Friday, May 21, 2010

You shall be ordinary

When I was younger, I loved M. M. Kaye's lovely children's story, The Ordinary Princess. In it, one of the fairy-godmothers arrives late (and cranky) to the christening of the seventh daughter of the king (Amethyst, who later goes by Amy). The fairy looks over the impressive list of virtues that the child has already been endowed with, snorts, and says, "I'm going to give you something that will make you happier than all these fal-lals and fripperies put together. You shall be ordinary."(Or she says something like that--I don't have my copy at hand to check). And so Amy becomes ordinary--her lovely golden curls turn straight and mousy, her nose turns up, and her cheeks are dusted with freckles. But because she is ordinary, she learns how to have an adventurous life that ends up unexpectedly rewarding.

I laughed at the story, enjoyed the romance, and secretly felt rather smug. You see, I wasn't ordinary. Or so I thought. In high school, even in college (and on rare occasions, in graduate school) I had been told that I was smart. Articulate. (I once had a complete stranger stop me and marvel at how clearly I enunciated. It was a strange experience). And a good writer. Somehow, this combination of abilities made me feel as if I was an unusual quantity.

Sure, I knew I wasn't unique. There were lots of people who were smarter, more articulate, better writers. But I still thought I was special.

But recently I've made a disconcerting discovery. Because I'm still new enough to my community to not know lots of people, I've been spending a little more time in online communities (mostly places like Segullah and the Mormon Women Project). And maybe because these efforts tend to concentrate smart, articulate women who are also good writers, my perceptions may be a little skewed. But I've discovered that there are actually lots of Mormon women who share my favorite triumvirate of characteristics. And I mean LOTS. I always knew they were out there--I've met my share of them at school and in various wards. But I didn't realize there were so many of them. And while I realize that this is a good thing for the church, it's also kind of a sad thing for me.

It means that really I'm pretty ordinary; there's nothing particularly unusual about me or my abilities.

Even this blog, which I started as a place to solidify thinking that would otherwise stay sort of amorphous, isn't particularly deep, particularly profound, or particularly well-written. I won't be winning any literary awards with it.



All of this is humbling for me (always a good thing), but I'm still going to keep writing. I'm still going to think. And I'm still going to be articulate as I can be. I write because I enjoy it, because it makes me feel as though I and my life matter a little bit more. And I think because I can't help it. Even if I am more ordinary than not, I still have things to say, things to contribute, even if the scope is smaller than I may have once wished. (After all, my gifts are still gifts--if I was given two talents instead of five, that's still no excuse for squandering them.)

Besides, there are worse fates than being ordinary.


  1. The internet and LDS womens' blogs have also left me astonished at how many really incredible writers there are out there. I agree it is humbling to see their really remarkable talent. I've also been impressed with how many "go getters" there are, willing to really make things happen. I mean, how awesome is Neylan for starting the Mormon Womens' Project? I sometimes wish I were more ilke that.

  2. mousy hair- check
    funny nose- check
    freckles- check

    Here's to being ordinary!

    loved that book. loved that post. (apparently also love typing without caps...) :)