From the time I was very small, I was led to believe that I was special. I was an only child, so really, my every whim was indulged. Every toy I wanted at Christmas magically appeared and anything I wanted to try I was, pretty much, able to do. As I got older, I learned to love the “gold star.” I entered every school contest, almost every club, and played every sport (to be fair, my school was very small and only offered three sports – one for each season).
I grew up believing I could do or be anything I wanted. And pretty much, I have. I’ll be honest, though, it hasn’t always been enough. As my adult life evolved simultaneously as a parent (I had my first child at 19), so did the world. There was no Internet when my first couple of kids were born and so everything I knew about parenting I read in books or saw on TV. I started to evolve as a person and develop my own passions too, which included writing, homesteading, and dog mushing in addition to my parenting.
And I wanted to be the best at those things. I wanted other people to acknowledge I was the best. I wanted my gold star.
I was striving and happy with the striving and now, at the ripe old age of 44, I feel like I’ve accomplished pretty much everything I set out to accomplish. I feel very satisfied with my work and my life and am happy. I love writing my blogs and books and although I don’t mush dogs anymore, I still have children to parent and books to read and a garden to plant and you get the idea. I’m not a millionaire, but I get by and I’m good with that. I have no expectations of a fancy retirement in Palm Springs as I already have a pretty good life here in Hawaii. I’ve consider Costa Rica, but that might have to wait until kids are on their own.
But here’s the thing. I’m not supposed to be happy. Wait. What? That’s right. Everything I read or see on the Internet or on TV tells me I’m not supposed to be happy with this. There’s that article on the 27 Ways to Become a Millionaire RIGHT NOW. Or the show on How to Invest in Real Estate So You Can Become SUPER RICH. Or how about the article, How Can You Be Happy as a Writer Unless OPRAH Has Read Your Book and Put Her Sticker On It?
Sometimes I feel like if I’m not jumping off cliffs with a GoPro on my head or slashing through the mighty jungle showing off my continuous awesomeness, I’m just not trying hard enough. Here’s the thing, some days, I bake bread, or take the kids to the zoo, or go to the beach. None of it, except for an occasional pic of a cute kid or a beautiful sunset is particularly noteworthy. But I like it.
Once upon a time, I wrote a pretty good book that did pretty well. It was in all the right papers, and I had all the right interviews, I almost made it on Oprah (3x, but whatever). And I got to travel. I spoke at huge events and people lined up so I could sign their books. It was intoxicating and strange. I felt important sometimes. But really knew that I wasn’t. I felt special – until I got back on the plane. Then it was just me again. Riding home to see my kids. My kids that I missed the whole time I was gone and wished could have come with me to see the cool things I saw in Seattle, or Chattanooga, or Chicago, or Walla Walla (Washington, in case you were wondering), or wherever the heck I was. I didn’t feel guilty, really, but I did feel alone and not quite myself.
The buzz on the book died as all things like that do and the book I wrote after wasn’t quite as popular so I went back to my regular life of driving to soccer practice, writing articles and blogs posts, sitting on bleachers during basketball games and pursuing other things.
But how can I be happy doing those things? Aren’t I supposed to be great? I mean, aren’t we all supposed to be GREAT?
What’s the point of living if we don’t make a ton of money, are in the newspapers, go to a fancy party, or get invited to speak at a TED talk? Well, if you read the news or your Facebook feed, probably, nothing. There is no point, apparently, to do anything at all unless it somehow makes you money or you can show it on TV.
Whatever happened to hobbies? Whatever happened to knitting just for the sake of putting a warm hat on a friend’s head instead of selling it on Etsy? Although I can’t talk about the Etsy thing because I started selling the cacao powder I make on my farm so I could afford chocolate-making equipment. Why bother to learn how to surf if I’m never gonna go “pro” and get Quiksilver to sponsor me?
So what if I am practically an expert on herbal remedies? Do I have to add another book to the queue about it? Probably not. Do I have to promote myself in every magazine, blog, and social media venture as an expert? No. You know what I do with this vast amount of information that takes up space in my head? I grow herbs and then cure my family and myself of all sorts of ailments. Sometimes, if someone asks, I let them know what works for me. Other than that? Nothing really.
Why? Because anyone can learn almost anything. Libraries are a wonderful tool and just because we learn and master an art does not mean we have to make a living at it. Or promote it. Or have it occupy our entire lives. It’s not necessary to only do one thing for your whole life just as it’s not necessary to be the absolute best at it. You can be the best at it in your own house. Or, if it’s your job, be the best at it in your town. Or not. Being average is what makes the extraordinary possible.
Isn’t that a line from the movie The Incredibles? “If everyone is super, then no one will be.” Absolutely true. Maybe some people are meant to be super. Maybe some of us aren’t. Does that mean our lives are not worth living? Of course not. You are the superest mom your kid will ever have. Or the best teacher to the kids in your school. Or an awesome nurse. Or whatever. I make really good cookies. That’s a skill I am confident in. I love having that skill. The idea, however, of proving that to the world by standing next to an oven all day every day does not turn me on one bit. If it turns you on – go for it.
So why is this important? Because it allows you the freedom to be you. I also like to run. But I’m not fast and sometimes I don’t want to go out in the pouring rain and do it. So I don’t. I don’t want to be a pro runner. Oh sure, I’m amazed by Ironman athletes and ultrarunners. The logistics of doing that, for me, though, is just more overwhelming than not. I don’t need a medal to prove that I can run five miles. My phone has an app for that. Others want that to be their thing – cool. If you like running with other people, then awesome. I don’t. I have 8 children. Five still live at home. I run to be alone.
I might not ever be on TV and my book may never make the bestseller list. I’m OK with that. My life is pretty much how I want it to be. Sure, if someone wanted me to speak at another conference or performance, I would probably do it and have a lot of fun. But I wouldn’t expect it to make me BIGGER than I am. I am who I am: a middle-aged, pretty average, mother of eight with a guilt complex the size of Texas.
I like to rescue animals, feed the chickens, pet the goats, read a book on my couch, binge watch Netflix, take my kids to the beach and travel. Guess what? A lot of other people do too. There is no way the Discovery Channel is going to beat down my door to make a show about that and I’m glad, because that would be weird and I wouldn’t watch that show. But there’s a reason that things are average. It’s because we all want to do them. Or, at least, some of them. Maybe you’d rather surf than read. That’s cool, too.
Average is the new special. Embrace it.