When I was pregnant, someone told me that she read Dostoevsky novels to her baby, both in the womb and after he was born. Apparently, at about two months old, he would respond with delight every time he heard the character names he had heard so many times in utero.
Only I had never read any Dostoevsky, and wasn’t sure that I could be arsed, in my seventh month of gestation, to begin a literary journey into desperate horse-flogging Russians and Siberian internment camps. So I went straight to the Wikipedia page for Crime and Punishment and skipped to the list of character names instead.
“Raskolnikov! Svidrigailov! Dunechka!” I barked at my foetus, the laptop balanced precariously on my bump, while my internal smugometer wavered somewhere between pride and existential despair.
It was some time after this that I took a long, soft look at my slapdash, half-arsed approach to life, and realised that I am an everythingist — the sort of person who is greedy for the benefit of all new experiences, but unwilling to put the work in to fully commit to any of them. An everythingist leaves no experiential stone unturned, which means doing absolutely everything by halves. It is the deadly combination of perfectionism plus narcissism plus utter laziness. It will get you nowhere in the end. Halfway there at best.
Here’s how to tell if you, too, are an everythingist. Do you clutch your phone in your hand at all times, like a beacon against the cold, a magic talisman with its promise of otherness? Did the news that Prism could be spying on all of our data give you a giddy rush when you thought that one of the lockdown powergeeks might be looking in and realising that you are the chosen one?
Do you, like me, think that fairytale endings will magically happen to your life — ie, you will fall in deep rewarding love and raise daughters with Rapunzel hair in a beautiful Welsh farmhouse one day, writing novels on a typewriter, milking your nanny goats at dawn?
The everythingist can’t be tied down by a job and so they work freelance. They are breathlessly addicted to their youth, despite being 12 years older than their parents were when they had them; can’t read a book to the end because they’ve already started two more; and they need to know, at all times, that they could, in theory, if they wanted to, at any point, run away to Rio de Janeiro.
The everythingist works from home, revelling in their freedom to go for a walk in the sunshine while other sad jobsworthy losers are stuck at their desks with not so much as a freelancer’s liedown to look forward to. The everythingist has been planning this walk in the sunshine for 17 days now, having been quite distracted by all the freelancer’s liedowns that it is their right and freedom to enjoy.
If you are not an everythingist, and you’re one of those people who gets stuff done and gets over it — I realise now that you have the greatest freedom of all. I can only apologise for how I used to giggle at you for being boring and keeping lists and being on time while I dashed over half an hour late to meet you, hopes and dreams blinding my eyes so that I couldn’t read a bus timetable. I’m so sorry now.