The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.– George Eliot
It’s early fall and it’s time for the end of the first series of the myriad activities that consume our kids. I’ve spent the better part of this morning listening to a coworker whine about having a 6 year old kid signed up for soccer and t-ball. Each sport has at least one practice and one game a week. It’s a rather tame schedule until one considers that he also has a four year old son who has a budding interest in soccer, and a two year son who loves to throw all kinds of things(including his food). Oh yea, and the plans to enroll the oldest two in Japanese classes and the martial arts classes currently being vetted. He and his wife each work at least 40 hours a week. Then there are the orthodontists visits and carpool duty and playdates and housework and yardwork.
There is something completely troubling about this to me.
I’m sitting here in my living room enjoying lunch and down time as part of a self-imposed sabbatical from anything that resembles work or responsibility. On the south side of my apartment I have a view of a lazy lake where people take their boats and kayaks and canoes on drowsy voyages to… somewhere. To the north I can see the normal hustle and bustle that usually slams along down Ocean View Avenue; most cars going well above the prescribed 35 mph speed limit.
It is a tale of two worlds. One world in hyper drive and the other at the mercy of the pace of the gentle low tide current. Worlds seperated only by an acre and a half.
People can be likely divided. There are those who are seem perfectly content with going along in life winding up wherever the wind blows them like some seed from a dandelion head. Then there are those who are inexorably driven by some unseen yet unrelenting force to go faster..farther.. achieve more… now.
What drives these people? What makes them drive their kids to seemingly achieve more… more …. MORE… NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ordinary and extraoradinary lately. Is there any room for the kid – or adult- who enjoys a pickup game of basketball but is far from being an NBA lottery pick with an eight figure shoe deal, who will be a good citizen and parent and friend, but won’t set the world on fire otherwise?
Let me start off by saying, in the spirit of full dislosure, that I do not have any children. I want children one day, but there is a certain part of me that dreads the idea of bringing an innocent being into such a tepid, fickle, and unoriginal world. But, I digress; I was talking about ordinary in respects to the kids.
Most times, I find, from the second a child is born he’s told how special and beautiful and exceptional he is. To me, it’s the start of unconsciously conditioning a child to value style over substance; or to covet accolades more than real achievement. Why aren’t parents teaching their kids the value of character and hard work, while also giving their kids the straight truth: that their lives, no matter how well meaning they are, will probably be spent in relative obscurity and normalcy.
There I said it. Most of you will have very normal…very average kids. Hell, most of you will lead average lives.
When did being ordinary become such a bad thing? What seperates the extraordinary from the seeming ne’er-do-wells? Most often the answer is mere chance.
Would Michael Jordan be a household name if he hadn’t been cut from his high school team? Would Mozart be a timeless icon if his dad had pushed him to learn the tuba instead of the piano? Would Einstein be legendary if he had not been commisioned to manipulate the atom?
The answer to all of those questions is simply no. They were just like us. Good at what we do, but waiting on an opportunity to be more. For the large, vast majority who never get that opportunity or squander them as they come along are we failures?
The answer to most of us who live and exist in this Pimp My Ride/Cribs/Reality Show Celebrity society the answer is yes. So, while we wait for that watershed moment to happen that promises fame and fourtune, we try to create a world where people think we’re sought after and needed.
The business of busyness is real, and it is affecting and swallowing us whole. What’s worse is that we feed our kids this notion that if they are do things like…being a teenager then they are falling behind their peers.
There was a time in my life where I was poor of everything but youth. I used to buy little date books and fantasize about being the type of man who would actually need to use one. I would write things in it that I already knew in my head just because I thought that people who were worth something used those sorts of things. I remember now the boy that dreamed he was something more than a guy trying to find his way as a Marine, a cable installer, an electronics technician, a shipyard worker, until I finally learned to be comfortable with myself in the space I occupied. I will never give up on my dreams, but Ialso decided a long time ago to not be consumed or defined by them. It was a selfish life I lived when I was poor of everything. At least today I can say it is only money that I am poor of.