“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”
I came across that quote on the pages of one of my new favorite magazines, Bella Grace. I was flipping through the thick, coated pages, looking for shorter stories to snack on amid the longer, somewhat dense pieces that make up the bulk of the magazine. This particular piece was just two paragraphs long, and ended with those words. We’ll all become stories.
I suppose those words could strike a chord of fear in my heart, if I let them. All of this life will boil down to only stories? Well, shoot. That’s an awful lot of working and living and stressing and loving for not a lot of impact. I could throw in the towel and start partying, spending, and eating like crazy–better enjoy myself while I can, right?
But what a lame story that would be.
My favorite stories are the ones that feature everyday heroes. I’m part of the Harry Potter generation, cheering on a lovable orphan who becomes the savior of all of wizardkind despite being a thoroughly average Joe in most ways. My favorite television show is The Big Bang Theory, where the characters spend 95 percent of their time sitting around a coffee table eating pizza and Chinese takeout (seriously, when do those people actually go to work?). The best love story I’ve ever heard was that of my grandparents–grandpa had to ask grandma twice, because she turned him down the first time. When they finally got hitched (just days before Christmas), they took a cruise on a Navy ship, where my grandma showed up the other Navy wives by being the only one to skip seasickness.
I think we naturally want our stories to be remarkable. We want to lead revolutions, be a hero to others, and change the world. We want to be remembered as special. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting that. But the truth is, most of us will live rather unremarkable lives. We’ll learn, work, and love. We’ll have hobbies, attend parties, raise babies, build careers, and make homes. And that may be where it ends.
What doesn’t come naturally to most is the ability to embrace that. I think we let fear have too much of a foothold in our hearts. No one wants to be forgotten, and pursuing greatness is our way of ensuring we leave a legacy. But our ordinary-ness isn’t something to be lamented. On the contrary, it should be celebrated. The world–the next generation–doesn’t need more of those figures. What it needs is more ordinary heroes.
Historical figures like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or St. Paul did wonderful things in our world. But to us average Joes, they can feel untouchable. I can never write as eloquently as Paul or be as selfless as Mother Teresa. No matter how hard I try, it’s just not going to happen–I am not called to do what they did. And if I were to spend my life pursuing that instead of embracing my calling to the ordinary, I would end up with a sad, empty story.
Instead, I strive to live my story in the ordinary moments. As Captain Picard once said on Star Trek: Next Generation, “make now always the most precious time.” When we embrace the everyday, we fill in the details of our story. We cover its plainness with rich colors and patterns, transforming it into poetry. Have you ever noticed how detail and carefully woven language can make a poem about something extremely simple one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever read? Living in the small moments does that to our lives.The simpler our story, the greater the opportunity to layer it in beautiful detail.
If we can bring ourselves to embrace the big picture of our calling, however plain we may think it is, then perhaps we can really live up to our desires to leave a legacy. After all, who is more important for us to impact than those in our own sphere of influence? In that case, becoming only a story isn’t a fear-motivator. It’s a rallying cry for living a life of purpose and intention–for soaking in the moments you have and living them deeply.
Live deeply, friends, and write a beautiful story.