It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. ~Author Unknown
Sometimes it seems like importance and kindness are juxtaposed to one another- as one’s importance grows, kindness and generosity seems to recede. I never really understood how this seemed to be such a well trodden path until I spent a few hours in the position of ‘being important.’
Over a decade ago, when I wrote my first book, “Will You Dance?’ I won a smattering of National and International Literary awards for my efforts. This made for a very exciting time in my life filled with crowds and praise, and more attention than I had ever known. The height of my ‘reign as an important person’ ( sarcasm intended) came at an event called Book Expo America or BEA. It happens once each year and it is the largest gathering of publishing professionals worldwide. I flew to Chicago with my agent, attended an awards gala where I received the award I had been nominated for, and got to spend my downtime in a private author area that put Deepak Chopra right across the table from me. Wow, I officially felt like I was ‘somebody.’
The morning following the awards ceremony I had a book signing- my first official event as an author. As I made my way to the signing area I could not believe the line of people I saw waiting in front of a cordoned off area where an easel stood that held a placard with my name on it. I can distinctly remember how foreign it felt to be the ‘someone’ that others were looking for. Being important was a crown I had never really worn before, but I was more than willing to try it on for a bit.
Well, about five minutes into my temporary reign as ‘important person’ I began to hear a loud sucking noise…. it was the sound of a vacuum of people who all wanted something from me. For every person in that line who was genuinely interested in my work and my book, there were two others who didn’t have a clue who I was, but they knew I was one step in front of where they were and they wanted something from me. My mind began to numb as the ‘Can You’s? and Will You’s?’ that were being flung my way gathered speed. Suddenly ‘Nice’ went out the window and was replaced by a very thin layer of tolerance. Before long I was not even making eye contact as I signed books with the same generic nicety written to each person, and deftly avoided all small talk that might lead to any kind of interaction or request.
My book signing ended and I removed that crown of (self)importance in a hurry. In the years since then, I have done my best to avoid scampering back into that royal court. Being important was nothing like I imagined it would be, and when I was important, I was not the person I thought I would be. I learned that being important made it really difficult to be nice… and being unkind made it really hard to sleep at night.