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Why we’re not as good as we think we are

When I was 7 years old, I had a best friend called Rosa.

We both started a new primary school at the same time and quickly became inseparable.

She was from the USA, and taught me about the integral holiday of Halloween. Her poor mother had to pin thousands of balloons on each of us to become ‘aliens’.

Artist's impression
Artist’s impression

Some of my happiest childhood moments were spent with her.

That was until she returned  to Washington D.C. with her family a year later. I was crushed.

This was the nineties. Mobile phones were the size of houses, the internet was in fetus form and so keeping in touch (other than the odd letter by Airmail) was nigh-impossible.

Our dear friendship became past tense, our lives took different paths.

Twenty years later, an unexpected trip to D.C. brought us together once again. Conversation opened doors to fond memories that had been locked safely away. Both nothing and everything had changed. We were different people, but our essences were still the same.Grace and Rosa

Since our goodbye all those years ago, our lives had been a series of individual experiences and opportunities; ups and downs; successes and failures.

What if we’d taken different paths?

What if she’s never left? What if I’d moved away? What if I’d chosen a different University? What if I hadn’t signed up to that course? What if I hadn’t introduced myself at that bar? What if I’d taken that job? What if I’d not booked that plane ticket? What if I’d met that person earlier? Or later? Or not at all? What if I hadn’t said goodbye?

Speculation, of course, is futile. But it emphasises how important the people we meet are at shaping who we are.

As Hollywood’s award season kicks off, it’s easy to treat the winners as superhuman. We forget that there is a huge team behind each individual – agents, PR, make-up artists, friends, acting coaches, peers; a rich tapestry of expertise that are instrumental to that person’s success.

And this is the case for us ‘normal’ folk too (although sadly, we don’t have publicists filtering unfortunate photos of us, a la Beyonce at the Superbowl).

We are the sum of everyone we meet along the way: the teacher who gave you the confidence to take the class, the colleague who recommended you for the job, the friend who supported you in your darkest moment, the stranger who bought you that coffee, the buddy who volunteered their time to help produce that charity event.

We can all be heroes. But only with the help of others.

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