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  • Writer's pictureAnjana Rajbhandary

The Beauty of Being Ordinary

Finding Contentment Beyond Society’s Obsession with Success

The pervasive message of our time asserts that success is the linchpin in every facet of life, be it education, career, friendships, or relationships. In the relentless pursuit of success, many of us toil ceaselessly, ingrained with the belief that triumph is the gateway to happiness.

Rewind three decades to when I was 10, and the emphasis was on excelling in school. Family, teachers, and even movies championed the narrative that good grades equated to happiness. The equation was simple: good grades led to a good job, financial stability, and happiness. I adhered to this formula, except for a rebellious phase in college when fun momentarily trumped grades. However, upon graduation, I recalibrated my focus.

Reflecting on my journey, I wish I could have advised my younger self that straight A's don't guarantee success or an immediate stellar job. I don't harbor regrets for discovering this later; however, I would have spared myself unnecessary stress over a single B-, thinking it signaled the demise of my promising future.

I secured a decent job as a social worker in my professional life. While the financial rewards were modest, the intrinsic rewards were profound. I derived happiness from helping people, as evidenced by glowing yearly evaluations from my supervisors. Yet, the reality of working with adults grappling with mental health and substance abuse issues challenged the conventional markers of success. The transformation I envisioned for my clients didn't materialize on a broad scale. Only two graduated and found jobs in my three years, a meager success rate by my grading standards.

Following my brief tenure as a social worker, I delved into my passion for writing, an endeavor that proved to be one of the most disheartening professional experiences. Rejections outnumbered any I had faced previously. Despite the setbacks, I remain undeterred, recognizing that success in writing often hinges on probability and luck. I am resolute in not abandoning my pursuit of writing, confident that perseverance will eventually tilt the odds in my favor.

While higher-ups may have expressed dissatisfaction, getting published drew praise. The dichotomy of rejection versus acceptance raises the question of whether one success outweighs numerous failures. Does public recognition nullify personal setbacks?

 Friendships, which had thrived until my late thirties, underwent a shift when I moved to Indiana. Prior successes in maintaining a diverse group of friends diminished, leaving me with acquaintances but no deep connections. Whether due to the pandemic, my age, or the location, I encountered my first failure in forming meaningful friendships.

Surveying all spheres of my life, I've trodden a path of moderate success. I hovered between not excelling and not faltering egregiously, settling into a comfortable averageness. The pressure to outperform those around me looms large, but I've realized the futility of incessant comparison. Striving for greatness, while commendable, invites overwhelming stress and overwork.

Embracing my averageness, however, is not an endorsement of lethargy or lack of ambition. I acknowledge that there will always be individuals surpassing and lagging behind me. Yet, the pursuit of excellence doesn't necessitate a constant state of unease.

Ultimately, my journey has been one of navigating the middle ground, avoiding extremes. I haven't soared to great heights, but I've found contentment in averageness. Whether it's education, career, friendships, or writing, pursuing excellence should coexist with accepting personal authenticity avoiding the trap of incessant comparison and overbearing expectations.

Being average isn't undesirable, contrary to societal conditioning. The happiest individuals lead normal lives, relishing family and friends without incessant pursuits of unbeatable success or wealth. Embracing simplicity over the chaos of constant competition offers tranquility. The beauty of ordinariness lies in priceless peace of mind. Yet, the perpetual quest for more persists. Why, when contentment resides in appreciating the ordinary and resisting the societal pressure to constantly strive for more?

Is there ever a conclusion to the ceaseless pursuit of outperforming others? I don't think so.

After four decades, I've reached a level of contentment with who I am and where I stand. No longer entangled in the web of comparison or the pursuit of outdoing others, I find joy in simply existing where I am. The once constant pressure to surpass others has faded, replaced by a calm and ease that eluded me in the relentless quest for superiority. Embracing my current state while indulging in the pursuit of knowledge that captivates me, I relish this newfound tranquility, appreciating the journey that has led me to a place of genuine self-acceptance.

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