When Roman generals would return home from a successful campaign, they would arrive with the thunderous applause of citizens cheering their victories. Can you imagine the feeling of all the fanfare? Being the center of attention for your heroic exploits? It would be pretty easy to let it all go to your head.
To combat this, they would often have someone behind them on their chariot whispering, “Memento mori” or “Remember you must die”. Just a gentle reminder that one day, you will no longer be here. Keep things in perspective.
During my younger years, I was the best artist in the whole wide elementary school. My parents and friends would “oooh” and “aww” over the drawings I made and exclaim how much talent I had. Though I appreciated the attention, at the same time, I felt there were many artists out there with much more talent. I would draw, be fawned over, and think, “I could still do better than this.”
However, after being doted on, would go back and rest on my laurels. My ego had been sufficiently inflated. I would not put much effort into my art unless I was bored. So I never progressed that much. Not to where I knew I could go.
During my senior year of high school, art was early in the day and I routinely fall asleep during class. I never did any of my assignments but managed to do a few great pieces, good enough to make the front and back cover, and many pages in between of the school art book that year. I was also given a passing grade.
After my last blog post, I was given a few compliments. One was given right in front of my coworker Robyn. She promptly hushed the other coworker and said, “He doesn’t need a bigger ego than he already has.”
I love Robyn because she keeps me humble.
Though I relish in praise, I somewhat distrust compliments. The perfectionist in me thinks “this could have been done better”.
It’s important to have a Robyn in your life. Someone to keep you grounded. Someone that can tell you how it is, without judgment. Or maybe some judgment, but low stakes. That their judgment of you doesn’t get in the way of being able to be friends. It probably helps that we work together rather than live together.
Robyn and I met when we started working for the same company around eight years ago. She was at one of our stores and I was at the corporate office. Eventually, she was demoted to corporate and she became my best friend. I tell her everything and she tells me how much of an idiot I am. She begrudgingly doles out compliments. A laugh from her is hard-won, she is much more likely to grumble. She claims to have never faked a sarcasm.
It is nice to have people that appreciate what you do, but I think we all need someone like Robyn in our lives to bring us down to Earth. Someone you trust to keep you humble, and distant enough to not be upset with you on a personal level.
Marcus Aurelius famously wondered about the fate of Alexander and his camel driver. Robyn would have told you plainly in the spirit of Memento mori, “They dead.”
Hey seriously though, Robyn is great. She listens and gives great advice. She also bought me a milkshake the other day and wished it brought all the boys to my yard. All you can ask for in a friend. She is not nearly as monstrous as I made her out in this post.