It’s funny when you think about it. It’s so much easier to give ourselves — and others — credit for the grand gestures. For exceptional, heroic acts. To view success as all or nothing, really. If we’re not curing cancer or winning some big awards, then who are we, really? If someone can’t make a Disney movie of our lives, then are we really living? (For real, most of my friends are quietly having midlife crises.)
It’s too much pressure. It’s not realistic. But it’s what we were raised to look for. An all-or-nothing view of ourselves and others. We’re singular and amazing — or we’re nothing at all. But it doesn’t work that way.
There are countless individuals who we will never know who are making life possible for millions of us — albeit in a small way. There are infinite ways to contribute and make a difference, even if no one ever makes a movie of your life. If you never get some big award.
And I’ve found that this kind of thinking also doesn’t help me in the little ways either. Here’s an example: I tend to be the quick weeknight cook for my family. My partner does more fun cooking when it’s their turn. They bake things from scratch or make elaborate dishes.
Me? I’m throwing together meals when we’re busy and exhausted from work. Some of them I’ve made hundreds of times at this point. Yes, some of them were creative endeavors for me when I came up with them. But at this point, it’s rote. Part of subsistence rather than art. I could make them in my sleep (on the tougher days, I practically do).
Because of this, I had a way of discounting the cooking I did. And the meal planning. And shopping and managing those logistics. You see, none of it was art. None of it was grand gestures. I was just doing something rote, keeping things running.
But the other day, my partner looked at me and thanked me sincerely for it. “I really, really appreciate it,” they said. I had taken it for granted because it wasn’t “special” or “artistic.” But it kept things running. Which is so important — and yet easy to forget.
I feel like I’m still learning to appreciate the value of everyday work. Sometimes I feel like I’m having to work against an awful lot of conditioning to view things the opposite way.