Through These Eyes: Mediocrity, Sing Thy Name

JustinJones

There are some things in life you can’t get around: Bills. Words like “irregardless.” Tantalizing fantasies of better lives in more glamorous places. Mediocrity.

We live much of our lives through the eyes of others (however willingly)–through dreams of us having the grandeur of the lives they’re living (and “grandeur,” mind you, need not translate into affluence). They–those brilliant few to whom we both look up to and envy–they need not worry with bills, mediocrity, or having meaningful lives, and grammar for the admirable in this group is priceless (Chomsky); for those consumed only with superficiality, not so much (Kardashian).

And this is the picture at a distance: a seemingly flawless painting hiding many holes–dark abscesses in which the truth resides: A cliché, of course–one we might otherwise phrase as “you love your heroes only from a distance.” Get too close and their pimples take over.

So many of us, likely you included, live the completely “normal” lives I describe–those soaked in routine around family and work, but not much left to one’s own devices. It seems then that our lives are largely choreographed: 9 to 5 each day, many of us will rise to make shareholders money, and then we’ll stop by the grocery store on the way home to pick up milk and bread, and any last-minute ingredients for dinner. We’ll make dinner–happily–for our partners and for our families–and maybe have a couple hours to fade into the glow of our televisions–and then off to bed to have at it again the next day.

The routine is sometimes broken, or is sometimes even characterized, by more glamorous things like art shows, dinners on the town, drinks with our friends. And it all seems quite charming, these lives of ours. Forty hours a week at a desk for the luxury of this? A good ROI if ever there was one. Right?

But then we find ourselves–even in the happiest moments of our lives–wanting more, wanting to feel more important, wanting to leave an imprint of some kind–a legacy through which we might live forever, or do some good. This is the desire to pursue those funny little things we call “dreams.”

For me, I desperately want to pursue my writing career with more vigor. My partner aspires to compose music. I have a friend who wants to open a haberdashery, another who wants to play viola professionally, and one who wants to impact as positively as she can the dental hygiene of children in Third World countries.

Our dreams drive our passions, and they remind us of our place. We float away with these dreams, pretending we’ve just written a best-selling novel, for only a moment escaping our reality, before opening our eyes again onto bills, onto responsibilities, onto endless cycling through lives we’re merely “content” with.

Our lives are not the lives we expected them to be. They aren’t the myths we believed as children, no matter how successful we are. We didn’t imagine then that our successes would be outnumbered by failures. Nor did we think that struggles remained once we reached the place we thought we’d go.

We are thus our own former heroes: versions of how we saw our adult selves in our youth. And, just as we might understand when we encounter our heroes today, the heroes of our youth–us, grown up–aren’t all what we thought they’d be.

There’s always a need for more, even to the humble among us: some of us can’t get our fill of attention, some can’t quench our desire to help other people, and some can’t stop climbing social and professional ladders–all for an end of having left something behind, for leaving the world affected in some way, be it the good we’ve done, or simply the presence we’ve left.

I could be cheesy here and turn this column into a hypocritical “follow your dreams” piece of bullshit, but I’ll save you the irony. No, I’m not advocating anyone throw away their lives and follow their dreams. But neither do I advocate simply being an observer, living life from the outside in, equating “normal” to “ordinary.” Our lives, however “normal” we may consider them, are instead rather extraordinary, simply because we live them.

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