Struggling to stay negative
Part of knowing yourself means working out the things, or perhaps the thing, you are good at. This isn’t always simple and it may require a very open mind. Knowing yourself also entails working out the things you are not good at. This is generally a lot easier. In fact, if you’re having any trouble with this bit it’s time to tell your mum you’re moving out.
One of my strengths is identifying the negative side to any person, place, animal or thing. I am like a falcon; where others see a sea of golden wheat, I will see the rat. No field is too wide or densely planted.
Not only can I zero in on the negative like a raptor, I use what I find sustainably: maximising the mileage I get from each negative detail and regularly reusing information.
As the falcon inspires a certain awe, so too my negativity has inspired a certain awe in our home - to the point where my partner is constantly commenting on it.
Perhaps I would have preferred to be really good at line dancing or harness racing, but, as my kid’s kinder assistant says, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” So I’m not complaining, notwithstanding that complaining is in fact another particular strength.
The word “master” is bandied about a lot. But over time my practice of negativity had reached a level where it would in fact be reasonable to say I was a master.
If your strength is perspicacity, or just reading verbs, you will have noticed me use the word “was”. And this is because, in a most unsettling turn of events, my negativity has recently been shaken to its very foundations.
Where would such a disturbing occurrence take place? Well, rest assured, not on the safe shores of Terra Australis. This extreme personality event took place on a verdant knoll belonging to Fiji. It was like the coup all over again – I was surrounded and change was rammed down my throat.
DFAT’s site has no warning and travel agents, despite their months of training, are completely uninformed about the risks. No one warns you that trying to maintain the practice of negativity in Fiji is like trying to arrange a buck’s night in Kabul, or find someone to wag school with you in China.
In a state of complete ignorance of these risks I disembarked on the island. As I sidestepped random livestock to exit the landing paddock little did I realise I had effectively cut off my air supply.
It started almost immediately – a relentless succession of unprovoked acts of warmth. The local population was incorrigibly friendly and particularly susceptible to bouts of uncontrolled good humour. Whichever direction one turned it was one happy, open face after another. Clearly it was going to take a person of uncommon negativity to be able to see through all this – I refocused.
The warm weather, lush vegetation, pristine seas and fresh tropical food all took their toll though - collectively assaulting my ability to concentrate. The surreptitious removal of schedules, timepieces and information technology further confounded the situation. I knew there had to be something negative in my midst but I just had to have a nap and finish my fruit plate before I could work it out.
Back home I was accustomed to a supportive community of like-minded individuals, willing to suckle side by side on society’s breast, like so many little piglets, swallowing the stream of pretensions, vanities and anxieties that she feeds us. Over there I was confronted by people engaged in a case of stubborn nipple refusal. They couldn’t have sourced a handmade, organic French soap, neon runners or a teeth-whitening service if their national security depended on it – and they simply didn’t care.
Over the coming days I would apply my full powers to analyse every part of my experience there. To scan the stream of islanders I encountered for an ulterior motive, a note of falsity, a skerrick of surliness but to no avail. It was with mounting anxiety that I found myself scrabbling for something to hold on to, something to regain my footing and maintain my outlook. I failed.
So if you’re a chipper little unit, inclined to mirth and optimism and generally content with your lot, you’ll fit right in – though whether or not you actually need a holiday is debatable. If you err toward the uptight or you are a fellow minus man – you’ve been warned.
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