I could have been someone
In the song Fairytale of New York, Shane MacGowan sings I could have been someone, to which the late Kirsty MacColl replies, Well, so could anyone. This line always hit me hard. The song was played over and over again during the Christmas season in a bar I used to hang out in Moscow, Idaho. I’d go to the bar to meet up with writer friends; I’d go there to write, but of course, as is the way of writers going to bars everywhere, what I actually did in the bar was drink. So I’d sit there, a non-writing writer who drank, hearing Kirsty MacColl say well, so could anyone, in answer to my mental refrain of I could have been someone.
Long after I left that bar, long after I left Moscow, Idaho, I remained a non-writing writer. I remained disappointed, and a little pinch-faced. If only this had happened or that had happened I could have been someone (well, so could anyone, sang Kirsty). And sometimes I’d think, maybe one day I will be someone, if only this happens or that happens, one day I could be someone. And when I’m someone, then I will be okay.
Most of the time, I didn’t feel okay. But then, little by little, life happened. I did do some things. I stopped being a non-writing writer who drank and became a non-writing writer who was sober, and eventually I became a non-writing writer who wrote, which made me, in fact, a writer. I started at VIU. I started to settle into life a little bit and stopped thinking about whether I was somebody or if I was not; I stopped thinking I needed to be “somebody” at all.
But every once in a while, I can revert back to the small and pinch-faced personality who used to drink too much in Moscow, Idaho. When that happens, I think about Paul Potts. You’ve probably heard about Paul Potts, but if you haven’t, he is an opera singer who rose to fame on Britain’s Got Talent, on which he appeared in 2007 as a somewhat dumpy, bad-teethed, mobile phone salesman. See the following clip (go ahead, I’ll wait):
Shortly after that, he said:
All my life I felt insignificant. After that first audition, I realized, I am somebody. I’m Paul Potts.
(See the following video for more on that.)
I think about that quote a lot. I am somebody. I’m Paul Potts.
I find that deeply moving, and deeply inspirational. Maybe that’s the point of the Kirsty MacColl line after all. All this time, I understood the line to mean well, anyone could have been someone, big deal, you loser, but perhaps it really means, yes. You can be someone. You can be you.
I write this because I’m pretty sure there’s at least one person wandering around VIU feeling a little dumpy and a little pinched-face, maybe even a little awash with disappointment. Maybe it’s time to put that down. Maybe it’s time to go out there and be you.