Ordinary Average Guy

Every morning I wake up, scrub the gunk off my teeth with my Oral-B electric toothbrush, shower the sleep from my fogged mind, put on a nice button up shirt with work-casual pants, get in my mid-size, foreign, fuel efficient sedan and drive to work where I spend my day under soft fluorescent lights working away at a computer. I go to meetings. I have lunch with co-workers. I talk to people who lean casually against my cubicle wall and discuss what was on television the night before.

At the end of the day I return to my split-level at the back end of a cul-de-sac in a bedroom community of a respectable but largely harmless Midwestern town. I walk in the door and greet my wife and two kids, settle into my recliner and watch the local news — mostly for the weather — followed on most nights by Wheel of Fortune where I laugh at the folly of people not so remarkably unlike myself. I fix dinner two or three nights a week, demand that my boy eat his vegetables when he turns his nose up in disgust, complain about those bozos up on Capitol Hill and read Goodnight Moon to my son.

In the immortal words of Joe Walsh, I’m just an ordinary, av-uh-rage guy.

Am I a cliché, an anarchist’s nightmare of conformity, the poster boy for teenage paradise lost? If so, God help me if I’m not pretty much just fine with the whole damn thing.

My life may well be a cookie cutter replacement for 50 million guys pretty much just like me, but even in its achingly simplicity I find it strangely noble and proud. In an age where everyone seems to believe they are destined for greatness, and inevitably go around moping for the middle two decades of their short life when that dream pops like a pineapple-flavored chewing-gum bubble on a teenage girl’s lips, I feel oddly content with being somewhat ordinary.

I know that I am eyeing on-rushing middle-age like an asteroid falling from the sky, but rather than fearing the crushing blow that strikes with galactic force, I am standing in the street arms outstretched ready to be enveloped into the cleansing fire of predictability.

Navel, prepare thyself to be thoroughly gazed, but in just the handful of years since I first entertained the bizarre notion of asking people to give me money for playing and talking about games, most of the rest of my life has settled like the sand on a beach at low tide. Was it not just a couple of years ago that I ran my own highly unsuccessful small business, bucking convention and breaking the mold as an entrepreneur? Yes, and what kind of special torture the uncertainty and heavy burden of launching that small business on the eve of global economic disaster turned out to be.

As I sit here at work, confident of the timely and predictable wages I gratefully gather, I feel a bit like the Indiana Jones of the working world, having slid under the ominously closing stone door, snatching my fedora from the fetid floor the moment before the gateway to gainful employment snapped shut. As I sit and ponder the grand normalcy of it all right now, it feels less to me like a burden and more like a luxury.

Is it so wrong to work just to be content, to succeed, to support a family and be a cardboard cut-out of the Classic American Family™? I feel like I should be wanting more, like there is some sentiment of judgment from too many generations told that they were special, when the reality is that being a unique snowflake is great until you realize that from a distance it all just looks like snow. I realize this is sacrilege to those who hold the unique sacrosanct and that to many it may seem like I’m wandering comatose through a life that could have been much more just clocking time with one foot in the cultural grave, but you know “Comfortably Numb” was always my favorite Floyd song anyway so that probably means something.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I — I took the road less traveled by. These words are propped up as the slogan for individualism, but every time I read that poem it just sounds to me like taking the road less traveled by turned out to be a huge pain in the ass. You take the road that “was grassy and wanted wear”, I’m going to take this one here that’s paved and has a McDonalds on it.

When at the end of days I take stock of this life, I don’t need to have cured cancer or flown to the moon. It will be enough to know that I took care of my family. That I lived honest and true. That I had fun and played games and found joy in the simple quiet of a satisfied life.

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So say we all.

I feel the same way. Nice article, nice to feel some solidarity with a fellow worker bee.

.....................

Thank you.

You watch Wheel of Fortune? Eww!

Thanks for this. I know in my heart of hearts that this is the road that I'm travelling on, but I haven't yet accepted it. It's causing difficulty in most every part of my life, and pain to those closest to me as I fight the dying of the dreams of my youth. Nice to hear that on the other side of certain difficult decisions I might find there is freedom in letting go and acceptance.

You watch Wheel of Fortune? Eww!

Jeopardy! I totally meant, Jeopardy!

Fantastic. I think five years ago, this article would have utterly confused and saddened me. But not today. I think it comes back to a matter of priorities, and where you are on this Hero's Journey of life.

For my part, I still believe I have greatness ahead of me (and I hope I always do feel that way), but my idea of "greatness" has been refined over the years. I don't want or need to be a revolutionary scientist, or a ground-breaking journalist, or anything "world-famous". I need to make a difference, even if just a little bit.

At least that's how I feel about my writing; if I can genuinely entertain someone -- even if for a minute -- and make their world that much brighter or understandable or bearable, then I'll have achieved "greatness". And I imagine when we eventually have children, my idea of "greatness" will evolve even further.

When at the end of days I take stock of this life, I don’t need to have cured cancer or flown to the moon. It will be enough to know that I took care of my family. That I lived honest and true. That I had fun and played games and found joy in the simple quiet of a satisfied life.

You may not believe it, but that really is the road less traveled by.

Pfft... epic fail! I will never let my dreams die... I am special... I am destined for greatness... [ looks around the office] ...ah, crap!

*grabs oar* In the same boat. Work hard, play hard, thank you drive through!

Here's the thing though man...you are making a case for an "ordinary" life but how many people do you know --

1. Have a solid decently paying job there are largely content with;
2. Have a healthy marriage to someone they actually love;
3. Own a home they can afford;
4. Remain enthusiastic about a hobby (or multiple hobbies) that gives their day to day color;
5. And have access to a vibrant and supportive community of like-minded folks?

Being a peon or grunt and living a normal life is one thing, but being genuinely happy and self-aware? Quite another.

From where I stand there ain't 'nothing ordinary about that.

Good stuff.

The only alternative is cannibalism.

How very Taoist of you.

I've tried looking at life in that way, but still haven't made peace with it. Maybe it's because I don't have kids, but being a cog in a big system that does nothing I find of true value still leaves me a bit restless.

In the end we all may be dust, but I want to look back and be proud. Like I said, kids might change a man's viewpoint.

/signed

Elysium wrote:
You watch Wheel of Fortune? Eww!

Jeopardy! I totally meant, Jeopardy!


Wheel of Fortune is still on TV?

Bourbon wrote:
From where I stand there ain't 'nothing ordinary about that.

Add to that the fact that you are a talented writer whose articles are read by lots of people, and that you are involved in a very popular podcast (when you show up IMAGE(http://www.clicksmilies.com/s1106/aetsch/cheeky-smiley-013.gif) ).

This seems like the logical progression to my thing about growing up. It makes sense considering you've got a few years and a couple kids on me yet. I'm not sure what my life is going to look like in five years, but I still feel like I've got a few things up in the air, not quite sure where they're going to land yet.

But just remember, Sean Sands, you're kind of a big deal on the internet.

Bourbon wrote:
Here's the thing though man...you are making a case for an "ordinary" life but how many people do you know --

1. Have a solid decently paying job there are largely content with;
2. Have a healthy marriage to someone they actually love;
3. Own a home they can afford;
4. Remain enthusiastic about a hobby (or multiple hobbies) that gives their day to day color;
5. And have access to a vibrant and supportive community of like-minded folks?

Being a peon or grunt and living a normal life is one thing, but being genuinely happy and self-aware? Quite another.

From where I stand there ain't 'nothing ordinary about that.

Good stuff.


QFT, my friend. QFT. Right on, Sean. I'm at basically the same stage of my life now, although I haven't quite gotten to the kids part yet.

oMonarca wrote:
I've tried looking at life in that way, but still haven't made peace with it. Maybe it's because I don't have kids, but being a cog in a big system that does nothing I find of true value still leaves me a bit restless.

In the end we all may be dust, but I want to look back and be proud. Like I said, kids might change a man's viewpoint.

Having a child changed a lot of this for me. Suddenly the value that my cog-like work had wasn't in what I produced physically but in what I got out of it: the ability to take care of my child. I've always dreamed big, but if I were to die tonight, I'd leave the world with a proud look back at my son and have no regrets.

I dated a girl back in college for a few years who had the temerity to tell me I was "boring" (probably just before or after one of our multiple break-ups, not sure) and to this day I look back on that moment with a certain pride, honestly.

I am totally in Mr. Sands' camp on this, and it's very gratifying to hear someone articulate the feelings I have so well. Just the other day I was meeting with a group of guys and I told them that I feel like my most important job is to raise my boys, and my greatest achievement will be to produce good men when it's all over (they're 14, 12, and 8 so it's far from over). They didn't buy into that totally but it was further gratifying to me that I didn't need them to, and wasn't disappointed by their admission.

Hear, hear! I agree that contentment in life is very important. Not that we should stop striving to achieve our personal goals, but it's good to take a step back, take stock of the situation, and appreciate what we have. I do think Bourbon has a point when he says that you are lucky in what you have, and in that you know you are lucky. Both of these are important.

As always, wonderful article. Thanks for taking the time to write it. And a larger thanks to the GWJ people for making this wonderful content available, and for free at that. You all rock.

Elysium wrote:
You watch Wheel of Fortune? Eww!

Jeopardy! I totally meant, Jeopardy!

Too late, dude. Too late!

When sh*t hits the fan, that's when you realize how good life has been so far. So enjoy the ride

Average Solidarity.

Hear, hear!

(minus the Wheel of Fortune part...)

oMonarca wrote:
... being a cog in a big system that does nothing I find of true value still leaves me a bit restless.

The whole disgust against the "cog in the machine" mentality is naive, IMO. Once you realize great things can only be achieved by great machines (i.e. lots of people working together), you take more pride in being a cog. Or perhaps you just need to find the right machine in which to be a cog. Or the right type of cog to be.

oMonarca wrote:
I've tried looking at life in that way, but still haven't made peace with it. Maybe it's because I don't have kids, but being a cog in a big system that does nothing I find of true value still leaves me a bit restless.

I do have kids -- 3 of 'em -- and I feel exactly the same way.

I don't know if the presence of children has downgraded my Type A-work-all-the-time-gotta-get-paid mentality, or if they're my excuse for not wanting to bust my ass for The Man like I used to.

I always figured I'd be a responsible grown-up someday, and I am. I just never predicted that I'd be so boring and predictable.

Kojiro wrote:
The whole disgust against the "cog in the machine" mentality is naive, IMO. Once you realize great things can only be achieved by great machines (i.e. lots of people working together), you take more pride in being a cog. Or perhaps you just need to find the right machine in which to be a cog. Or the right type of cog to be.

It's the system I'm in that does nothing of value in my eyes, and by consequence, I don't feel I'm bettering myself.

I don't have any issue against big companies, just a few in particular, like the one I'm in - which is about to change soon.

Then I'm off to find a different machine. One where money and debt isn't its lifeblood.

Isn't it a somewhat modern dilemma - luxury, really - to worry so much about which hypothetical productive machine we're a part of? It wasn't so long ago (I'm talking about our own fathers' generation, probably) that people were grateful to be able to be productive enough to take care of their families. I'm not pining for the days where each day you simply survived was an accomplishment, but the idea that I can sit in an air-conditioned office for 9-10 hours a day as opposed to disposing of ordinance, working in a coal mine, paving roads, etc. seems like an accomplishment to me.

McBrick wrote:
Isn't it a somewhat modern dilemma - luxury, really - to worry so much about which hypothetical productive machine we're a part of? It wasn't so long ago (I'm talking about our own fathers' generation, probably) that people were grateful to be able to be productive enough to take care of their families.

As part of "Generation X," I suspect it is peculiar to our generation that we so vehemently reject normalcy. Uniqueness should be more valued than most generations/cultures appreciate, yes; but it doesn't make you a soulless monster to have found contentment.

Certis wrote:
But just remember, Sean Sands, you're kind of a big deal on the internet.

I need a t-shirt that says "I'm kind of a big deal on the internet."

It's alright, Elysium, us extraordinary people need guys like you around in order to stand out.

McBrick wrote:
Isn't it a somewhat modern dilemma - luxury, really - to worry so much about which hypothetical productive machine we're a part of?

Not really, when it's work ethics at stake, and your natural progression. Like I said, I don't mind being a cog. But I want to be a cog in a system I respect.

Elysium sounds like he's golden. His work gives him enough to take care of him and his own, while allowing him the time to do the stuff that fulfils him, without depressing him with how his superiors are such bad examples of management (maybe because they just aren't).

I'm not quite there yet.

Like I said, I don't mind being a cog. But I want to be a cog in a system I respect.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm just glad to be working, or that anyone else should be. I would not, for example, get much job satisfaction out of telemarketing, repossessing cars, or the like. I do believe it's important to respect the company that you work for.

On the other hand, I've known too many people (and been a victim of this thinking myself) who think that their jobs are somehow not worthy because they're not helping earthquake victims, performing open heart surgery, or redeeming inner-city youth. We can't all be Bill Gates, Mother Teresa, or Bruce Springsteen, although depending on who you are that's what most people seem to aspire to be, and are disappointed when they fail.

On the other hand, I could simply be deluding myself because of my own failure/lack of ambition. But then I go home to my beautiful wife and my fine boys and my PS3 and remember how blessed I am.

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