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Making peace with an average life

I used to wrestle with significance. Plagued by desire to do something extraordinary and leave a tangible mark on the world. Anything short of finding a cure for cancer or inventing the washing machine or being an Olympic athlete or writing a classic would be failure. Don’t-waste-your life-philosophy forges the deeper layers of my soul. Access to inspiring biographies does not help. Neither does the well intentioned motivational speakers. Anything is possibly sounds great from a bouncy stage. Be anything you want to be. You are special, have unlimited potential and your story could rock the world. I think you know what I am talking about. 

I used to feel stressed out by this (admittedly self generated) pressure to become someone great. Someone the world would thank and remember and who would leave this place better. (Ugh- It sounds so silly and self serving now.) I’ve felt that pressure in certain faith communities as well. You were made for more than an ordinary life so rise up and into your calling because God wants to do big things through you. Besides, what good is faith if it does not bear copious, tangible fruit?

I am well into my 30’s now without any noteworthy accomplishments in any area of my life. At least not for the history books. This sort of self reflection is not meant to self shame or an invitation to accumulate compliments in ways I’ve succeeded’. I am simply taking notes.

I’ve learned to make peace with living an ordinary life. It’s happened gradually and not super-intentionally. Slowly I am believing that I am enough. My life feels small and boring at times. Sometimes it’s my attitude. Other times it’s an inescapable reality any high achieving personality must wrestle with. I’ve concuded that regardless of impact, my life is worth living. And a lasting legacy would not add an ounce of value to my soul. I think I’ve settled my worth with God.

Despite releasing high aspirations, restless striving still sneaks into daily life. A couple years ago my therapist and I discuss perfectionism because it keeps popping up. I participate in an exercises which changes everything. Nothing magic. Just perfect timing colliding with a wide open heart. Anyways, she asks me to picture a line, a performance spectrum with two opposing ends. On the far right, I picture a high achieving person. I observe their behavior, attitude and actions, strengths and downfalls. On the other end, the opposite. Who is the most underachieving, aloof person you can think of. Now picture yourself. Where are you on the spectrum? (HINT: Neither end is a particularly desirable place to live.) Naturally I place myself pretty far right. Overachiever territory.

“How would you feel about moving more towards the middle?” my therapist inquires, motioning to an imaginary balance point. I feel resistant, sigh and blurt out: “I just don’t want to be an average person!”

Silence. She leans back and looks at me in a counselor sort of way. Finally her mouth opens: “Tell me, in what ways you are not an average person?”

It’s a gentle probing. Yet the question annoys me. I quickly ramble off a couple random facts. Something about not owning a TV and being vegetarian. It sounds hollow even as the words leave my lips.

More silence. Then an even gentler: “I see. So… Are you better?”

No! My heart screams. I am not better. I remain silent. But for the rest of the day I keep thinking about how I’ve spend most of my life in communities that believe they are better.

Our short conversation becomes a pivot point in which I begin to embrace my average self within my average life. I carry out my therapy homework…writing repeatedly: I am an average person! While paying attention to how this makes me feel. (some well meaning friends suggest that perhaps I should find another therapist:) The more I accept average, stripping its power, the less pressure I feel about myself, my life, my parenting. I feel happy, happier than ever before. Sometimes I am humming: I am an average person! Unexpectedly delightful.

I begin to invest in relationships and communities which hold space for average people. Releasing my expectations frees up energy to be more present in my average life. The more I’ve stared average in the face, the less intimidating it becomes. I am still wired to achieve but have taken myself off the hook of changing the world. I am 38 years old. I am not heading towards the peak of success in any area of my life. But I am living and breathing and laughing and loving my people. I still have moments in which I wish I could live an amazing story and make a significant contribution to alleviating suffering and injustice. I have not resigned to total complacency or ignorance. But I am making peace with being an average person. Hello World. I am enough for you.

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15 Replies

  1. Sandy Grubb

    I love these words for my average day. Thank you.

    1. Astrid Melton

      I love that you are reading my average blog! Xoxo. ❤️

  2. Debbie

    Thanks, Astrid. “Average” a good place to be! I can relate to that. You hit the point (as always) very well

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thx. It was an average hit.

  3. I so struggle with this! Sometimes it feels like a battle to win minute by minute, days are far too big of chunks. I think I alluded a little to this as something that made me think in DL Mayfield’s book as well that we were discussing. It’s hard to not view anything less than saving the world in some manner as a bit of a failure from my perfectionist mind set. Which sounds so arrogant to even type! 🙂

    1. Astrid Melton

      Sounds close to home to me :). I’ve learned to judge those high aspiration less harshly. Xoxo

  4. Kim

    Well said my friend! I’m so proud of your vulnerability!

    1. Astrid Melton

      Thx. ❤️

  5. Cecelia

    Remember you have made a mark- you have three amazing kids. You are not just average to those who love you! We all struggle with this. You are getting wiser in your “old” age.

    1. Astrid Melton

      True. But isn’t the average person special to their family and irreplaceable to their kids?

  6. Kimberly

    Thank you Astrid, I like the part where, it takes the pressure of myself, allows the ordinary life to slowly …. “”The more I accept average, stripping its power, the less pressure I feel about myself, my life, my parenting. I feel happy, happier than ever before. Sometimes I am humming: I am an average person! Unexpectedly delightful.””

    That makes me realize right here right now is where I’m suppose to be”

    Powerful share! thank you Astrid! for allowing me to see life through your eyes, and filter it through mine.

    1. Astrid Melton

      Yup. Acceptance of average is the first step….

  7. Shawna

    From a fellow over achiever–thanks for your insight. It was funny, beautiful and real all at once.

    1. Astrid Melton

      I love fellow over-achievers. ❤️ and your better than average sugar cookies

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