On the exceptional scale, I would say I am about as ordinary as it gets. I am in the middle of about everything. I am middle class and middle America. I am a C student, I am early to bed and late to rise. I went to ordinary schools, I work an ordinary job. I live in an ordinary house.
I have been listening to TED talks lately and hearing from a lot of extra-ordinary people. People who work at Harvard and MIT. People who study the brain and economics. People who live all over the world and speak many languages. People who climb mountains and row boats across oceans.
As I contemplate my life and what I have done and what I want to do, I wonder how I will get there. How does an ordinary person like me get a PhD? How does an ordinary person like me forge a new way of thinking, being, living? I don’t want to row, or climb or poke electrodes on brains, but I do want to push my ordinariness out of the box.
I want to not be afraid of the next step. I want to not be afraid of who I am. I want to take the GRE’s and do research and write a dissertation. I want to take my advocacy to greater levels. I want to stop justifying my choices. I want to challenge myself. I want to believe that this C student, ordinary person does have value to add to my profession. To my community.
But I also want ordinary to be enough. I want to be a person that is relatable. I spend so much time looking at my hero’s in life thinking there is no way I can do a fraction of what they did. And maybe this is because by they time I learned about they had surpassed the ordinary phase. It is really hard to believe that Nicholas Kristof and Nelson Mandela were every ordinary though.
But they did push themselves. I am sure they were well out of their comfort zones on many days. Nelson Mandela was in jail for goodness sakes. And they worked hard. For a long time. Their books and movies and presidencies and famous speeches did not just drop in their lap one day.
And hard work is ordinary. And I have to work hard to get where I want to be. I am not sure where I want to be, but sitting around contemplating has not gotten me off my couch. The voices of failure echo out of my memory back in to my conscious mind. The participation ribbon instead of first, second or even third place still hangs on my wall of self doubt. My life has been one “not quite but almost” situation after another. Even the things I have done that really seem amazing and great I put into a category of not enough. For example, I can say “I am a part of a team that has started foster care programs all over Africa and am training up social workers to deinstitutionalize children.” Or more accurately, I had a grant, and because no one had to pay me to go, they found it fiscally responsible to send me to get some trainings crossed of their list for their much bigger grant.” Either way I did it, and I am super proud of what I did, but it was more of a luck thing that actually being the right person for the job that someone was willing to pay for me to do the work. And I don’t want to keep waiting for money to fall in my lap. I want my ability to make me stand out.
So I will take a step. It may not work. But as a very smart man once said: “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work” ~Thomas Edison