On May 18, 2018, I landed on some impeccable, wonderful, and simply extraordinary knowledge. I finally learned that I do not owe the world excellence to make up for what I lacked. I finally understood that being kind, loving, and accountable will always be more important than my talent or productivity. I unpacked this knowledge in a post on my old blog, Memoirs of a Cluttered Headspace. This post, which I entitled I Am Not Extraordinary, eventually became the basis for the novel that I authored and am releasing within the month.
At this point in my life, it feels necessary to take some time to reflect.
I Am Not Extraordinary
Written on May 18, 2018
I do not owe the world excellence because I was born learning disabled.
I do not have any damages to pay for making teachers repeat themselves.
I do not have to consistently drain myself to show that I’m good at something.
Now that I know this, so much has changed.
Up until this point, I’ve clung onto the belief that I had some sort of mystical, extraordinary ability that had yet to be discovered. Albert Einstein was didn’t learn to speak until he was two. Taylor Swift had no friends when she was in middle school. Ah yes, it’s always the trailblazers who seem so broken and defective at first. That would have to be me one day, wouldn’t it? I stopped trying to blend in with the crowd a long time ago. Early on I decided I wasn’t meant to just sit still, look pretty, and turn in homework like other girls were. I took a little too much pride in that decision. I was going to publish novels. I was going to be a Broadway actress. So what if everyone else could do what was expected of them? I was going to things that were much more memorable. But now I’m twenty years old, and I haven’t accomplished anything more than the average person my age. I’m left to sit with this difficult realization:
The laws of nature do not make me special or extraordinary just because I feel I don’t fit in.
I know this makes me sound horribly conceited. I can be sometimes, and I’m not proud of it. But please know that any conceit comes from a need to compensate for my crippling low self-esteem. That’s what my whole life has always been about. Compensation. While much of my dedication truly was fueled by genuine love for my craft, another good portion of it was fueled by a desire to compensate.
A desire to prove to everyone around me that I. Was. Not. Stupid.
This was toxic.
I almost don’t recognize the starry-eyed sixteen-year-old who got up at 5:45AM to stretch before school. Who fell asleep listening to recordings from acting classes. Depression depleted so much of my ability to go above and beyond that way, and I’m realizing that I might never get it back completely. It’s not entirely a bad thing though. Being hospitalized for suicidal ideation so much changes your view of the world so much. I want so much less out of life now. If you had asked me what I wanted out of life when I was sixteen, I would’ve told you all about my career goals. Now, I just want to be happy. I actively carve out time to be with friends. My weekend nights are spent either at parties or curling up under my weighted blanket with a good documentary. I no longer believe that these activities are reserved for Common Folk. I no longer believe that life is measured by achievement.
But at the same time mourning my past self has been soul-crushing. I still pursue my artistic interests, just not with as much rigor. I’m declared as a theatre major, and I intend to graduate as one. But once I get out into the real world… who the hell knows what I’ll do. My previous lifestyle is lurking right outside my window, beckoning me into its arms. All around me are students competing for the dean’s list, mainstage productions, and performance ensembles. Depriving themselves of sleep and social time for the sake of excellence. I constantly feel pressured to sink back into the old rhythm.
Sixteen-year-old Margaret, where did you go??? Wherever you are now, I feel your disappointment. I let you down. You were so strong and determined. You impressed so many people with your willingness to take the road less travelled. Now you’re just ordinary. Come back. I miss you. I know what I’m doing now is right, but my God is it difficult.
Until now I thought self love could be achieved by changing myself. If I felt unsatisfied with myself because I wasn’t good enough at x, y and z, I could work on them relentlessly until I was good enough. Then I’d be satisfied. Then I’d be happy. Right?
Wrong. That’s not how it works.
My brain is wired to be unsatisfied. Last year, my college dream came true. It was everything I’d ever wanted, yet the whole time I was so sad that I wished I was dead. I’m realizing that having a concrete vision for my future may not be the best idea. My needs are ever-changing, and that’s completely natural. But now that I’m through with trying to prove my intelligence, I don’t know what I want.
Maybe I’m not destined for greatness after all. There are plenty of people who never become famous or travelled the world. And that’s okay. Maybe I’ll just be one of them.
I used to think that these were the people who seemed normal growing up. Who weren’t learning disabled. Who went debilitatingly short in stature. They weren’t the people who drew negative attention. Therefore, they did not owe the world excellence. They had nothing to compensate for.
But maybe I don’t either.
It’s pretty terrifying to feel my drive slipping away. But it’s not totally gone. And this doesn’t mean I won’t regain it in the future. We’ll take the once step at a time, okay?
I am not extraordinary.
I am not extraordinary.
I am ordinary.
Why yes, I am ORDINARY.
And that’s okay.