Monday, September 30, 2013

Living a small but valuable life

I've noticed something as I've slipped into the comfortable routine that is my life. Inspirational quotes on living life to the fullest and dreaming big sometimes confuse and depress me. Here are some examples:

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Between the great things we cannot do and the small things we will not do, the danger is that we shall do nothing.” – Adolph Monod

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.” – Greg Anderson

“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.” – Pamela Vaull Starr

“Capture your dreams and your life becomes full. You can, because you think you can.” – Nikita Koloff

“Life is short, live bold! Be heard, be you, dream big, take risks, don’t wait.” – Misty Gibbs

I couldn't quite put my finger on why this bothered me. Perhaps because I've already accomplished or failed many of the goals I've set my heart upon in my younger days. So now that I've accomplished my goals and moved on, is my life less meaningful if I'm not chasing some big dream? 

I was watching one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail, and Meg Ryan has a great line as Kathleen Kelly: "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?" 

It was like she took the thoughts right out of my head. I've come to the conclusion that it's okay to lead a small but meaningful life, if that's what makes you happy. That we can have meaning in our life, even if we aren't trying to conquer the world in some way.

My thoughts finally came full circle last night while finishing (for the second time) John Green's novel, The Fault in Our Stars. For the sake of not spoiling a perfectly lovely book (soon to be a major motion picture) I'll just say it's about two teenagers who have battled or are battling cancer. The male protagonist states:

"Almost everyone is obsessed with leaving a mark upon the world.  Bequeathing a legacy. Outlasting death.  We all want to be remembered. I do, too.  That's what bothers me most, is being another unremembered casualty in the ancient and inglorious war against disease.  I want to leave a mark.  But... The marks humans leave are too often scars....We're as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we're not likely to do either."

A few years ago, on my high school class reunion page, we were all posting updates about what we'd done in our lives. One girl wrote about her world travels, her degrees, awards, etc. Someone replied that they were impressed, and kind of ashamed that she hadn't done as much. After all, the rest of us looked like monkeys next to her. Wonder Woman replied, "We are all doing, and will do important things. Different, but important."

Although big dreams and accomplishments that earn high honors and recognition are wonderful, and should be celebrated, a quiet life, well lived, full of love and integrity, a simple life should also be honored, and appreciated. Don't feel like your life is less because you perceive another life as more.

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