Over the past few years, I've watched as my children chart their adult courses, trying to determine what they'll want their adult lives to look like. It's fascinating. One dreams of wealth and one secretly dreams of writing the "Great American Novel"...pretty typical stuff. But one of my kids wonders why modest dreams are discouraged. Why is it that we can't aim to have a job that allows us to provide well enough? Are dreams only worth pursuing if they're flashy? Do we really have to "go big or go home"?
This blog post by A Life In Progress is bouncing around FB right now and this blogger tackles the same issue, far more eloquently than I. "What if I all I want is a small, slow, simple life? What if I am most happy in the space of in between. Where calm lives. What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that? But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?" Interestingly, the comments on the post are as powerful as the post itself. She is not alone. There are a lot of us asking the same questions about life.
It seems to me that we need to start asking ourselves what definition of excellence we're using? What definition of successful are we measuring ourselves against? What value judgment are we placing the adjectives we use to define our lives? Why are words such as "small", "simple", "plain", and "humble" deemed negative? When we flip a coin, one side is not inherently better than the other, so why are we judging our lives in such a manner?
I have loved being a stay-at-home mom. Seriously. I love this simple, unexciting-to-many life. I don't dream of huge purchases (although the carpet is pretty bad!) or a lavish lifestyle. I can't even imagine myself living that way. I love my old car, it does the job for me. I love CrossFit, even though I suck at it. I love sewing, even though I still haven't made my own wardrobe. I love having all these animals (four dogs, two cats, three birds, and one hamster, at last count!), even though it feels chaotic at times. I love having time for my family and friends (although my sister and I really need to live in the same time zone!) and for learning new things and making friends where I live and being part of the community. I especially love my family, even though they're crazy making at times. I love myself, even though I'm not young or beautiful or skinny or cellulite-free.
Before I lived this life, I was a secretary. I loved that job, too...I love being behind the scenes, helping everyone stay on track. I never wanted to be the Big Boss...I just liked making the Big Boss's life easier. I've always been this way, as far back as I can remember. I liked working at McDonald's when I was 16, I liked being a receptionist when I was 17, I liked being a hostess at a restaurant when I was 19, and I liked being a dispatcher for small company when I was 22. I like When I was a very little girl, I wanted to be a nurse, never a doctor, because doctor's rushed in and rushed out, while nurses stayed to take care of the patients. I've always wanted to be the caretaker. It's just who I am and it is good.
When I remember I like who I am, and ignore the messages of "not enough" the world sends, life falls into place. My family is happy, my household hums, my spirit sings, and I have joy and friendship to share.
So, as I counsel my child who is going to be rich, I say, "May I have a small guest house on your estate?".
When I talk with the one who is secretly dreams of writing something that will be received with worldwide acclaim, I say, "Keep writing...you've always loved it."
And, as I counsel a child who wonders if modest is enough, I have to say, "Yes, it really is enough".
We need the modest and we need the flashy. We need the quiet and we need the loud. We need the chaos and we need the calm. And we need everything in between. There is a place for each of us, if we're brave enough to fight for it.