This crossed my mind a couple of months ago for the first time, during a regular conversation. So I was talking to someone who had a rather peculiar problem, he said that a lot of his friends were comparing him to Jordan Belfort after they saw the Wolf of Wall Street. He asked me in a very troubled voice, ‘Do you also think that I’m like Jordan?’. Me being me, told him honestly that if he even inched towards that direction, I would personally kick him and drag him back to sanity. My answer wasn’t what he was looking for but then he confided in me what seemed to be his biggest fear; and that is to be a nobody. I paused for a minute and thought about what he said. I then continued to go on and tell him that he wasn’t a nobody and he never would be, because he was already a certain someone. He then told me that it’s just a name, a name that nobody knows, a name that nobody would care about. Again I had to remind him that sure, the world is a big place and some 20 of his friends and family seemed like particles floating in infinity, but the fact that you had touched their lives and had them thinking about you, is proof enough that you have arrived. And at 23 there is so much more to do, so many more people to meet, so many more lives to change. He laughed it off and said that you just make an ordinary life sound good, because you are a writer. It was at this point that the word ‘ordinary’ hit me. But I didn’t think too much of it. I thought to myself, ‘hey! A bad day of work can make anyone feel like they have a worthless life’. But that was not the end of it. Over the next couple of months, the word ordinary crept up from everywhere, to a point where I actually thought that the word was chasing me! (Don’t ridicule me yet! Us, writers actually have words chasing after us)
Then came the time when suddenly someone asked me a question – when did you think of yourself as a loser? My answer was prompt – never! But the whole journey back home I kept thinking if there ever was a time when I thought I was a loser, even if it was for a moment. And the answer came out again. No, I never considered myself a loser, but I did consider myself to be ‘ordinary’. At one point of time when I was out of grad school, and had nothing to do, I saw my contemporaries going out giving competitive exams and doing MBA’s and stuff, I did nothing. I knew I didn’t want to do an MBA, and no I certainly could not survive another two years of MS in Physics! But I didn’t know what I wanted to do either; all I was doing was writing for a company. It was my first job ever, and after the initial excitement faded away, I started to question my presence there. Travelling to work every day, and travelling back made me feel very – ‘ordinary’. Today it feels alright. But back then it was pretty depressing. But thinking about it now, and after that conversation with my friend, I started to question my own feelings. The one question that kept looming in my head was – what is wrong with being ordinary? What about ‘ordinary’ scares us so much? And exactly who decides who is ‘ordinary’?
Is a woman who chooses to be a housewife after marriage ‘ordinary’? Leaving the opportunity of a great career, taking care of the needs of a new man in her life, leaving behind her life of 26 years, caring for an older couple and loving them like her own parents, cooking (with special requests for everyone, please remember she is no Masterchef), cleaning and if time permits thinking of her own needs? Sure that’s very ordinary. Not to forget, her contemporaries look down at her because she is a housewife! Like that makes her any less ambitious or passionate than a working woman!
Is that dreaded traffic cop, hiding behind a tree looking for his new target ‘ordinary’? Standing in the scorching heat, with us blaring our horns, handling absolutely errant drivers (we know what we do wrong!), fining unapologetic people who break the law and to top it all, never having anyone smile at him (come on, let’s admit it, we hate them all!). Sure, he is living a very ordinary life. And hey! He does all of this for peanuts! Literally.
Is that woman in the mall, cleaning the bathroom floor ‘ordinary’? Sure, cleaning everyone’s crap, picking up after you, and yet managing to remain courteous is just an ordinary task. The long hours, no ventilation and terrible pay is just a regular thing. Not to mention the fact that most of these malls don’t even give them one cup of tea in entire day. But why would they? They are just ordinary people!
Is that man working in the government office ‘ordinary’? Now we all know how much we hate them. They are mean, they are not cooperative and they just make you run around for something that can be done in two minutes. But ever turned the tables on this one? Working in a filthy office that forever stinks, 9 to 5 every single day for 40 years all in the hope of a good pension, which the government can just revoke on the last minute and to have people screaming at you for the slow process when actually its someone else’s fault. Hmm… that’s okay. Ordinary men do these kinds of things!
Sure, these seem to be the worst cases one can find, but trust me there are worse. And you may say, there are extra-ordinary people, like the lucky guys who go into space and see the Earth from the outside. There are those who are creating great pieces of art, there are those building robots that will soon take over house-hold tasks, and then there are doctors who save lives! Sure there are! And no they are not leading ordinary lives. But they are ordinary people, just like you and me (probably who studied a bit more). They are ‘ordinary’ people who scrape their knee if they fall, who go out shopping with their friends, who fall in love with the wrong people, who cry when they break up, who laugh at a stranger if they trip! They are ‘ordinary’ but what they do is extra-ordinary. There is nothing wrong with being ordinary. Only there is something wrong in beating yourself up for that. Everyone is ordinary and being ordinary is in itself a miracle. You can choose to do extra-ordinary things. You can choose to smile and thank the lady in the mall, you can choose to stop by a traffic cop and hand him over a bottle of water, you can choose to call the government officer ‘sir’, you can choose to thank your wife for taking care of your world. That alone will make you feel like you did something extra-ordinary. Being an astrophysics teacher is just as extra-ordinary as being an elementary school teacher. Building a state-of-the-art studio is as extra-ordinary as building a hut in a village. Its simple, what we do is extra-ordinary, but what we are is always a plain and ordinary human being.
Being ordinary is just a state of being. Everyone can’t be a rocket scientist and hell! Everyone doesn’t even want to be one! Some just like to be themselves, whoever that may be. Ordinary or not.