Monday, October 22, 2007

On Being Average

So, it's a completely ridiculous source of inspiration, but watching Transformers last night made me realize that my entire family is average (the main character's great-great grandfather was an Arctic explorer). Going back generations, you won't find a mention of us in the history books. We're obscenely middle class, middle management, humanities majors who exist as small fish in small ponds, or, closer to retirement, medium fish in small ponds.

That's not to say that we don't make a difference. I've got musicians and coal miners and teachers and tailors in my family tree. My dad has changed more people's lives than I can count (and I know this from times walking through the mall with him, running into previous juvenile delinquents who simply had to thank him for the huge impact he'd had on their lives). My mom taught school and taught kids that they have value beyond what their parents and peers may think of them (which often wasn't a whole lot). And my French relatives battled the Nazis as part of the French underground. So, it's not that we've not made an impact, historically, it's that we've been one of a number, a member of a team.

I don't mind being part of a good group of people, of a team that makes a difference. Genetically, I'm wired to be a small or medium fish in a pond of whatever size.

Theoretically speaking, I accept that I am not destined for greatness. One of my best friends used to introduce me like this, "This is my friend Sarah, she's going to work at Marie Claire." That was back when I thought I wanted to go into magazine journalism. Clearly my friend was more excited about it than I was, because I never quite made that leap to life in New York City.

I have also come to realize that, like Spidey says, with great power, comes great responsibility. With great impact, comes great sacrifice. In order to be the kind of person the historians talk about, I would need to sacrifice the time I spend with family and friends. I would, perhaps, need to sacrifice a husband and kids. The people who are remembered for their accomplishments often have little else in their lives.

Perhaps it's not such a bad thing to lose my drive to be an overachiever. Perhaps it's acceptable to fall back into average, making my small impacts where I can and quietly daydreaming about a sun-filled apartment where I can pass the hours writing a novel that a few people will enjoy...without worrying that it should be a prize winner.


Beth said...

It's funny how I used to be that over acheiver, too, but have now resigned to be just a normal, average gal. And I'm ok with that. I know exactly how you feel. And I am defintely going to have to watch Transformers now. Who knew that robotic machines could be such a source of inspiration. But then again, they are more than meets the eye!

brandy said...

I really enjoyed this. In my family, it's bizarre. Half are these incredible over-achievers and half are not. My only sibling just won a truck because he was so good at his job and has people ask him for his autograph. I sometimes forget to brush my hair in the morning. And as much as I admire him, I wouldn't want his job, or ever have the dedication it would take to maintain that lifestyle. In short, I'm pretty happy with how things worked out. Messy hair and all. ;)

Sarah said...

Beth - I'm getting more and more okay with being average...but it takes work!

Brandy - I laughed out loud at your comment - and then read it outloud to other people who also laughed out loud. Can your hero brother make people laugh out loud?