Just what is ordinary? Through my life there have been points I felt I understood ordinary. What a normal life should be or average expectations of an experience were. And as I look back at all of those times I realize that the ordinary of that moment was merely a passing construct of my life’s experiences up until that point. In hindsight, the ephemerality of ordinary seems obvious. Yet, even writing this, a grasp of how this applies at this exact moment remains an elusive concept. Logically I know it must be so, and I look forward to experiencing it, but the lizard brain is humoring the logical part, just sort of nodding along while remaining ready for the next moment’s expected experience.
In hindsight, the ephemerality of ordinary seems obvious.
As we go through life, and experience more of it, there seems to be a few courses we can follow, each of which can lead to very different senses of ordinary. At one end of the spectrum, we can live our lives in a comfortable space and with a fairly well defined set of experiences. Over time, those experiences will become ordinary, and often become a self-reinforcing bubble around us. There has been a lot of discussion and writing around the filter bubble as applied to our experiences in the online world. The basic idea being that learning algorithms increasingly target and filter online content that is more relevant to our interests, but this increasingly focused set of content serves as a feedback loop to our own biases and perceptions. Just compare the content on Fox News and MSNBC News as an example, and imagine two individuals who chose to receive all of their news exclusively from one of those sources. They would have a pretty different sense of the worlds that they both live in. So it is with the grooves we wear following the path of our own experiences, limiting how much we shake ourselves out of our own sense of ordinary.
So it is with the grooves we wear following the path of our own experiences, limiting how much we shake ourselves out of our own sense of ordinary.
On the other hand, we can push ourselves out of those grooves and follow a different path. Whether it is by choice or circumstance, if we diversify our experiences we diversify our sense of ordinary. Eventually we hopefully begin to realize how fleeting ordinary is for ourselves and, perhaps more importantly, begin to better grasp how varied ordinary is for other people. I consider how different the ordinary of my wife is from me, when we are the closest people on the planet to each other. I consider how vastly different the opinions, worldviews, and expectations of daily life are for those I have worked with for a decade or family I have known all my life. How incredibly, foreignly different must ordinary be for even those who live in the same town but have never met, let alone across the country or across the ocean.
It is difficult to grasp how my ordinary right now is not the world, is not truly reality, merely my current perception of reality. My ordinary of who my wife is and our relationship is not what it actually is, and relying on that knowledge of the past exclusively does not end well! My ordinary of how one pursues employment or makes a living must change because I am forcing it to. Yet, when asked, “Where are you going?” after someone learns of my pending departure from UConn, I still find myself sometimes tempted to respond with an ordinary answer such as a company at which I would be seeking employment.
I look forward to the next time my ordinary is noticeably shaken. I look forward to continuing to shake it. Change is exciting, as it brings opportunities to broaden ordinary, have new experiences, see new places, people, and cultures, and find new and exciting ways to enjoy life.
Normal is for people not courageous enough to be themselves