Our fascination with fame

I’ve started a new casual job in a tasting room at a local brewery, discussing, pouring, and cleaning up after people drinking beer. It’s nine hours on my feet, lifting, squatting, stacking, bending, and pacing. I’m basically getting paid to work out and talk about beer. It’s not exactly working for the Olympics, but it’s a pretty sweet gig.

An interesting thing happened to me at work today. A woman I was serving told me with a hint of scepticism I was the fourth Australian she’d met this week. I responded with equal distaste, telling her I thought all Australians had been detained in Whistler and that I was under the assumption I was the only one who’d escaped. The woman squinted at me through her red-rimmed spectacles, dismissing my joke as she tucked her cherry-coloured bob behind both ears.

“So what brought you to Canada in the first place?” she probed suspiciously.

“The Winter Olympics in Vancouver,” I responded with a sense of pride.

“Oh,” she said, her tone and body language shifting. “Were you an athlete?”

I paused in the glow of her admiration, gaining the attention of both my colleague and the customer behind her.

“No, I only worked on the games,” I responded, leaving out the details of the two and a half years I spent planning the torch relay across Canada.

“Oh,” she said with obvious disappointment. “I was going to ask you to sign this napkin.”

The woman set the napkin down beside her and pulled out a shiny black wallet from her handbag instead, and without another word paid for her beer and left without leaving a tip.

It wasn’t until this evening, sitting on the couch in my quiet little cabin thinking about my unfinished memoir, I wondered what the hell our obsession with fame is. Would being an athlete or an author make me a better person, more deserving of love, respect, and belonging? Was I more deserving of these things when I worked for the Olympics rather than for a brewery? And how about walking the length of three countries, climbing mountains and paddling 715km down a river? Do any of these things make me better than anyone else?

Thankfully, due to my recent weeks of counselling and acute introspection, I have reinforced the notion that what we do is not who we are. Our achievements don’t alter what’s at the core of our being, our characteristics, or our values. It’s just if we’re not standing at the top of a podium, our positive traits often go unpraised. But even if our efforts go unrecognised, it doesn’t make them any less worthy of attention. Much like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. In my opinion, the tree still makes a sound.

I used to think having a published book would make me more deserving of love, belonging and respect, and that the success of my book would define my worthiness as a human being. I sometimes still believe this because I’m imperfect and I can’t help but attach my worthiness to my achievements. But neither the book nor finishing the PCT or other trails changes who I am as a person. Sure, I would have loved to sign that woman’s napkin at the brewery today as much as I would like to have a published memoir sitting on my bookshelf. But even if I were a best-selling author, I’d still be the exact same person sitting here alone on my couch tapping away at my laptop at eleven p.m. in the evening.

It’s hard to believe what we bring to the world is enough when the people being recognised are the record holders, the prize winners, the first-time creators, or the influencers with thousands of followers. But the real winners are the people who don’t need recognition to feel worthy, or praise to recognise their unique contribution to this planet. Perhaps we need to take away the medals and podiums to have a better chance of believing this, and maybe in addition to banning plastic bags, we should remove all napkins from the workplace as well.

37 thoughts on “Our fascination with fame”

  1. A great vignette and a very thoughtful epiphany. It appears you are getting closer to what you seek. You are an accomplished author despite the unpublished manuscript laying somewhere nearby. Evidence the accumulated works of Seriall Nomad and the collection of erudite comments and wisdom the blog has generated. We are all better for your endeavors and following the journey.

    1. Aww Rex what an amazing comment to read. As children and adults we are always seeking the approval of our parents. No matter how much we try to deny it. Your words mean a lot to me. Thank you! ❤️

  2. Approbation lust is as powerful, addictive and potentially destructive as any other. We all seek witnesses to our lives and they’re healthful but if we choose an alternative lifestyle it may and often does incur . . . penalties shall we say? ‘Ask me how I know. hehehe

    Hakuin, in a position of power, influence, prestige, after long years climbing to that pedestal understood what path lay ahead (aka gravy train). He, one day, was approached by a woman of ‘lessor’ character charging him who’d taken a vow of renunciation ages prior, as father of her unborn child. He responded, “Is this so?”, complete equanimity neither admitting or denying. After his raising the child in a community of celibates and enduring the understandable sidelong glances, she returned claiming this visit the child was in fact not his. He responded, “Is this so?”, complete equanimity neither admitting or denying. His achievements didn’t alter the core of his being, his characteristics, or his values.

    These things are mystical to us, metaphysical matters. Human nature renders the elimination of recognition, prizes, medals, approbation or followers fruitless. But acute introspection, aka zazen, works more better than anything I’ve found to date.

    What you are studying and learning on your path is very unordinary. We don’t have our choice of paths do we? The cost is much greater on alternative paths but with matching rewards.

    Le licha es mucha en le ducha. @}–,–‘—-

    1. Wise words and a fascinating story (of which I had to read twice and look up a couple of words to understand the full meaning). Thank you for your compassion, empathy and understanding. I’m not alone on this path, nor was I alone on the trail. But we often walk in solitude, and what I’ve learned is our connections and interactions with others along the way is what makes the journey of life interesting, joyful and meaningful. Thank you for sharing!🌹

      1. You’re welcome. Thank YOU for blogging. And I didn’t necessarily think you were a ‘loner’ but simply taking a path which places experiences over possessions, no?

    2. We always look at the full part of the cup (which represents those who believe in us). However, if you want people to believe in you start with that one u see in the mirror! If she does, then you’re good and anyone else who doesn’t the problem is in them not in you!

      Btw, what is the name of your book?! Where can it be found?!

      1. I agree! I used to think the person in the mirror believed in me, but I had to do a lot of work before she could tell me how much she loved me everyday, and then everyone else’s opinion became secondary. My manuscript has a working title, and if it becomes a published book you’ll hear about it here!

  3. It isn’t actually necessary to worry about winning, losing, being famous or becoming recognized, not really.

    If you live long enough you eventually get a shot at everything. Experience accumulates. People come and go. The famous rise and fall, yet you go on, continually ripening.

    I reread “Breaking the PCT Speed Record” at the “Pacific Crest Trailside Reader” whenever my thinking needs adjustment. Pure clean sanity.

    1. Thanks Dan, I love this comment because you’re so correct. We continue on no matter what, always learning, always growing. I’m going to have to read that post you mentioned too! Thank you!!

  4. You had me smiling from the start. I love your sarcasm.
    Where you an athlete…. Hell Yea and you still are! Damn the things you have done! World class athlete.

    But as with all the crap that people think is important, it is often not. You are getting it. It’s only about yourself and what makes you the best you can be. I have always believed that you were a very special human, even if you are from down under! I still remember the day we met. How many years back was that?
    Book or no book that is ultimately up to you and what you want. Of course, I want you to finish it because I want to know more. But that is not important. What is important is your growth as a human.

    Love you always and I hope to see you soon. Take care my friend.

    1. Oh Wolfman… your comment made my heart melt. Love you too old friend. We met almost 6 years ago in the midst of the PCT madness, and I feel I have grown a lot since then. We all have. So much in this life doesn’t matter as you say… and that’s what the trail helped drill down for me. It simplified life back to its most basic elements: food, shelter, purpose and connection. Book or no book, I continue to learn from my PCT experience every day. Giant hugs and hope to see you soon too!! 🤗

  5. And there you are! Proof in this post what a great writer you are in PROGRESS of being published (let alone the list of accomplishments already under your belt). You are a giant in the eyes of those who know & follow you. Knowing nothing about the woman other than what you posted, sadly she sounds like she’s dealing with considerable issues of negativity and insignificance herself. Hurt people, hurt people….meaning they hurt other people.

    You are loved, Muk!❤️

    1. Judi!!! It’s so good to hear from you! A friend the other day asked me if I keep in touch with many people from the trail. When I thought about it, I realised I’ve keep in touch with more trail angels than hikers, and am so grateful to have retained these strong relationships. Thank you for such kind and generous words. The experience of visiting your schools after the trail was the icing on the cake. It brought greater meaning to everything I’d experienced and taught me how wonderful it feels to inspire the next generation of hikers. Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me and I really hope to see you again soon! Muk 💜

  6. Barbie, here, is so frustrated….just lost my reply…oh, well, such is a unexpected challenge….what IS is what IS….

  7. I am going to tell you that ( being so old.85) I would think I am through doing or saying things that will make me want to be accepted or loved or heard or seen…but the little girl-child still speaks her pain received decades ago…she sometimes literally takes over…and I know after I have allowed that to happen, I strive not to let her speak, and tell her she doesn’t have to speak her pain because it happened and it is over with now and I will take care of her need…….But, nevertheless, I still sometimes seem not to be able to stop her…I know that so many of my accomplishments have been done to get love and accolades … and am still consciously striving to be at peace without trying to get love, etc…and to check myself as I start to speak or think like that…and am learning to love others that I sometimes am NOT attracted to…it’s a struggle…but I will not stop moving out of that past time and to live in the NOW, cherish all moments I have left in this life and be aware that is a gift to be alive…so, it is true that many of things I have accomplished are amazing…even when I know I did those things to hope others would love me and make me feel that I AM worth something…I have blessed others with those things I did for attention…I want more than I have wanted is to share the music I have composed for so many years…and I do have the three concerts of my music compositions on CDs, give them to others, and my last desire is to share the music with others…and I am now trying not the let that desire be because I want to get recognition..but that challenge I have not been able to control…Perhaps it is because of my age, I am afraid my two files full of my music will just be forgotten after I leave this earth…So all I know is I have not been able to let the true self of who I am, my very essence, which is totally accepted by who created me, is perfect, I am and will keep moving into that way of being. living each moment, the beauty of all humans, the loveliness of this planet and oneness of all creatures..the gifts we all have. I will love…all…and “see” more clearly than ever I have experienced..You are my blessing and you are ever moving into insights more clearly, and you keep me to continue to learn also, just like you do…I hold you dearly in my heart and it rises with joy because you let us into your heart and ever-seeking mind that moves forward so quickly…you “know” and gain maturity at such a younger age that I never did or never knew because my past held with grip…Bless you, my child woman….Loving you with all my heart for who you right now….Your old friend, Barbie

    1. Thank you Barbie, my current blessing has been practicing mindfulness and reminding myself to live in the present. So much of our pain and suffering comes from living in the past or our anxiety about the future. Being able to process, grieve, and move forward from our past sets us free. It may take time, lots of talking, connection, and therapy, but it is a journey worth taking. Be thankful for the gifts of music you were blessed with and the joy you received in composing your concerts. Having people enjoy them is just a bonus. That’s how I’m trying to view my book now too. If it brings me joy and healing to complete it I will, and if it can help others by following the experience, then I will share it. Much love to you Barbie. Close your eyes and take in a long deep breath. Today is a brand new day! 🌷

      1. Thanks, sweet heart…yes…I just read The Power of Now. It is a book written by Eckhart Tolle…same message…living in the NOW…and I am also reading a book by Fr. Richard Rohr, The Divine Dance…His book and writings have exposed the damage of the misinformation of Christianity though the centuries and the horrible things done to people throughout those days… I gave up fundamentalism as I knew it…but this Franciscan Priest gave me an understanding about the Christ that no longer forces anyone to become anything but ourselves, precious, dearly loved and beautifully made…I am astounded…Go on You Tube..I am pretty sure this might be meaningful….it is not religious…it brings thought provoking insights…give it a try…it is what you are saying to me…

  8. Hi darling
    So many beautiful words and phrases in the replies of your blog. When I am reading them I feel so proud of you. You are a fantastic author. Who else could write so brilliantly about, the lady and the napkin. It is all so true. You are seeing life and the world in a beautiful and understanding way. Go and fly free my 🦋.
    See you soon in Holland. Love you, mutti xx 😘

    1. Thank you Mutti!! You have always given me the freedom and independence to find my own way, choose my own adventures, and learn through experience. Your positive spirit has always been there supporting and cheering me on and helping me when I fall. I am so grateful for our relationship and all the things you have taught me along the way. I couldn’t wish for a better mum! Love you and see you soon! 💗

  9. Very insightful and honest post. We as imperfect humans do have the tendency to measure our worth through accomplishments. Most of the time we’re comparing ourselves to others. I do the same at times. However, I try to keep in mind this scriptural thought, “But let each one examine his own actions, and then he will have cause for rejoicing in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:4,5)
    When I think about the people that have many accomplishments and fame, it doesn’t shield them from any other problems but often creates more. So, I strive to be content and grateful for what I have. Counting your blessings is a great way to combat these feelings.

    1. Hi Heather, thank you for such a thoughtful comment. I couldn’t agree with you more. Envy is a natural part of being human, but we have the power to keep these feelings in check and rejoice in our own accomplishments without comparison. It just takes awareness and a little work sometimes. Gratitude and mindfulness are the key! 😊

  10. And now for more deep forest thoughts. 🙂

    Alas, the converse can also be true! In two primary ways. 1. We (sanctimoniously) declare we need no recognition for our accomplishments, etc because we are so (superior) evolved past those who do. 2. In a similar vein, we think ourselves superior for not “needing “ recognition and share that righteously with others, but the truth is that we secretly think ourselves as unworthy and are setting ourselves up to receive recognition for being so pious and affirmation that we are actually worthy after all. To deny one’s accomplishments can also be a method to deny oneself.

    And back out of the woods we come. Whew!

    Not that I think you’re doing either. Just IMO, understand The Why. Our intention or reason we seek accomplishments. If for recognition only, then maybe no bueno. If to challenge ourselves and grow, then no harm in being recognized for that same accomplishment.

    1. I hear and agree with what you’re saying, and the why and intention is the fascinating part of what drives people. I don’t think any Olympic athlete trains the better part of their young life just for the recognition of standing on a podium… nor does a writer sit at their desk for years on end creating prose solely because they’re waiting for the day they can sign copies at a book store. For me, recognition has always played a huge role in my life, still does, and always will. I’m just getting better and not associating my personal value and sense of worthiness to the things I do or have done because they don’t change who I am. That doesn’t mean I don’t crave, seek and desire recognition though. Does recognition play a role in me sharing my thoughts with the world? Hell yes! Is it the sole reason? I’d like to think not. It’s my form of creative expression and a means of connection, and I’m still working on not associating my own value to whether people like it or not.

      1. Awesome! I think your last sentence says it all.

        Also recognition is part of the self- validation answer to the enduring philosophical question: “Why am I here?”

        BL: From ancient philosophy to today, intent separate from the action is always a qualifier in assessing the action.

        Best representation today: UDU (you do you). 🙂✌️🤙

  11. My dear, dear friend, how I love to read your erudite, profound, humorous and authentic take on life. I can literally see you shedding layers in your search for the truth – something I know all too well. It’s painful, liberating, exhausting, scary and thrilling at the same time. It can sometimes feel like it is too much. At these moment I need you to know you are never alone. You offer me – and many others – hope. When you show yourself in these moments we are right there with you. Cheering you on and hoping with our hearts you will get there. Wherever there is. You are one of a kind and I love you so much – the world, and especially my world, is so much richer having you in it to be the person you’re meant to be. Whoever and whatever that is. xxxx

    1. Ahhh Swuzzie, I could say all the same things back to you my friend. What an inspiration you are to me, facing every challenge life has thrown at you with courage, grace and wisdom. You are one of the bravest people I have ever met, discovering who you are, escaping convention, embracing love, and continuing to grow and learn each day. I am so grateful to have you in my world as a woman I look up to! Love you to death and I can’t wait to see you again soon! 💖

  12. Muk Muk! Job well done. The women with the napkin is desperate to find someone or something that she can latch on to – as if an autograph will enhance her stature. The real heroes, and I would count you among them having followed your blog for a while now, are the people who are extraordinary without the attention because they just work hard and persevere.
    At work, I often think (and encourage my co-workers to think) that when we do something great, we need to pat ourselves on the back and be proud of ourselves – even if no one sees it. You handled that exchange with humor and poise. And that is heroic in it’s own way. Those are the moments that should get the attention and garner fame. oh another thing. I never comment on blogs. So you must have a superpower. I have some experience with the writing thing and I can only say please keep at it. Your book will be worth the work because your story needs to be shared.

    1. Thank you Blaise, this message means so much to me, especially when you’re not used to commenting publicly, which I totally understand!! I really appreciate your encouragement and motivation to keep writing. As a writer you would understand the wild ups and downs of the process and the sometimes seemingly unblockable challenges that appear along that path. Hearing words like yours really helps to keep my flame of determination burning and reminds me I’m walking the correct path. Thank you for both following and sharing your wonderful insights!! 🙏

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