When I discovered Ephrat Livni’s novella TLDR, I fell into an instant trance. I dropped all of my work for the day to continue reading. Her language is lyrical. Her characters are compelling. Her message resonates with me.
In short, I became an instant acolyte in the temple of Ephrat. I wanted to read all of her articles because, to paraphrase a Haruki Murakami quote that Livni used in the very first article I read by her, she’d built a special secret passage between us. She’d inspired me and made me feel a connection to her.
Just by being herself. Just by doing the thing that she felt called to do.
It’s a powerful thing: being yourself. It’s a magical thing: doing what you feel called to do, an act of freedom, a sacred responsibility. It’s something you might take for granted or even dismiss as negligible in a world where it seems like only branded bigwigs have an impact.
The next day, after a long night of reading, I learned that a dear friend from my childhood was in the hospital, that he might not come out.
When I knew him in high school, he was already an old soul, quiet and kind and wise beyond his years. When he was amused, he had the soft chuckle of an old man; he had a warm heart. He rarely spoke, but when he did, everyone stopped what they were doing to hear what he would say.
He was a senior, and I was a lowly sophomore. He could have shoved me off as an insignificant girl, but he listened to me and told me his favorite books, which I read right away because I trusted him and wanted to be like him. He was profound for a teenager, thoughtful and funny, and he had a way of changing how you saw things, changing who you were.
Just by being himself. Just by speaking the truth that he felt called to speak.
He’s the reason I studied philosophy in college. He studied philosophy, and I admired him, so I wanted to be a philosopher, too.
Though I’ve messaged him occasionally over the years to tell him the influence he had on me, an influence I know he had on others as well, I don’t think he’s ever been able to see himself the way the people who admire and love him do.
Do any of us?
My husband says if we could all see ourselves the way the people who love us do, we’d have more confidence, more compassion for ourselves, more hope. But it can be difficult in a society that fixates on self-improvement and competition and comparison. It can make you feel never enough.
It’s easier to see all of the ways that we’re flawed, all of the things we haven’t done, all of the better versions of ourselves that we may never become. It’s easier to remember the times we hurt people thoughtlessly and to recall the times others have hurt us through careless words.
You, my friend, are an inspiration to someone, just as you are. Kind words that you have spoken and forgotten encouraged someone on the brink of despair. Your passing smile brightened a stranger’s day. You don’t need to be perfect or even better to improve the world. You only need to recognize that perfection is a human myth, and you are a human reality, multifaceted and brilliant just as you are.
Try to see yourself the way the people who love you do, and trust that you are enough, my friend. Trust that simply by doing the thing you feel called to do, speaking the truth you feel moved to speak, you have fulfilled a magical and sacred mission.
Just by being yourself.