I was sitting in my office cubicle today, thinking about how my life has panned out.
This is the first sentence of this story, and I am sure you can already relate to it. Each one of us has had moments when we find ourselves in our workplaces, pondering how our life has turned out. Thinking of the ‘what ifs’ of our lives.
“What if I too were a Virat Kohli. What if I were a Rohinton Mistry, Indra Nooyi, or Sania Mirza.”
We also come to our answers ourselves.
“I wasn’t good enough. Not good enough to be chasing such dreams.”
What I could do was ace my exams, get into a prestigious college, and then, look for a decent job. Life is decent too. I go to work every morning. Get back home at night. Get my paycheck at the end of the month, and continue this drill with every passing day.
I bring my hopes lower, and look at other avenues of being great. Internet sensations have taken over the world today. Travel bloggers, photographers, Youtubers, makeup artists, designers etc etc. You name it, and you can find them.
With millions of followers and subscribers and views, these new age professionals have created a sensation and position for themselves that is nothing short of extraordinary. Whether you like them, relate to them, or criticize them, you will find yourselves glued to your devices browsing through their feeds several times a day.
Meanwhile, I am buried in despair with what I do for a living, battling depression, and getting back to my mediocrity like everyone else on my work floor. I feel like I failed myself as an individual. Every day this thought crosses my mind at least once, and every day I go back to my life finding the answer in my mediocrity.
Little did I know that the answer is, in fact, mediocrity. My mediocrity stopped me from what being extraordinary. Let me tell you how.
I am a jack of all traits, and master of none. This thought has always haunted me.
I remember my grandfather telling me when he was young, he would cycle to Lucknow city from Kanpur city just to watch a movie. His day would start with doing 100 pushups, and he would read at least one book in a day, or else he couldn’t sleep. These were all his hobbies, and they helped him keep a sane mind. It is not that he didn’t have a job. He did have. It’s not that he didn’t have a family to feed or duties to fulfill. But his hobbies to him meant leisure.
Their sole purpose was to bring him happiness. He wasn’t chasing extraordinary goals. He was just trying to lead a life ordinarily, much like his peers.
When I look around myself today, it’s alarming to see that people these days have no hobbies. If someone asks me what my hobbies are, I still refer to the things I did when I was a child. Reading, listening to music, dancing, et al, these are all things I liked doing as a kid, but honestly, I cannot remember the last time I did them.
And no, listening to music half-heartedly on my commute to work does not count. I remember the excitement we felt when my favorite band released a new album. How I rushed to buy their new cassette and CD, and then, spent hours in my room listening to it, all the while reading the lyrics from the cover, and grasping each and every word of each song.
That meant, listening to music.
People today don’t have hobbies anymore. Which brings me to the point; why is it not happening today? What are we missing on, why and why and why?
They fear mediocrity.
The thought that if I am not good enough to be extraordinary, I am not good enough to get a few thousand likes on my posts of my hobbies, has made us quitters.
So, well, there can never be anything that’s good enough, it’s that good that strives to become great. All this time, goodness too should get its due credit, from where the greatness was targeted.
We are made to believe that there are two types of people: extraordinary and ordinary. No one wants to be ordinary, which leaves us with only one option. And this option leaves us miserable and depressed.
Mediocrity is becoming a chapter of a history book.
While my grandfather’s sole purpose of cycling to another city was to watch a movie. If I were to do this today, my motive and purpose would be to set a record. To gain recognition that I have extraordinary strength that I can cycle from one city to another, that I possess extraordinary intelligence because I can read one book a day. And god forbid if I can’t, I am just another ordinary soul who has no purpose, value, or worth in this world.
We tend to forget that extraordinary was also once an ordinary.
The relevance of ordinariness is long lost, it’s now a thing of past. We crave excellence, which is very much right and acceptable, but in pursuit of grabbing that excellence, we forget ourselves. We run for instant gratification, virality, influence, and money. We run to build an image of ourselves that can be praised by each and everyone who gets to know us. Halfway through it, we forget our own image. We challenge the shadows on the paths we carve.
Even Barney Stinson had me convinced that if you’re not legendary, you are just sad. The burden of being extraordinary has brought us to a direct conflict with freedom itself. We shy away from doing the most basic of things, because we fear not just failing, but also to find ourselves being ordinary at it.
In the pursuit of set benchmarks and set norms, we leave ourselves behind. We start demanding excellence in everything we do, everything we get, and everything we have. We then put everything under scrutiny, and start judging them. As a chain effect, people around us too start judging them by those benchmarks of excellence. In the end, we judge our level of excellence, in mid of all this, we judge ourselves.
Ordinary makes us crave the extraordinary. But when this ordinary clashes with the extraordinary, it only produces disappointment and discontent.
We no longer live the moment, and lose everything we could have gained in our ordinary lives at the expense of this idea of being great. The negativity we attach to the ordinary leaves us bitter with ourselves. We forget to celebrate who we are while being mediocre and normal, and stop seeing things at face value.
And for what?
All for a benchmark of subjective excellence.
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