As a young person, I probably wanted to be exceptional.
In truth, I probably wanted to be exceptional but withdrew from the visibility that comes with being “in front” as a leader.
My upbringing contributed to me having a lot of emotional challenges. I was textbook anxious attachment style.
I have enough stored and repressed rage to fuel quite a massive machine.
It was hard for me to stand up and lead when I was spending most of my available non-working energy managing my trauma brain.
Turning 51 was a bigger mind shift for me than turning 50. When I celebrated 50, I felt sassy and ready for the next decade. At 51? I started to realize that, in the wise words of Marc Maron…”I don’t know how much time I have left.”
I probably don’t have much time left to become exceptional.
Yet I’ve started to appreciate how my normal, quiet life is quite right for me.
It’s quite a delight to live an ordinary life. I get groceries and do laundry.
I frickin’ love to do laundry. I hang everything but towels up to dry by hand. Every single time I do that, I think of my grandmother and her grandmother and all the ordinary women in my past that just did the damn laundry and hung it to dry. Lather, rinse, repeat, literally.
Yep, I’m ordinary like my elders before me.
I live in a normal place doing normal work and even the way I’m quirky is kinda normal.
But ordinary doesn’t mean boring. Or empty.
Oh, no, my ordinary life is not empty.
The love of my life at the moment is my older dog, Bailey. We have ordinary routines every day that make life worth living, really and truly.
I used to strive and crave and push and…ugh. All of that.
All of that wondering if I was doing enough. If I was optimized.
Living my BEST life. Not a good life. My BEST life.
The pressure to maximize my life often caused me to miss the perfectly sufficient, ordinary life I had created despite all that striving.
The striving to want-to-want-to be exceptional actually reinforced the “not good enough-ness” of my life.
Generating pressure to want to be more took the brightness and color from the life that was more than good enough, even if merely ordinary.
I will never be famous for, well, anything. I am unlikely to be a thought leader in my “industry,” in no small part because I enjoy playing in multiple industries, sometimes at once. Plus I don’t give that much of a [bleep] – that’s not my journey.
I’m ordinary and I’m starting to realize what a beautiful experience “ordinary” is.
What about you?
Do you strive to be something other than ordinary?
No judgment there. Go for an exceptional life, if that’s what you crave.
That said, it can hurt to check in, to ask whether your cravings for an exceptional life are taking you away from more fully experiencing your life today.
I told my son today, “Don’t do anything for your ‘resume.’ Everyone who reads about you will form an opinion. But not a single person ever in your entire life will be in your entire life but you. Live for you and primarily you. Screw the paper trail.”
The drive for exceptional might be good fuel for some. And it might be a way of giving a life away.
Each of us decides for ourselves. And we can change our minds along the way. For me, for now, I’m embracing being super unexceptional. And I feel free.
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