. But we might just pause here for a breather — maybe sit on this wall…
The parents looked all castle’d out (and expression my brothers and I coined after one too many sights on our inaugural trip to the UK) but one daughter was still going strong.
She pointed at something a bit further down the road, opposite where they sat —Prince Henry’s Room, possibly. The Dad was older than I’d expect for a man with such a young family. A little overweight, with fair skin, a red face and a bald patch in his wild white hair. As tired as he was, his face looked radiant — like he had already missed his chance at a family before he met his wife, so every moment since then has been a gift. I felt like I was intruding, watching one of the few moments each day that this man could share something special and new with his daughter, and be her superhero. And of course I was thinking about family generally, and got lost in the thought as I stared at the man.
A moment later, they looked back at the cars in front of them and his eyes met mine. I stared, tried to nod a greeting, but after two days of traveling, my neck was not cooperating, so I just stared. As I stared, he looked at me and deflated. He crumpled from inside, his shoulders slumped down and forward, his happy face caved into itself and he sat there, one of life’s failures, sitting on a wall, staring at the traffic. His daughter said something to him, and he lifted himself to respond, but I could see that now it was all effort — the superhero had been defeated by life, and lost opportunity, and the effort of being something for his family that he only felt he was about eighteen percent of the time.
And then the car moved forward and I saw myself reflected in a shop window: an arrogant colussus in a loud shirt, sitting behind his chauffeur, staring impassively through obnoxious designer sunglasses.
I wanted to get out of the car, to walk back and say,
I saw what you were thinking back there and it’s wrong. I was admiring you. I was looking at what a lovely time you were having and missing my mum and thinking about how precious those moments are, and how you should treasure them.
I am envious of you.
But the lights changed and we turned up Fetter Lane and left them behind.
I feel like I took his special moment with his daughter — a special memory for both of them — and turned it into the time he felt small outside The Royal Courts of Justice.
The moral of the story?
Maybe something about never letting anyone make you feel small, because you might have something that they haven’t got. Something about imposter syndrome, perhaps.
It’s hard to say what the moral is.
I just feel bad for not saying it at the time.
Copyright © Damian Clarke, first posted to the Our Albion blog, April 23rd, 2007 under London life.
Comment from Tokyo Girl
Time: April 25, 2007, 10:16 am
I would like to make it clear that when I referred to you as a “colossus” it was in no way meant as a negative. Just that you have a large personality and an enviable ability to get on with all types of people. A term of endearment.
Comment from Damian
Time: April 25, 2007, 12:32 pm
Don’t worry Tokyo, I took it in the spirit intended. I’m quite proud, because nobody’s called me a Colossus before.
But when I watched the guy crumple, I just felt terrible.
Comment from Sally
Time: April 27, 2007, 4:52 pm
Don’t worry Damian.
He’s probably gone back home having forgotten all about it. He possibly just felt momentarily embarrassed because he thought he knew you or something…
I’m sure that he had a great holiday and hasn’t given it another moment’s thought!
Comment from guyana-gyal
Time: April 27, 2007, 11:07 pm
I won’t say I’m ’successful’, I do have a better life than some folks here…so I know how you feel, I’d want to jump out of the car, explain, explain. But I know too that I’m not responsible for another person’s view of him/herself. But I’d still want to explain, just like you wanted to do. Just so he doesn’t feel bad anymore.
Comment from Damian
Time: April 30, 2007, 2:22 pm
Your crispy frying story was timely — we’ve been barbecuing all weekend — sausages, steaks and some nice pieces of wild Atlantic salmon sizzling there on the grill.
Comment from raghu ram prasad
Time: May 1, 2007, 11:24 am
It’s happened once in a moon time don’t worry i am hear…..visit my blog
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