I’ve never worried about my status in the world. I was always so confident about myself that I never tried to make people like me and I never worried about where I fit in a hierarchy.
Some people liked me. Some people didn’t like me. I had friends. Some hated me. But everybody knew where I fit wherever I was.
As a child, I was the leader of the groups I ran with, but I never really thought about it. In school, I had high status in classrooms because I was typically the new “smartest kid in class” when I moved to a new town. I was acknowledged as a leader.
In high school, I won top leadership positions in the things I cared about, at school and church. I wasn’t the most popular kid, but I was the one you wanted in charge to get things done. On my early jobs, I had quick status. I was the youngest managing editor of a daily newspaper in the country at 21. I was younger than all the people I managed.
When I owned small companies in my 20s, that gave me a certain status. I was seen as someone who was going somewhere. I was starting companies that I didn’t realize I was too young to start. I could tell that some people were really impressed. (And I did like that.)
When I went back to work for another newspaper company, I had status when the company sent me to one city as a general manager and then to the next as publisher. Inside the company, I was the one who people whispered about after I completed the three-year publisher training program in about nine months.
Even in politics, I had a certain status. Among Republicans in Alabama — back when I still moved in mainstream political circles — I was one of only a couple o people who successfully did what I did. If you wanted to run for the Legislature in the state — and if you could afford the best — you had to talk with me. I made sure my prices were the highest. If people complained about the prices, I let them know I didn’t mind if I didn’t get the work.
This might sound crazy, but I never realized for all those years that I had privileged status in all of those positions. I simply found it natural to be in charge. I found it natural to give orders. I found it natural for people to need me more than I needed them.
I never realized that I was giving that up when I left politics. I thought I would slide right into something else and go back to being successful, but the last eight or nine years have been a nightmare instead. And I’m honestly not sure why.
Now that I’ve given up all that long legacy of holding high status in whatever hierarchy I joined, I’ve finally realized that I’m miserable without it. I’m lost without it.
I’ve realized for a long time that there was something wrong which I couldn’t put my finger on. But it was hard for me to figure it out since I’d never been conscious of wanting or needing status before. As soon as I put the two together, it became painfully clear what’s going on — and why I feel so out of place.
I don’t fit where I am right now. I don’t fit what I’m doing. Nothing about my current life is right. I miss the feeling that I’m in control. And I miss the feeling of having a privileged position of status and respect. The more I think about that, the more it awakens old desires to fight and to win, in ways I don’t quite understand.
Have you ever felt as though you were born in the wrong era?
I was born in a civilized era — and deep down, I don’t feel like a civilized man. I feel like a barbarian instead. There’s a part of me that wishes he had been born when men still killed and plotted and found glory by being heroes and protectors. When men could still take over territories and become a king.
I’ve learned to smile and be nice, but inside, I’m not a very agreeable person. I don’t like most people. I don’t think much of them. And the truth is that I wish I had a way to openly compete with them — and dominate them and gain control.
All of that is out of place in the 21st century.
It’s the age of cooperating and getting along. In my heart, I don’t want to get along. I want to win and dominate. Even if there’s no power or money or fame involved, I love the raw exhilaration of winning — of knowing I’ve defeated someone.
That’s what I found most exciting about politics. Yes, I have philosophical objections to the system now and I rarely respected anybody around me even then, but when I won an election for a client, I felt like a warrior who had just defeated another king and cut his head off.
It wasn’t just the money for me. I wanted blood.
I feel off course today because I don’t know how to channel this anger and aggression. I don’t know the rational path back to something that makes sense for me — something that would allow me to do the things I need to do, but regain the feelings of high status and respect that I once had. I want to feel like a winner again.
This has all been percolating in me for the last couple of months. I’ve been slowly putting together the pieces of it. That’s why this probably sounds more like a stream-of-consciousness collection of thoughts than what I might normally write.
I don’t know what I need to do about this.
I’ve known for a long time that something needed to change, but I thought it mostly had to do with finding a way back to making more income and doing work I cared about. I see now that those things do matter, but the key is regaining self-respect — and regaining the feeling that I’m at the top of whatever hierarchy I choose to be a part of.
If you had asked me in the past, I would have said that I didn’t care about status. I would have said I was above such concerns. I see now that the only reason I was above such concerns is that I already had enough status to feel great about myself.
Of course I didn’t care what other people thought of me. Of course I didn’t care about jockeying for status in their social circles. I already had the status that my ego and my heart needed. I had status. I had self-respect. As a result, I had the confidence to ignore other people’s petty desire for status.
I don’t want to play those stupid status games. I don’t want to be like those people who tried hard to climb the hierarchy. Those games are for losers.
I need to once again find the right place, the place where I can be so competent and so respected that everybody will look up to me — and I can once again have the status and respect that I didn’t even realize I’d lost.