Contentment with ordinary life marks you as extraordinary.

…most modern women are not even themselves. They’re grasping after some notion that they’re supposed to have moxie (when they don’t) or are hyper-sexual when they’re clearly uncomfortable with it. ~Wannabefarmwife

If not those things, they are trying however they can to be special. This is partly due to the overwhelmingly successful childhood self-esteem campaigns of the past thirty years. Some of it is due to the proliferation of platforms available for self-promotion. No small part is owed to the watering down of education which induces most people to believe they are smarter than the average bear.

Recently, Benevolent Dictator acquired new subordinates, millennials who had to be disabused of the notion that they know everything. After working primarily with older men who respect hierarchy, knowledge, skill, and problem-solving ability, it takes supernatural patience to deal with youngsters who know little yet think they know it all.

This isn’t unique to the young.  Generation Me notes the trend began in earnest earlier, with my generation in fact. The erudite concluded that the best route to stable, confident children was to convince us that we are all smart, kind, and important. Additionally, to convince children that they possess these qualities in at least equal measure to every other child, regardless of whether it was true.

The goal is to convince everyone that they possess large amounts of whatever attributes are currently deemed valuable, and to ignore or reject anyone who would insinuate otherwise as a jealous hater trying to extinguish their light. Everyone must feel good about themselves, whether they are good or not. I’ll offer examples from the 80’s onward.

I’ve read several commentaries which debunk the assertion of the 80s as the zenith of American materialism. That the lifestyles of average Joes and Janes at the time paint a starkly different picture. The materialism of the 1980s, however, was mostly of aspiration. Unlike today, television was the primary source of entertainment for most and television shows promoted lifestyles of the rich and famous as the American ideal.

The result was a people willing to pull out all the financial stops to be “middle class”. That is, the pursuit of material wealth was less the issue than the pursuit of the image that you weren’t working class, which described most Americans at the start of the 80s. To be middle class represented attainment of the ‘American Dream”. It’s a subtle difference but one with implications that extend until now.

The 90s began the education bubble and credentials  became a marker of intelligence. When I graduated high school at 17, no one assumed college was a prerequisite of success. Most of my siblings did fine without it, and expectation of my college enrollment was based on the assumption  that I was “college material”, not that college was necessary for a good life.

By the time I married 5 years later, college was something assumed necessary for a full and prosperous life. Enrollment in prepaid college programs exploded in the 90s, and “responsible parents” invested in the program. By the end of the decade, nearly everyone matriculated, although few graduated. In other words, going to college was no longer exceptional, especially as the response to the exponential increase in enrollment was to implement policies that increased graduation rates. As a result, college no longer meant you were necessarily smart. Not to worry because, in typical American fashion, the goal posts of specialness shift accordingly.

The 90s contained the last gasp of community ties and geographical connectivity. In the 2000s, the mark of superiority is less about the degree itself. Today’s bachelor’s degree is less impressive than it was 20 years ago. IQ testing and the ability to do higher math and science marked the special. This overlapped the increased exaltation of beauty and fitness, which I’ll get to in a minute.

Tech is king now and those who can navigate it, understand it and are otherwise at home with it are the people able to check off all the boxes of superiority. They can make good money, graduate college quickly from a high IQ degree field, and are “smarter” than the rest of us. To quote the theme of a hit television show marketed to girls in at attempt to lure them into STEM: Smart is the new cool.

Of course, there are some of us who despite our best efforts, will never quite *get*  Einstein’s theory of relativity, for whom the differences between a MAN and a WAN is outside of our wheelhouse. However, the other marker of being special in this era is one I alluded to before: fitness and beauty. All of us, we’re told, can accomplish this. With some blood, sweat, tears, and sufficient willpower, it’s easy to push ahead of the masses addicted to junk food and sedentary lifestyles.There are countless books, strategies, apps, and products we can partake of to help us as we work hard and achieve optimum beauty, fitness, and health. In that order.

In the interest of transparency, as I type this, I have sore triceps, lats, delts, and quadriceps from pushing myself via torture of a boot camp class. I track almost every calorie I eat; 1500 most days, and 1800 on Sundays I try to be a good steward of my  “black don’t crack” genes. I’m not against taking care of yourself nor insinuating that it isn’t important.

I am against pretending that this face of a 45-year-old mother of five, is anywhere near the level of youthful beauty young women enjoy as a result of being young. Going to irrational lengths to pretend otherwise is madness I can’t be bothered with.

This is the bill of goods women of every generation are being sold, that if we just try hard enough, we can be *hot* at any age. Rather than chase the wind, I appreciate more with each passing year that I have a man who has looks at me and sees a beautiful woman. The jig will soon be up, anyway. It’s better to embrace reality rather than delusion. There is so much grasping that I concur with the commenter quoted: most people, especially women, have no idea who they really are.

Most of us are varying degrees of average: average intelligence, looks, income, and accomplishment. We’re conditioned to believe that this is bad, but since God made us all, and called His creation good, we insult Him when we chase the shadows of the culture. We should be good stewards, rather than shallow pretenders.

We can be above average in character, in faith, in our relationships, in the way we take care of the people and things we’ve been blessed with. We can be sure not to take for granted that we have families and friends who value us beyond measure. In other words:

Contentment with ordinary life is extraordinary all on its own.

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6 thoughts on “Contentment with ordinary life marks you as extraordinary.

  1. This post is a mish mash of thoughts that have been in draft and which I have been adding to gradually over a couple of weeks. If it reads disjointedly, that is probably why, but I wanted to get it out of draft status and wasn’t interested in editing it further except to add the quote from Cran at the top of the post.

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  2. Well, thanks, E, I’m flattered, but you’ve said pretty much everything I was thinking, with some excellent observations about our material expectations skewing our behavior.

    Ah, college was the key to success! Graduating, regardless of major, meant money and stability in a career…not. Not at all. My dad had trouble wrapping his head around the “not” of it for along time. I still meet parents who say it’s the best route for success, a fall back, something no one can ever take from you.

    Well, yes, some of that is true, but even if no one can “take ” your education, it can be devalued to the point of being worthless at best.

    More thoughts later, I really should blog it…time for school.

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  3. So I follow a minimalist blogger, Joshua Becker. His writing is not overtly religious but he is a Christian and for me, his writing is flavored with Christian sensibility. He says you don’t chase happiness, you recognize it. How true.

    We’re taught to distinguish ourselves in certain ways, so any other means of distinction become irrelevant or unimportant. Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’ve learned to recognize happiness – not even happiness though I am mostly happy these days. What I am is content. And it is such a blessing, because I have that contentment and comfort to fall back on when I begin to have episodes of fear and doubt, anxiety and depression, and despair.

    Part of that contentment comes from finding God again, and in sharing my faith with my children. Part of it is loving my husband and in being loved in return, and in looking at our nice life and realizing that I don’t want for anything, and that with God and each other, we’ll be more than fine.

    It borders on criminal to send everyone with a pulse off to college. I’m not saying you weren’t worthy, E, because your mind and poise and ability definitely says your time and mind were not wasted there. I read something in an essay from the late 18th century (I think): many a good plowboy has been ruined to make a poor scholar. It’s an age old problem, because either we personally strive beyond our grasp and means, or others force us into molds we’re not meant to fill.

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  4. I agree with you about recognizing happiness instead of chasing it. I have also learned to recognize and appreciate the acknowledgment and affirmation inherent in being loved. So many people miss that. We’re trained to never be satisfied, that we should always be doing and wanting more. I mean, we give lip service to gratitude and love, but every attempt to grasp, assert, belittle, or otherwise establish ourselves as a *better* belies the fact that we are looking for affirmation.

    I think in the near future we will see the education bubble burst and college as a panacea is going to quickly go away. Our twins are graduating very shortly here but I still see that for what it is, and not the key to life, LOL. At this point, it helps you eat (at least in metro areas such as where we live) and it’s a proxy for a lot of things in this country (such as marriageability), but I think we’ll see an end to that and when we do, I’ll be fine with that too.

    I would love to see Christians en masse reject some of this stuff and lead the way but alas, we have not as yet. So, the economy is going to lead us there kicking and screaming.

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  5. Ah, college was the key to success! Graduating, regardless of major, meant money and stability in a career…not. Not at all. My dad had trouble wrapping his head around the “not” of it for along time. I still meet parents who say it’s the best route for success, a fall back, something no one can ever take from you.

    My parents saved up money for my college education, but I didn’t need it because I received a full academic scholarship. My parents agreed to let me use part of my college fund to buy a duplex near campus. Only university students live in that neighborhood and each room is leased individually. The price of the rent reflects the ever increasing price of tuition room and board at the university. While I value education for its own sake, the value of that property and the resulting rent has proven to be a much better financial investment. However my parents never would’ve agreed to buy the property and skip college. They came of age towards the end of Jim Crow and their degrees opened a lot of doors for them. Even now they regularly contribute to college funds for their grandchildren.

    I will be sending all of my children to college and I hope that they will get graduate degrees as well. For black people today looking to live a normal life where they can afford to eat well, have good health care and raise a family in a nice neighborhood, a college education is not really optional. I would love to see us return to a point where it isn’t needed but it would be irresponsible of me to let my kids lead that charge.

    and it’s a proxy for a lot of things in this country (such as marriageability),

    Yep. The data for black women specifically is clear on that. I don’t see that changing either.

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  6. My man who lifts weights all week decided to be a weekend warrior today and lead me on an 8-mile walk. Since my boot camp class was canceled…

    .My calves are totally sore. Like I said, we believe in active maintenance and upkeep around here, LOL

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