“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not that answer.” — Jim Carrey
I was a nobody in high school. I wasn’t anyone special. Sure, my teachers and my parents thought I was smart and destined for great things, but beyond my small circle of friends, most of my peers didn’t even know my name.
I graduated in a class of over four hundred other kids. I wasn’t pretty enough to be noticed. I was intelligent, but not quite smart enough or talented enough to earn praise. I didn’t play any sports either. In high school, if you aren’t pretty and if you don’t play sports you’re basically committing social suicide.
I thought I was fine with that. I was happy with my small circle of friends. I enjoyed the classes I took and loved being a part of the musical and all the other myriad extracurriculars I chose. It was a simple existence, a joyful one, but still, some part of me longed for more.
If I’m being 100% honest, there was still some small, insecure part of me that wanted to be one of the popular kids. I wanted to be beautiful. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be someone. And being someone within the small cosmos of high school means being popular, being one of them.
Needless to say, no matter how hard I tried, I never became one of them. I graduated in a sea of obscurity. I’ll probably be forgotten, unremarkable, unmemorable. I’ll be the face that the crowd doesn’t even remember at high school reunions.
“Who is that?” They’ll ask. “Did she even go here?”
I was born a nobody. I’ll probably die a nobody.
That doesn’t scare me like it used to. But I know it scares a lot of people. You might be one of them.
What’s Wrong With Being a Nobody?
Each day I come across countless articles across various online platforms devoted to teaching readers how to make their mark, how to be successful, how to be the next big writer, how to make seven figures, and how to change the world or die trying.
While these may be noble pursuits in their own right, I can’t help but think that the reason these articles tend to be so wildly successful is that they pray on one of our biggest fears: our fear of dying as a nobody, of never leaving our mark, or simply becoming another poor faceless soul.
But what’s really wrong with being a nobody? Is there really anything wrong with living a simple, carefree existence devoted to one’s self, one’s family, one’s community?
Is it really problematic if the only change we strive to make is small? Should we really be ashamed if we don’t desire fortune and fame? And can we still leave a mark, still make our existence worthwhile, if it’s only a small and simple one?
Is it because we so greatly fear death? Is it because the thought of succumbing to old age or illness and fading away into nothing but dirt and bones and ashes terrifies us?
Are we afraid that the people we leave behind will forget us? Or is our biggest fear that once all the people who love us are gone, we’ll become nothing more than a faceless headstone, just one of many billions across the globe?
Do we really think that we all deserve, simply as a result of our humanity, to be remembered until the end of time, to leave our mark forever on a planet hanging within the vast expanses of space? What of all the rivers and forests and oceans and all the creatures living within them who die alone and are quickly forgotten as they’re absorbed into the ground? Don’t they deserve to be remembered too?
Maybe we ask too much of ourselves and the world. We think that the only life worth living is a life that leaves a mark, a life that changes history. We want a name and a face and a story that will forever be written down. We want others to remember us. We want to feel that even when we’re gone that we’ll matter.
But won’t we — regardless of whether we lived simply or not?
We’ll be remembered by all of those who loved us, by all the lives we touched in even the smallest of ways. And their existence or their happiness or their joys or sadness are because of us. And as the Earth welcomes us back into her embrace we once again become a part of the endless cycle of life and death. Our purpose changes after life, regardless of whether you believe in heaven or not.
I don’t think that we should be so afraid to live a simple life. The truth is that most of us will live very small, very insignificant existences.
We won’t enact much change. We won’t overthrow empires. We won’t lead armies. Most of us probably won’t make millions. Most of us aren’t going to be wildly successful or become ridiculously famous.
For the most part, most of the changes we ever enact will be small. They’ll impact our own lives, the lives of our friends, family, neighbours, and our community. Most of us will make just enough money to get by and maybe then some. Most of us will remain somewhere in the muddled middle. We’ll probably never be the best in our class.
We’ll simply be. And I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of.
The Beauty of a Simple Life
There’s a beauty in living a simple life. There’s a beauty and a joy and a peace in living contentedly with what you have.
I think true peace and happiness finally come when we stop striving for more, more, though this is not to say that change or innovation are never good things. After all, it is technology and change that brought us many wonders and made our lives longer and healthier.
But I think a problem arises when all the masses are constantly working for more. Right now, we all want more money. More fame. More freedom. More success. We’re so worried about carving out our own path and making our mark that we forget about the countless paths and lives of all the others living on this planet as well.
When we’re so worried about being a nobody, we forgot about everyone else that exists around us.
We become willing to stomp all over them, to play dirty, to be hurtful in our relentless climb to the top because we just want to be that one person who makes it, the one person who’s remembered.
If you ask me, that’s the only thing that’s shameful.
At the end of the day, your life is yours and I’m only just another faceless person on the internet, sharing her thoughts with the world. You can choose to take what I say and enact change in your life and accept that you will probably be a nobody — or you can choose not to and continue your relentless rise to the top.
But if you’re like me, when you’re reading all these articles and listening to all these self-help gurus and entrepreneurs, you feel, deep down, that you’re sad and sick, you know that’s not the life for you.
That money and fame and being “special” doesn’t matter all that much to you, but that family and friends and human beings and nature and peace matter more — so give yourself permission to slow down, to cease your climb, and rest awhile.
Give yourself permission to be a nobody and find what truly matters most to you, your own meaning of what it means to lead a successful life.
Mind Cafe in Your Inbox
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