The Incredible Life of an Ordinary Person
What does your life say about you?
My friends are crazy over-achievers. One recently hiked the 2,000+ mile Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. It was a trip that he carefully planned for over a year to mark his transition from military soldier to civilian life — a grueling trek and an impressive accomplishment.
Another friend competed on Jeopardy last week. I watched the show and could only correctly answer two questions fast enough to beat the other contestants. My friend, on the other hand, did much better and finished in second place with over $10,000.
I’m friends with a published author who recently had their series purchased by Netflix and a close colleague who won a prestigious research award. I’m surrounded by people doing amazing things and I started questioning what I was contributing to this group.
I haven’t completed an epic physical challenge or created something worthy enough to be broadcast on TV. I have never won a game of Trivial Pursuit or a Kahoot! contest, so Jeopardy is out of the question. I just stepped off my career path seeking a different one, and I’m starting on the ground floor in a pair of old flip-flops.
I am a fairly ordinary person.
To keep up with my high-achieving friends, I started to think about doing something epic —something that would be a source of admiration and maybe even worthy of an Instagram post.
Then it hit me. I am already quite extraordinary, and here’s why:
- I once watched the 4th of July fireworks from the National Mall in Washington D.C. Following the event, I piled onto the Metro with hundreds of thousands of other people. It is hard being short when you are packed tightly between people, but I did not bite or kick anyone. Although that is hardly newsworthy, it is noteworthy.
- I survived three winters in North Dakota and walked to school every day. The school was less than ½ mile from my house, but North Dakota winters are brutal. The wind chill was frequently well below zero with wind gusts so strong that it sometimes knocked me over. I had to wear sixteen layers of clothes to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. North Dakota is not for the weak.
- I went on a white water rafting trip and shared a boat with a middle-aged couple and their two young girls. During an especially challenging part of the course, the father and his four-year-old fell overboard. The raft guide instantly grabbed the father, but the daughter was quickly swallowed by the rushing water. Everyone on the boat frantically searched through the white water for the child, and by some miracle, I felt her life jacket and was able to grab it. The current was incredibly strong, and I could not lift her fully into the boat, so I held tightly to her life jacket and kept her head above water until we maneuvered to safety. For a brief moment, I was a hero.
- I once ran a half-marathon while pushing a 3-year-old in a stroller. It was a local race, and the organizer was gracious enough to allow me to run with my child. It was not my best time, but I shared this accomplishment with my son who shed various pieces of clothing and Goldfish crackers along the course. It was his first half-marathon! I look forward to relaxing and snacking while he pushes me for 13.1 miles one day.
- I went to high school with (wait for it…) Neil Patrick Harris. At the time, he had already starred in Clara’s Heart but not yet begun Doogie Howser, M.D. He was a grade younger than me, so I only exchanged a few words with him, but I feel like we bonded. I have now made him the emergency contact on all my important documents.
- I drove from California to New York in a van with a 5 y.o., 2 y.o., and a cat. Just like my friend who hiked the Appalachian Trail, I planned for this trip months in advance. I went to garage sales and thrift stores to purchase inexpensive toys and books. Then, I wrapped them all, and every 100 miles the kids picked a gift from the bag of goodies. It gave them something to look forward to, and they loved unwrapping the treasures. I may not be brilliant enough for Jeopardy, but I’m smart enough to entertain kids for extended amounts of time. That’s a true skill!
- My childhood friend and I slept outside in a tent during a trip to Arkansas. We didn’t air out the sleeping bags first, and they smelled musty, so we freshened them up with perfume. We woke the following morning with over 100 mosquito bites each. I also canoed over an alligator in Florida and exchanged stern words with a bear who kept ransacking my trash can in Colorado. I may not get a series on Netflix, but I have certainly earned a feature spot on Animal Planet.
When I stopped thinking about what I haven’t done and started considering my life accomplishments, I was fairly impressed with myself. This ordinary girl has done some remarkable things in the first half of life.
I haven’t done the same things as my friends, but that merely means I’m on a different path, not that I’m less significant or important.
I’m certain you are equally as extraordinary. Take a moment to reflect — what can you celebrate about your life?
This story was first published on Medium.
About the Creator
Jill (Conquering Cognitions)
Outdoor Enthusiast | Animal Lover | Mom to Five | Psychologist Turned Writer
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