I wouldn’t say that my dreams are too big or my hopes too aspirational, but I would say I need frequent reminders to be ordinary—to wake up, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and feel a sense of accomplishment for checking off those tasks. To get dressed, get my work done (maybe even finish early), and feel like I did something. To pick out a new hairstyle, watch an episode of Abbott Elementary, finally buy the item that’s been sitting in my Amazon cart for weeks and not feel shame for spending on myself.
It deeply pains me to do ordinary things, but I am unlearning old habits every day.
Some of this comes from growing up a smart, gifted kid. From the Davidson Institute to reputable articles on Medium and Scary Mommy to even Urban Dictionary, everywhere there’s stories, research, and evidence of gifted-kid burnout. Bustle.com says gifted kids may become adults who experience “heightened awareness, anxiety, perfectionism, stress…” Uh…that’s not me… *obvious blink.*
I was a precocious kid. I started reading at a young age, and I was 2 academic years ahead. My mom, a homeschool mom, tried putting me in traditional school for a “normal” experience, but I didn’t enjoy it. Before the year was over I was back to being homeschooled. I also faced some health challenges growing up, so being at home with my family and my books was all I really wanted.
Then, there was college. I was a 16-year-old freshman on a small campus, and word traveled fast. Personally, I felt like everyone else, but when you’re different—even if you forget—people will remind you. I had mostly positive social experiences in college, but through the excited commentary and frequent encouragement from my peers I felt the pressure to make sure I did not let anyone down.
If the student government association needed volunteers for recycling, I ran for office and won. The coffee shop needed someone to edit the PowerPoint slides? I signed up right away. I joined every club, every activity, and at lunch I bounced from table to table to make sure everyone felt like they had a friend just in case they needed one.
The more people laughed at a funny joke I told or thanked me for recycling soda cans, the more I felt compelled to “keep up the good work.” Which translated into additional responsibilities and standards that cost my sleep, my homework, and even my joy. I felt like I had to do—at all times. Things in the world needed to change, and I thought if I worked hard enough I could change them…
It’s been 10 years since I graduated with my bachelor’s, yet this remains a lesson I continue to relearn. Thankfully, I have people in my life who continue to remind me of the beauty of being. A few years ago, my sister told me about a scripture she loves:
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
She’s taught me, through repeated reminders surrounding Ecclesiastes, how to genuinely appreciate who you are and create from there. (It may be worth noting that my sister is famous poet, Morgan Harper Nichols.) And while we were raised with a passion for creating, we were never taught to think of ourselves as the greatest creators—never taught to place any human on that pedestal, either. So even with the push I feel from the outside world to do and go, my foundation reminds me that it is okay to plant my feet and just be.
Shortly after Morgan showed me this scripture, she helped me design my tattoo. It says “extra [ordinary]” as a reminder to myself to chill (ha!). It’s both the love letter and gracious kick in the butt that I need to remember it is not my job to change the world. It is not my job to fix everything, to solve every problem, or to develop a solution for every issue that arises.
So, I choose to believe that the extra work is being done in the world around me. I believe that the greatest Creator has a plan for it all and has called me to live my beautifully ordinary life within the brackets [the purpose] He has for me. There is nothing new or extraordinary that I can create that He doesn’t already know. I can rest—in my place—knowing that it is not all in my hands.
Right now, my best work is in my home, learning to rest well and spending quality time with my husband and daughter. I’m grateful that my office is here, too, so I can invest in my present and my future. We all have our purpose—where we are called to serve, to be and do. When we live out our beautifully ordinary lives, we serve a greater purpose, and that is extraordinary.
What is your ordinary, extraordinary purpose?