We do not all have to shine. I came across this phrase in a wonderful article by David Brooks in the New York Times. Those six words resonated with me because they neatly encapsulated how I have recently been feeling about my own life. A life most certainly defined as ‘little’ and perhaps even ‘inconsequential’ by today’s culture of high achievement.
We do not all have to shine. If shining means success and success means achieving something tangible and significant, making loads of money and perhaps even attaining fame then I undoubtedly do not shine.
When I was eight years old, I remember secretly wishing I could be a house-wife (as was the term then) like my mum when I grew up. I never shared this ambition with anyone because it would have been frowned upon. I was told I must study hard, forge a successful career, earn a fortune and do something great. To those ends, I tried. I did well at school and went on to gain a degree, masters and professional qualification in a field that would enable me to ‘shine’. The ironic thing is none of it made me as happy as staying home with my children now does.
In my little life, I enjoy walking to the park with my toddler son almost every day and chatting about Spiderman. I’ve always been a home bird; this is what makes me happy – I even enjoy housework. I have been mocked for admitting all this is the past, but it is my truth and I shouldn’t have to hide it.
Granted, my life is not for everyone. I understand this and am grateful for the magnificent gift feminism has bequeathed on women – the right to choose. This is my choice at the moment. My desires may change and I will no doubt mould my life around them when they do.
Last week I finally started writing my book, something I have been meaning to do for years. If it’s never published and no one ever reads it I honestly won’t care. I’m just happy that, after years of procrastination, I’ve finished the first chapter. The mere process of scribbling each word on the page brings me profound joy. It may never turn into anything ‘huge’ and I guess by today’s standards that will mean I’ve failed as an author. So be it.
We do not all have to shine. While I don’t shine in the way this phrase is intended to be understood (i.e. I don’t have a high-powered career, I haven’t invented or created something amazing and I don’t have fame or fortune), I do shine within my little life. I shine like the brightest star within my home and for the people I love. When I leave this world behind, my funeral may not be packed to the rafters and the event will not be reported in newspapers. That’s ok with me; I have hopefully touched enough people to leave some kind of legacy.
If I adhered to all the advice I’ve read in articles over the past 24 hours on ‘how to be successful’, I would need to wake up at 5am each day, do yoga, meditate, read one book per week, sleep on my left side and leave my comfort zone on an hourly basis. What I don’t think any of these articles understand is that success equals happiness. Whoever you are and whatever you do, if it makes you happy then you are a success (and if you are happy doing all the things listed above then good for you and keep it up). You don’t need to justify your choices, your job or your lifestyle to anyone.
We do not all have to shine. This phrase both comforted me and annoyed me in equal measures when I first read it. I would have to amend it slightly to this: We can all shine. But we do not all have to shine in the way society dictates to us we should.