Last year was my Annus Horribilis. To be clear, that's not a rash that I shouldn't be sharing with you, it's basically Latin for Shitty Year. (You can read more about Shitty Year here).
Living through the ordeal that was Annus Horribilis, like all hard times, has a tendency to force a little convo with yourself that you may otherwise have not had. I was thrust into the room of mirrors for a good hard look at myself (minus a selfie-stick), which has been both an intriguing and humbling experience to say the least.
Amongst a few interesting insights was seeing my constant drive to do well in everything. I guess of itself that seems not a bad thing - in school, work and life in general we seek to do our best and it's rewarded. But it was uncovering the driving force behind this desire that was a little less than sweet. A fear of being Ordinary. That somewhere underneath any accolades and successes I was just a stock standard, run of the mill, everyday, ordinary person. OMG the horror. A brutal entanglement of self-worth with worldly achievements that was ultimately strangling my capacity for ease and joy.
I remember seeing a quote attributable to Jimmy Johnson, maybe mid 90's - "The Difference Between the Ordinary and the Extraordinary is that little extra" . It of course, resonated with me; do more, do it better, do it relentlessly, work while they play, learn while they rest and, of course, don't get it wrong. Exhausting. And once seen , hard to un- see its pervasiveness.
I am sure I am not alone. Nor is it new , we all know advertising has been preying on our sense of not wanting to feel ordinary and not being enough forever. It's foolproof.
But, now we have a much more pervasive and subversive force preying on our fear of being ordinary - social media. We are consumed ensuring we broadcast to the world at every opportunity our anything but Ordinary Life with a few quick clicks of a button (this includes re-sizing, cropping and filters of course!). Ah yes the absolutely extraordinary wonderful version of 'me' according to my Instagram feed. Look how not ordinary I am because; I am on holidays here, eating this food, NOT eating this food, at this uh-mazing gig (check my seats out! What? #VIP), reading this book (#muchcleverer), looking like this (#hawt) , surrounded by this many friends (#squad). Worse still if you're a young person finding your way in life and subject to torturous hashtags like #bikiniready.
We all gotta #hustle. We are all #gamechangers. We are all #extraordinary.
Please don't get me wrong, I am guilty as posted. I hashtag. I selfie. I've felt the disappointment when my Awesome Life photo has had only 5 likes. Social media is deeply entrenched in our lives and it has some amazing benefits - I love much about it, so I wont stop using it (otherwise a tad ironic that I'm even writing this!) but I do stop and think more about what I am posting and why. It's just now I am beginning to see the real toll a life of chasing the 'extra' can take. We are all so busy and stressed and anxious trying to being extraordinary that we've forgotten that it's actually ok to be Ordinary. That we're ok just as we are going about an Ordinary Life without expending so much energy on creating the fictionalised version of ourselves. We can't all be extraordinary at everything. If we are, then we're actually all ordinary by definition.
I am happy to report that, so far living the Ordinary Life feels quite spacious. Less urgent. Less panicked. Before Annus Horribilus, I have now come to see that I was scared to be Ordinary. Now I am slowly learning to see that loving your Ordinary Self and your Ordinary Life in these times is in fact a radical gift to oneself. Being Ordinary helps you step off the hamster wheel. Being Ordinary puts down an iPhone and is present. Of course, Ordinary isn't perfect nor immune from the infliction of being human. It isn't a life of sloth and gluttony. But it is a sense of deep worthiness from which we can go about our day being a good parent, kind neighbour, loving partner, fun friend and committed employee without angst. Feeling enough. Focused on what actually matters. Doing nothing that is particularly hashtag- worthy. Ordinary without the extra.
Disclaimer: There is one type of extra that I think is absolutely great - an extra chromosome.
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