Cats have supreme confidence, a cat knows when it walks in the room that it owns it and everything and everyone in it. And I envy them for that!! “Incompetent” is probably the best to describe how I normally feel especially when dealing with new subjects or a new job. There’s so much to learn, to understand – the history, the politics, the theorems – and usually no time to get any of it committed to memory. So, for most things, I’ve found you have to hit the ground running.
Which means that I have spent a large portion of the last few months, and if I analyse it my life, feeling like an unprepared infantry man stationed on the front line. I have attempted to follow my orders but have found that what ever has been barked across a noisy, war-torn battlefield difficult to comprehend. I have my equipment, which I know the name of if not always how to use it. And I have my companions, who all seem to know their roles and who have sprinted off to their posts. Leaving me in the middle of nowhere, probably holding a hand grenade and wondering what this funny pin thing is and what may happen if I pulled it off. And that’s where I am at the moment. Holding a metaphorical hand grenade in one hand and it’s pin in the other, standing in the middle of a battle, feeling out of place, uncomfortable in my new fatigues and in all likelihood needing a pee.
Of course I’m talking metaphorically here. I’m not really in literal combat. It just feels like it, like everything on a day to day basis is survival. And what I have spent a lot of time considering is, how did I get here? And more importantly why does no one else seem to spend their days wondering round in a confused haze, desperately running to catch up with everyone else? But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve noticed that those I’ve seen as supremely confident slip up. Often they will react much as a cat does when it falls off the window ledge, banister or sofa cushion, they will readjust themselves and give you a look that says “I meant to do that! It was all part of my master plan.” But occasionally with some people you see the facade of complete competence slip and for a second I glimpse the person behind it. The person whose calm exterior is, like mine, deteriorating rapidly. That inner soul with scared eyes and a trembling lip. And as our eyes meet over the burnt cake, deleted file or flooded kitchen, I see a glint of fear in their eyes. Not a fear of the consequences of getting it wrong or of how they’ll put it right. But simply knowing that I know their secret, that they are infact as confused, scared and incompetent as I am and a fear that I might tell!!
So, my conclusion is this; no one really knows what they’re doing! Perhaps there are those who are bright enough to not get as deep in to the situations as I do – who make damn sure they never see the front line – or who catch enough key information to survive – to hear what the grenade pin does before they pull it off – or those who don’t give a rats arse about what they’ve been told and duck for cover regardless. But I think, on the whole, most people simply do what everyone else does. The only real difference between them and me is that they pretend they know what they’re doing and when they do something, they do it, like a cat, with enough panache and confidence to make it look like that’s exactly what they were meant to do.