It’s more addictive than drugs, sex, porn, alcohol, social media, seven seasons of a series binge and all the hot women in the world combined. It’s more pervasive than telemarketing, more irritating than an unwanted Facebook tag and more diabolical than a lustful thought jumping into your head at a church service. It will compel you to flatter an acquaintance, pull you into one-upmanship with a sibling and make you chase it through a hundred reinventions of yourself. You will chase it jumping between this degree and that and this job and the next in an ever loopy cycle of See me! See me! See me! And it’s there, day in/day out this omnipresent neon sign that hangs over your head like a faulty halo buzzing on and off intermittently, reminding you of your need for it. Every time you get a hit your light bulb goes on and when you’re running on empty people walk right past you the way they ignore dark streets at 3am on a Saturday morning. They are vampires too, these validation suckers. You see them line the malls in droves for the new gadget’s launch, you see them foraging like hyenas at bargain bins and you see these clones everywhere: each man and his comb over, each woman in skinny jeans and cat collars and each youth tattooed in philosophical proverbs written in Hebrew or Japanese or Arabic.
This is Validation, this seeking of approval, this thorn in your side. It’s more essential than water and more pertinent than money. It makes young women parade their bodies on sidewalks and in clubs and turns men into walking zombie robots whose core mission in life is to derive life force from compliments, approvals and one night stands. It wrecks you from the moment you get it and straight through its various incarnations: promotions, girlfriends, rugby matches, clothes, competitions, comparisons, self-pitying, destructive tendencies and entertaining yourself to death. It will drive you to extreme lengths, to fight or flight on levels far beyond your reach and then park on you an inertia that is far more weighty than anything you’ve ever known. This is the force of nature known as Validation and the pursuit thereof is everywhere in everything and its accompanied by a humongous void that only God Himself can fill. This void will bring you to your knees, break you into pieces and take you to the cusp of insanity. It will take you to the highest place on earth, make you think you’ve arrived and pull the carpet from beneath you. And you will jump off, whether you have a million in your bank or not.
It’s there when the invariable “what do you do for a living?” springs up or when a charismatic friend of yours becomes the person your parents most want you to model in life. It’s in the nagging moment you realise that so and so’s child is the CEO of Google Cape Town and you’re a school teacher like every other BA grad who went to ‘find themselves’ teaching English in Asia. It’s in the question that beckons you to account for your background, family line and the area you grew up in. It’s in the moment you say you’re from Rondebosch East instead of Athlone, or when you’re from Jo’burg South instead of Eldorado Park. It’s when you round off your R’s in board meetings then admonish your dog in guttural vernac.
It’s there when you fill nebulous small talk with an invitation to meet the other person for coffee but never come through on the offer. It will bury you under a pile of debt to buy that suped up Honda V-tec with its shiny white mags and pummel you through forty years of routine paperwork, then school you in keeping up appearances and force relatives to say something nice at your funeral. It will drag you ever willingly into gossip and useless banter and will forge distrust in your secret-keeping skills, making others measure their words to you in carefully planned increments. It will pin you up as its poster boy and lead your children to find confidence in everything other than your vacant relationship. It will make you a vampire for association and will trade your dignity for a quick buck.
V is for Validation and this is my drug. I don’t want it but I need it like I’m a junkie going cold turkey. You never forget your first time so I chase each hit, each experience less visceral than the previous and infinitely less satisfying than the first. I can’t top each life badge whether it’s a trip to New York City or hearing 6000 people sing along to one of my songs, so I get bored. I can’t help but compare each new girlfriend to her predecessor or yearn for a time when my elders thought everything little Josh did was magical. So each day is an undoing, an unlearning, a throwing off of instant results, quick fixes and Mickey Mouse elastoplasts. Each day I aim to renounce this void, this vacuum, this need for attention, this infernal call to action for everyone around me to approve myself. This nagging vain thing, this self-seeking monster, this craving for Validation must be obliterated. It must die a slow death every day and I must be the one put it to the sword. I must slay it from 5am everyday through each moment for the rest of my life. I must never let it up. I must never give in. I must conquer this cancer. I must step on the serpent’s head. I must exorcise it completely ’til it is nothing but a vague memory.
What’s your Validation story?