I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ordinary and the exceptional.
I read about this speech David Mccullough had given at the commencement for high school students, boldly reminding them they are ‘nothing special’, you can read about it here. And also thinking about my only encounters since graduating; the countless uncomfortable looks given when I state I’m ‘just sticking around here at the moment’ when asked what I’m doing next. “Aren’t you going to set up your own business and become a professional?” Umm….no, no current plans for that. Always followed by a big grin to ease their unwarranted disappointment. Thankfully though I was not bought up in a house that measures success only by accolades.
There seems to be this unspoken desire in our culture today that we have to aspire to be remarkable individuals, but that ideal is measured on a skewed scale.
We have such a limited, blinkered view of what we perceive to be an accomplished life. Money and notoriety are presented to us as things that are synonymous with happiness. There is this idea that we should always want more. The problem is that no one really knows what they are chasing, this thing that has no tangible form, nobody knows what it looks like or what it feels like. Therefore this desire to do more, be more, achieve more can be manipulated, packaged into countless forms. And sold as solutions and ideals for those hungry for reassurance to devour. But it can never satisfy.
I think there is a lot of misconception about settling for an ‘ordinary’ life, not constantly feeling that urge to fill your life with ‘more’. As if it means you should give up on all your fantastical dreams. That should never be the case. You just cannot live off delusions of grandeur based on other people’s sense of success if you want true happiness. You cannot strive to be the best at what you love, just so society will give you a pat on the back for trampling over the competition, triumphing over thousands of others with your same dream. Your dreams must be rooted within you, to be fulfilled because they bring you contentment and peace. The outcome is sometimes superfluous, it’s the journey, the enjoyment of the present that counts.
I love to write. I have been writing my first book for a few years and I have no idea if it will ever be a ‘bestseller’ but I HAVE to write it because I couldn’t live with it inside me forever. It would be wonderful if a lot of people eventually read it…but it’s not why I’m writing it.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something huge to change the world for the better…but do it for that reason. A successful life is not just about getting on the rich list or having your picture the newspapers or hitting 10k followers on Instagram. That’s great if you have arrived there through a lot of hard work, with a happy heart; not needing anything more, but taking opportunities graciously as they present themselves. A successful life is full of friendship, love, simple acts of kindness to others, loss, strength, hope and happy memories.
Getting average grades at school makes you no less worthwhile than the straight A students. Leaving college and working in a local shop (like me) doesn’t have to make you feel any less successful than those who moved to the big city with the high paid jobs. Staying in the same town all your years and leading a quiet life is no less remarkable than someone who worked all over the world and regularly attended ‘prestigious’ events. Comparisons make people miserable and don’t think there aren’t powers beyond some of our control that don’t know that.
So don’t measure yourself against industries that seek to extract money from you, society standards that seek to make you feel inadequate or people who seek negativity and woe in every corner of life.
Watch the seasons change, take pictures, see your loved ones grow and change, comfort the sick and those in need with love, listen to the birds sing and see them fly, feel the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, remember your dreams and hold tight to them or adapt them through the years.
There is no doubt there is a lot of suffering and hardship to be seen, but the Dalai Lama says that if each of us simply strives to be happy, it’s one of the best ways to change the whole world.
I saw this advert on Facebook a while ago and though I knew it was a commercial I thought the narrative was beautiful.
Your life, can be extraordinary. Just give yourself permission to let it be so, on your terms.