I hope this post is relatable and strikes a common chord, dearest readers. It seems to me we all face the challenges of bringing our unique gift to the world, and trying to be normal thwarts the process and robs the world of what only we can give it, and ourselves of the pleasure of giving and being as we are meant to.
I just got done reading a NY Times article on prodigies, how difficult it is to parent one, and how the challenges of prodigies (especially for parents) mirror those of children with disabilities. The author explains, ““Prodigy” derives from the Latin “prodigium,” a monster that violates the natural order. These children have differences so evident as to resemble a birth defect, and it was in that context that I came to investigate them.” Thoughtful reflection on the loneliness, the acclaim, and the challenge of being different struck home for me. I may not be a baby Mozart or Einstein, but I dare to say each one of us has our individual genius.
I really love this Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love which focuses on separating the individual from his or her art, going back to the ancient Greek idea that it’s all about getting a little divine madness from the gods. No harm, no fault to the individual whether great work occurs or not; and better to let fate take its hand.
Just a few days ago, I remarked to my friend I wish I were a “normal size” person instead of the way I am (5 ft 10 in size 12ish clothes and 10-11 shoes). Her response- well I wish I had your remarkable (insert thing here-not going to delve more into my physique at the moment). In some ways, I feel like we do this in so many areas of life and this is how we are conditioned. We are told to read job descriptions to see if we match; we look at personal ads as listing the ingredients necessary to receive love and affection; we go to pinterest and feel inferior thatwe’ll never be as neat and put together in our “everyday” hair styles, cupcakes, and wardrobes as the images we hoard [Note- not actually a pinterest freak-no offense intended-just using a little artistic liberty here]. There is so much anguish over wanted to match, to fit in, to fill a predetermined role. What we should really be doing is finding our place in the sun.
I’m not saying that some amount of conformity isn’t decent or useful. If George Washington didn’t wear the wig that was fashionable at the time, would he be on our money today? Not to mention, not too many child prodigies go on to become great leaders- there is some benefit from having a link to the common man after all in that, I think. And it is just normal and human to want to be part of a group. Reading job descriptions can be a way to see the skills and qualifications you will need to get the role you want. So don’t go all hipster on me- this isn’t about hating the world or being different for different’s sake, just about embracing yourself.
And who is that self, you may ask? Well, that’s kind of a riddle, one of the jokes the mind plays on us. Buddhists would say it is your awareness, that the self is an illusion, that when we are truly awake and conscious, we realize our connection, not our individuality. Being Western, lacking individuality scares the shit of me, but I get the idea of being connected to a greater whole. I’m not a monk or an experienced meditator and I don’t claim nirvana enlightenment though I am a child of the Enlightenment, but I would assume it’s more like when you realize whether you are American or Algerian, you are both human. Hopefully above all else. Like a baby just born in the hospital who cries because another child is crying in the first bout of empathy, you are you and yet not separate. You couldn’t be you without a not you, could you, yet you realize in spite of your “self” that while our experience is different at some level we are fundamentally the same. And I think there’s those people out there who feel the same way about dogs and trees and rocks, for instance. Like Pocahontas, “I know every rock and tree and creature, has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”[ Not to mention teaching all about multiculturalism and tolerance. Rock on, Pocahontas!)
So paradoxically, here I am talking about connectedness when this post was supposed to be all about letting your true colors show and your freak flag fly (BUT IT ISN’T A FREAK FLAG! That’s the whole point!). How zen koanish like lol. Gosh maybe I’ve read too many self-help books. I guess the point is that you can let your individuality show without losing your connectedness; but when you try to suppress it for the sake of “ordinariness” as a pale substitute of the same, you lose your connection to yourself and your unique contribution is lost, too. Don’t fret, friends. Your real friends will still love you if you dye your hair purple.
So go out there and do the things you HAVE to do. Follow that internal fire, that pression. Stop trying to find the right box; break the mold instead! And we’ll be waiting for you on the other side, me, myself, and I, that is. Just kidding.You don’t have to be the same to fit in- just look at the Spice Girls! And none of them were actual spices anyway, except for ginger and I’m not sure that counts.Third grade girls will someday be buying candy of your brand even though you started as a pop group. T’inquiete pas.
That’s half the fun of this blog, you know. I have no idea what’s going to come out but I let it roll itself out and I feel better afterwards. The therapy of bearing witness to yourself, and having a little crowd to share with.
Ok so with all this talk, what is actually going to change? What am I actually going to do here? If we are going all cognitive psych here, what are the behaviors that will accompany the change/ change my beliefs to reduce cognitive dissonance? What’s going down?
I’m not going to take job searching too seriously- I’m already doing the job I was put on this earth to do, regardless. And I do have something unique to offer the world they should offer me a little money to live on for. I’m not going to worry aut not being a typical candidate and the experiences I think I “should” have; I’m going to focus on all the great things I do have. And I really do!
I’m going to stop stressing about what my relation is to the dude and “where” it’s “going.” The guy makes me feel good and talks to me everyday, and we’re not married, of that much I can be sure.
I’m not going to obsess about reaching a location in mind (Paris, please!) or having a plan in general. Because I know myself, and I don’t really like just executing plans- it takes the creativity and spontaneity out of it. I’m afraid to go through rough times again, which is only natural and human (notice the theme?), but just having a goal isn’t enough. Just doing everything you can to achieve it and having a good plan isn’t enough. The fates have to cooperate a little bit too, and maybe God has something better in mind. I don’t need to have fixed commitments to find stability in myself, and in the relationships that matter!
Being tied down is not the same thing as having security. I want freedom! What that means is the ability to make my unique contribution, my way, under my own terms. I do need to have a goal and some values in mind, a fixed ideal location for the future maybe, but also a good picture of the nows, attainable and unattainable, I would like to be living in.
What does that have to do with not being ordinary? Well, everything! Yeah, I’m going to give things my all AND not pretend I know where that’s going to take me, or need to “know” in order to feel safe! I’m not even going to try to make dreams and predictions come true in my relationship or whatever it is with this wonderful person, who I am still getting to know, who is taking me into his life bit by bit even though I’ll be leaving Paris in two months (that’s pretty certain!). In his translated words, in life, it’s important to let time do its work and wait for the right moment.
Should this be frustrated? Sure enough for our puny little psyches with their God complexes who think everything would be so much better if we had complete control, and spend their lives lusting for it instead of dancing in the moonlight! That’s the ultimate kind of ordinariness I’m trying to avoid!
And so I give you this bit of my life, and I give life the real me, as I discover it my self. I don’t want for a complete revelation of my self and all my inner workings, or to know exactly what my genius is, I’m just going to start by playing around. Among the most successful well-adjusted people I know told me his best career advice was to just have fun. I think of him as another kindred spirit, and even my more type A boss said that for me, it’s not about coming up with the right plan and executing it because that would be boring. Especially during the time I have now in this world travelling program, he said to let it be transformative, if not in so many words, and that it wasn’t time to worry about a destination yet. And by the way, what is a destination besides another platform for adventure?
A vrai dire, the idea of probably taking a job and living somewhere in the same place for a solid two years at least ish probably kind of freaks me out. I could definitely be a nomad if I had a man to go with, that would help a lot. And maybe someday I’ll go myself, though right now I have a wish to try being a little more stationary, or not. Take different kinds of journeys, anyway.
I’m going to let my life be a creative process, not try to force it to be an analytical one. I’m going to embrace the fact that I’m just a type B person that is ambitious and has a high need for cognition c’est a dire, needs a lot of intellectual stimulation. Personally I don’t need to be busy, just purposeful. So I’m going to run through the halls of my B school and scream from the top of my lungs, despite the neighbors. Thank you, John Mayer. Not going to plot it all out in black and white. And I’m not going to freak out too much about my lack of motivation ish and scepticism of formal education and the utility of getting good grades. I don’t need to explain myself to anybody, but if you must know, especially for MBAs, grades are not the most important thing. Interesting being in school with a bunch of other high need for achievement but often not super intellectual though smart, sociable types in that context, btws.
Even more so, I am going to stop waiting for the perfect plan and just act. I will not rob the world of my me-ness by attempting perfection, though I will strive for excellence, on my own terms. Excellence and value.
Speaking of all this career stuff, why should being a businessperson have any less social impact than being a teacher? I thought I was getting my MBA because I was frustrated by the educational system and culture, lack of focus to get a PhD, and desire for greater financial returns, but I really did it because I wanted to make a more direct impact. Now I’m questioning what impact is, especially because a former student told me he passed the first round of the Foreign Service exam and made my day. But the point is, it’s all about adding value. Artist, entrepreneur, corporate executive, educator, engineer. Isn’t that what we’re all on this earth for? It’s not about carving out a set of objectives, like work and family, and trying to balance one against the other. it’s about the whole, the big picture, the larger vision. The greatest irony of it is that it can’t be planned, and must emergence spontaneously, though out of our free choices.
So I think I have succeeded in not being ordinary, unless you count being a little rambly and not coming to a clear point. I hope I’ve convinced you, or at least got you thinking. yeah, mostly I just want to get you thinking. My life is my art and my work is my life’s work, right? The big take away is MEANING gets you away from the ordinary. It makes you think about value and not about a bottom line result based off the plans in your head. It’s not about trading one thing for another, least of all individuality for connection. Dear loves, it’s getting late, and I will be leaving you. Thank you for listening.
What’s the meaning of life? How will I stop being ordinary today? What comes next?
I don’t know.
But I do hope, I will try, and
I have faith.
In myself and something greater.