It’s a Saturday evening as I write this. As on any other Saturday, I love waking up one hour later than I would on a weekday, spending a bit more time preparing and eating my breakfast, spending most of this day on my feet cleaning, mending, and taking a closer look at things that miss my attention during the weekdays, and, most of all, doing hours of active outdoor play with my child and sealing that day with us watching the sunset and listening to the cicadas sing their majestic chorus.
Just like any other Saturday and Sunday, I could turn off my phone and trust that I’m not going to get any text, email, or call from work.
The wonders of living an ordinary life
As you could already tell, I’m not doing roles that are deemed as “important” or “prestigious” based on society’s standards. My name carries neither a Dr. nor an Atty., nor am I doing managerial or directorial roles, nor am I so rich and powerful that people would want to run to me for advice or assistance, or with an invitation to a party or a speaking engagement.
My work starts on Mondays and ends on Fridays. My list of tasks are crisp and clear, and I rarely have to do tasks outside of what I’m assigned. I rarely do overtime, and I’m able to work largely from home, thanks to flexible arrangements now made the new normal.
After work, I could, literally, just stop thinking about work. I could do what I need to do with the confidence that no one was going to interrupt me in the middle of a market run or a home workout. I could even unplug from the internet without a niggling feeling that something, somewhere, will come up.
What I’m trading for choosing an ordinary life
But in wanting to choose an ordinary life, I had to trade away the possibility of higher pay that could provide for more comfort and convenience. Of course, it makes sense that higher pay will be rewarded to those who are willing to take on more work and more challenging roles. As pointed out by an economic anthropologist, “profits are the reward for risk.” And because of our prevailing market economy, the kind of risk that is rewarded these days is almost always financial in nature.
Higher pay and social prestige could have led me to afford to live in a bigger place and turn lean months into impossibilities. And living in a developing country, these could have also led me to never have to wait in line again. But I knew I wasn’t willing to trade my ordinary life for something so fleeting and so…worldly.
Which, then, led me to simplify my life even more, even more so when I became a parent. The uninterrupted time that I get after work is what I use to learn how to mend instead of dispose of things. My food menu is something that my great grandparents would love but my siblings would love to hate. And although there are opportunities for me to take in more challenging roles at work, I choose not to take them because I acknowledge that being a working parent is already challenging enough.
For sure, from my given examples, I still needed some money for a roof over our head, an oven, sewing and handyman kits, a phone, a laptop, some tables and chairs, and access to utilities. Yet I did not need lots of money to purchase a fancy home, a fancy oven, fancy sewing and handyman kits, a fancy phone, a fancy laptop, fancy tables and chairs, and 24/7 access to utilities (we could get by with brownouts now and then).
It may sound like I’m romanticizing an ordinary life, but I do believe that there is nothing wrong with leading a life where we could go about our day unnoticed, as if we’re made figuratively invisible in the eyes of so many people around us. In fact, I feel that this is how it should be, but it was a possibility snatched away from us by capitalists, colonists, states, and even by each other.
The powerful needed more people to work for them to produce things and services that continue to make them powerful, and we got drawn into aspiring for and depending on these things and services, eventually locking us into an illusory cycle of climbing the social ladder, dependence, and lack of self-sufficiency. Even at an early age, we were taught tools that help us specialize and contribute to this pervasively industrial and market-oriented economy at the cost of us forgetting how to live a simpler, more cooperative, and more self-sufficient life.
Supporting our society’s leaders
If there is anything that’s been romanticized for a long time, it is the sparkle in taking on leadership and prestigious roles in society.
It seems that those who truly know themselves to have an aptitude for leadership are the ones who tend to become more cautious in choosing where they’d rather channel that aptitude into. Some choose to apply it for work, while others choose to apply it for their family or spiritual life. But then there are many, many others who got to their leadership roles by mistake and got trapped and continue to suffer immensely just to keep up. They could be good leaders, but they fail to truly make an impact because they fail to shine in what they could have done best.
Choosing to live an ordinary life made me ever more conscious of the trade-offs that our leaders had to make in order to step up to the call of leadership. As a collective, we really should be more than happy to support our leaders. But great leaders with absolute integrity are few and far between in this day and age, so if we do find them, the least we could do is support them.
There is nothing wrong with being ordinary
I cannot find a better way to say that I believe with my whole heart in this: “There is nothing wrong with being ordinary. As long as we do our every work honestly, diligently, and conscientiously.”
Truly, it’s time to put a stop to thinking there’s anything wrong with being ordinary. As cliché as it sounds, I may be living an ordinary life, but I make a choice to make it extraordinary, every day, in every possible way. – Rappler.com
Raizel Albano is an applied anthropologist, currently working for Euromonitor International and leading a research project under the UNESCO Silk Roads program.