“If Pavlov tested his cat he would have failed.” — Patrick H.T. Doyle
I want to start this entry with a big thank you to all who have provided such wonderful feedback. I am doing my best to put awkward away and accept it with grace. It still feels indulgent! That said, writing in a public space has been a big and personal step. The positive response has been thoroughly affirming and is actively pushing me toward bigger goals. So thank you, sincerely.
One such comment came from a friend of a friend who shared Ordinary Ubuntu with her network under the description “don’t be fooled by the title, nothing about this woman or this blog is ordinary”.
I reject it. Politely of course.
Again, I am truly flattered. But proudly ordinary. In case it needs to be spelled out, the premise for this blog is that we put all together way too much stock in ‘important’ people and underestimate ourselves and our ability to influence. Ordinary people are in fact the most extraordinary.
In a separate conversation last week, another friend Anna said, almost bashfully, “you really know a lot of interesting people.”
I was referring her to Sam and Rob, two members of our extended family who live nearby. She is one of the world’s foremost shark experts, he is a ship captain, conservationist and adventurer. They moved to St Francis 2 years ago to run a sustainable seas eco-center after spending 20 building a scuba school on the Mozambique border. They first had to live on a Zulu chief’s land to gain permission to purchase and develop. Their two barefoot children have featured in several National Geographic films. Both were diving and and playing with sharks by age 5. By 11, son Luke was the village snake expert and had a collection of over 20 highly poisonous species in the garage. An afternoon on their boat invariably includes some of the best stories you will ever hear.
They sure are interesting. But guess what Anna, so are you.
You recently moved your whole family to South Africa from New Zealand after losing your home in an earthquake. Your eldest daughter survived it alone in kindergarten. You opted to use adversity to reassess your priorities, let go of material comforts and choose courage instead. Your husband shut down a successful law practice to ‘Carpe Diem’ and pursue his dream of coaching rugby at the highest level. You have a sweet, gregarious 7 year old, devilishly handsome and clever 5 year old and hilarious 3 year old that tries to stick tampons in his ears. You are unpretentious, genuine and generous and have adjusted to life in a new country with beaming smiles.
Even if you have them, accolades do not make you interesting. Nor does a wikipedia page. Everybody knows at least a few miserable douchebags with impressive resumes. Ordinary people have insecurities and chubby parts. We make tons of mistakes, give in to fear and wish for things we don’t have. Finding others who share these struggles and encourage us to live funnier, smarter, better; that’s the good stuff.
One of my girl crushes is on a friend I grew up with. Kia and I met in Grade 3 French immersion. I was banned from her home soon thereafter for allegedly terrorizing a birthday party and breaking household items. In high school, I held steady to said reputation by drinking wine coolers in their hot tub and subsequently barfing them back out in the front yard.
Later still, I was there when Kia met her future husband Greig. I would love to say I introduced them, instead I told her he was gay.
For a couple of summers, I worked with Greig at a coffee shop in Vancouver with mostly gay clientele. He’s hot, so most the customers and staff – of all genders and orientations – had crushes on him. Including the repair man, Randy, who discernibly waited until Greig was on shift before fixing anything. He then spent the whole time convincing everyone within ear shot that Greig was gay and, surely, he stood a chance. I liked both of them and it was all the same to me, so I went with it.
When Kia asked that fateful night at Stone Temple, wink wink nudge nudge, if I knew Greig, I answered smoothly, “He’s definitely great; too bad for you he’s gay”.
Thirteen years and three kids later, they celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary this summer.
She oozes energy, happiness and positivity. I enjoy each of her updates and smile at all of her pictures. She’s gorgeous, he’s gorgeous and their kids are gorgeous. They genuinely enjoy each other and their time. They do arts and crafts, grow their own vegetables, go on family hikes and make their own ice rink in the backyard during winter.
In many ways,we are opposites. She has never left Vancouver, went to community college and married a guy from the same high school. She is a stay-at-home Mom with a photography business on the side. He is a plumber. She has kept many of the same friends her whole life, lives within shouting distance of both sets of grandparents and all aunts and uncles. They vacation locally and could probably count the number of times they have left Canada on their hands. I have often used her as a benchmark in my own pursuit of happiness and purpose – one of the most interesting and content people I know has never left our backyard.
When I said this to her in 2012 she shrugged it off, “Interesting, no. But happy, definitely happy.”
That Kia had the grace to come to my brother’s funeral after years without seeing me matters, a lot. That she regularly reminds happiness a choice and not an exotic destination simply by the way she lives, makes her super interesting. Yet completely ordinary – I choose it any day.