Standing out…

I was researching someone online and came across a so-called motivational site urging young people to get up and do something… to make something of themselves… to stand out from the crowd or risk sinking into obscurity…  fate that appeared to be almost ‘worse than death’ to the site’s author.

For a motivational piece, I found it rather counterproductive. All that I could see that it was doing was reinforcing, in the minds of the young and as yet uncertain, that they obviously were not good enough as they were. In order to have value within their society, they were being told, they would need to change… become something ‘other’ than they are. Different… and by implication, better.

That we are all works in progress, no matter what our age, and that we all need to continue to learn from our lives should go without saying. I doubt we would be here were there not that opportunity to grow from our experiences and how we face the events through which we live. But such growth should be a natural progression… like the fruit that follows the flower and the bud… not some enforced and calculated action taken to make us ‘look good’ in the eyes of others. Being allowed to be ourselves should matter far more than that.

I see nothing wrong with being ‘ordinary’. The word, in spite of its negative connotations comes from the same root as ‘order’… and without order, what would exist or function?

Most of us are ‘ordinary’. Our own kind of ordinary… because it is the only kind we know. Other people are extraordinary in our eyes. They do things we have never done, achieve things we have never even attempted, go places we will never go. We look at those who have done these marvellous things, not with envy, but with both respect and appreciation. ‘Ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ will mean different things to each of us.

My sons have, in all likelihood, seen far more of the world than I ever shall. They have jumped out of planes and flown them, stroked wolves, fed tigers and ridden elephants. That is extraordinary to me. Particularly when you consider that one of them is in a wheelchair.

I number amongst my friends a good many with stories just as unusual. My address book holds the names of the famous alongside those whose lives are lived in quiet obscurity but who command no less respect; people whose lives I find extraordinary for many reasons. They are teachers and artists, musicians and parents, writers and carers… with some it is art, with some skill, and some the simplicity of a heart that shines in all they do, even the little things of the humdrum, ordinary world. They are the truly extraordinary people to me.

Yet, to a man…or woman… they would all say, if asked, that they too live ordinary lives. Even the famous would only admit their circumstances, or perhaps their luck, to be a little different from the norm. They may recognise that they have a talent that is unusual… but will themselves look at the talents of others with respect. But however unusual their lifestyles may seem from the outside looking in, from the inside looking out these are their normal lives. Ordinary. Few see the impact one life may make upon another. Few realise they are extraordinary, because to them they are simply being themselves, living their daily life as best they can.

And I wonder sometimes what right any of us have to judge ourselves as ‘ordinary’ in that self-deprecating tone that usually goes with it. Somehow or other the word has become almost an insult… as if normality is to be avoided or is seen as less than good. As if we feel a need to excel and be ‘more than’ ordinary. As if being uniquely ourselves, one amongst billions, on a tiny blue planet, within a potentially infinite universe is not extraordinary enough.

Perhaps living ordinary lives the best we can is what makes people truly extraordinary and for me, there is a beauty in that.

41 thoughts on “Standing out…

  1. I have said before that the biggest lie we tell our kids is that they can do anything if they try hard enough.It isn’t true for most people. We have our talents. Some are ordinary, some may be something special — but trying to do something for which you have no talent is the route to depression, disillusionment, and a deep sense of futility. I spend a lot of time telling my granddaughter to do things she is GOOD at rather than forever trying to do what she can’t do well. You’d think I’d have some luck doing this, but I’m not her only advisor. I’ve had my say. Now, I wait for her to come to me and maybe then see what she can do and then do THAT. No one can do anything. At least no one I know.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am a great believer in encouraging people to try everything that takes their fancy… we all have talents and some may never discover what they are if they are pushed and shoved into predetermined moulds.
      One of the most ‘ordinary’ jobs in the world, in some ways, is that of being a home-maker and parent … and without those who are actually good at either of those roles, the world would be an even sorrier place than it is at the moment.
      To do a job… or fulfil a role… because we want to and to do it well for the same reason is something that brings its own reward. I was talking with my younger son the other day, who has fallen into a new craft-based career by accident, and we are both agreed that the happiest jobs we have done have been the hardest and often most menial in the eyes of the world… but we have loved them because of what we bring to them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh how I agree! This came about in the 1970s when it was deemed to be ‘bad’ for a child to ‘fail’ at anything. Hence some of our best schools disappeared in the ‘Comprehensive’ movement. It was said that those who did not get into Grammar School would think of themselves as failures for the rest of their lives.
      Then competition was bad because not everyone could win. Some schools and authorities banned competitive sports for the same reason. If someone won, someone had to lose. That was BAD. Sometimes everyone got a prize ‘for taking part’.
      I think this attitude, and saying that anyone can do anything if they work hard enough is worse than the above. It gives children the wrong idea. Then, when they find they’re not talented enough to be a Premier League footballer, a famous actor or singer, or even a top scientist or economist, what then? They’ve tried hard, worked hard but still fallen short. How much more of a failure will they feel than if someone had pointed them in the right direction when they were young, and said, “You are very good at many things, but football, maths, science, or whatever are not among them.”

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      1. Being able to recognise and encourage gifts, while also allowing children to learn how to handle the fact that we cannot and should not always win everything, that failing and losing are part of real life and that we can celebrate the successes of others with a whole heart… it gives a far more realistic view of he world and a more helpful one.

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  2. So true; there is a fine line to be drawn between encouragement to stay on in education, aspire to a career not previously open to women or poorer folk and pressure to succeed. Doing ordinary jobs can often be more fun, not trying for promotion but staying on the ground with your friends and the ordinary public.

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  3. Well said. We all want the best for our children but they need to discover their bliss and we should encourage them to follow it. Being a happy person should be the goal, whatever it takes to be that. I interviewed many unhappy accountants who really wanted to be rock stars (or whatever) but their parents/teachers etc. discouraged them. My daughter wanted to be a potter for as long as I can remember and I encouraged her. That is what she is today, she struggles as most artists do, but she is happy. Working in an office would have destroyed her. We all need to be ordinary, happy people, extraordinary in our own way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The sad thing is that we are already extraodinary in our own ways… and so few seem to have the freedom to find that out for themselves.
      I have seen some of your daughter’s work online when you shared a link to her website… I think she had been experimenting with horse hair. Beautiful work!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well spoken and absolutely, Sue! I think telling young people to do something too often translates into ‘get yourself known on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram” and be outrageous.

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  5. A lovely validating post, Sue. I’m rather content being ordinary. There’s a lot of freedom in that, and it’s a solid foundation from which to leap into experiences that feel extraordinary (jumping out of airplanes, riding elephants, or creating a work of art). I make choices and changes when necessary, but never (rarely :-)) to be other than I am. I hope you have an extraordinary ordinary day.

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  6. Yes, yes! You hit the nail on the head, Sue. In one way or another, each is both ordinary and extraordinary… from our miraculous conception onwards! Each day a page in our own book of life. I love Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

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  7. One of my favorite quotes from Gandhi: “Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it.”

    We live on one grain of sand, somewhere on a beach we call “the universe.” Putting life into perspective helped me to understand that simply being thankful and doing what we can to help others is not any less, or any more, important to the beach.

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  8. Hi Sue, I think all the writers and bloggers I know are extraordinary, some stand out more than others, but all offer friendship, support and encouragement that I have found extraordinary. It is quite a wonderful thing to find a community of like minded people. If this is ordinary, then I love it and its the first time I’ve had it. My whole life has been a search for people who think like me, enjoy art and classic books and unusual music and dancing.

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    1. Creative minds…like those of so many bloggers… tend to stand out, and yet, each of them would probably call themselves ordinary, because that is what our own reality is to us…. just normal 🙂
      Others, thoug, see things from a different perspective…and sometimes that can serve to show people how unique they truly are.

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