Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be ordinary. My reveries are inspired by all the candidates for President and Vice-President vying for the title of most ‘average’ citizen. Or maybe I’m just feeling the slightest bit melancholy as the cool nights and shorter days remind me summer is melting into autumn.
Being ordinary hits me hard in the Fall. Expectations, dreamed-of gardens, and imagined home improvement projects of the summer come up against the reality of what I actually achieved. Fall is the mirror I look into and say, “Yup. You’re ordinary.”
I’m not complaining about ordinary but I have to say ordinary is not the stuff of dreams. And I’ve yet to hear a well-heeled parent say, “Hmmm. I just want my ordinary child to have an ordinary education or I just want my child to grow up to be ordinary."
Ordinary is not on the list of top answers to that familiar interview question, where would you like to see yourself in five, ten or fifty years. "Why golly--I'd like to be, well, ordinary."
There are no public holidays honoring the achievements of the ordinary like a John/Jane Doe Day recognizing such accomplishments as paying taxes on time or recycling paper and plastic or mowing the lawn, or raising a child to be a toll taker on the thruway.
No one says “thank you so much” if told they have an ordinary voice, art work, dancing ability, athletic prowess, musical capability or academic aptitude. The one time my daughter informed me that she knew she just got ordinary scores on the fourth grade standardized tests, I rushed to reassure her that she was ABOVE AVERAGE in spelling.
Ordinary means not being able to pronounce Zbigniew Brzezinski when you first see the name; it means doing some things just fine but no one thing in a spectacular way. Ordinary is to have the recognition and admiration of a few friends who enjoy your company and may be interested enough to ask your opinion or advice; it is to live with small victories and the usual defeats and pray that nothing horribly catastrophic strikes one’s family, neighbors or community.
To be ordinary is to live in a state of gentle grace with daily reminders that one’s ambition struggles with apathy; that personal potential is circumscribed by ability; that large ego ideas are tamed by actual accomplishments.
Disappointing as it may be, the national candidates may claim the status of ordinary but I can say with great assurance, they do not dwell there--and they don't really want to.