My grandfather was born in Karachi, way back when it was still part of India. Sometime in his late twenties through early thirties, Partition happened and he had to get himself and his ten remaining siblings (he was the second oldest but his older brother died in his early twenties) into India, where it was safe for Hindu families. He won’t tell me how he managed that, nor when. So sometime between his childhood and his young adulthood, he moved his entire family to Western India. Not an easy task in the 1930s.
My dad came to the States with two suitcases and seven hundred borrowed dollars, following my mother who had done the same shortly before. The two of them got married, started graduate school, had me, graduated, started medial school, had my brother, and finished medical school, thousands of miles from their families. My dad grew up the youngest of four in India, and managed to get into school here in the States all by himself. My mom was the perfect student. The only B she EVER got was in a fifth grade art class. She’s brilliant.
My brother has never gotten a B. His worst grade was an A-. In Advanced Placement Calculus. A class I quit. He’s a section leader of the marching band’s drum line, debate team captain, Eagle Scout, volunteers at a therapeutic riding center, and is in contention for a full scholarship to study Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech.
And then there’s me. I graduated from high school with enough AP credit to be one semester ahead in college, but my grades weren’t good enough for a scholarship. I majored in something utterly useless without a doctoral degree (Criminology), and though I graduated in three years instead of four, my GPA was a 2.38, and I got into mediocre law schools. And then I got dismissed from a mediocre law school.
I’ve never faced any amount of adversity, nor have I gone and done anything remarkable. Sure, my parents got divorced when I was eight, but so did half of my friends’ parents. One of my friends went to paint houses for war refugees in Morocco the same spring break I went to Disney World. I’ve never volunteered for anything great. I babysit. And get paid. I never got a great internship working for a politician in DC the summer after I graduated. I worked worked for my cousin at his consulting firm, and answered the phone while fiddling with my phone most of the day.
I am not a remarkable person. And the push to be incredible is killing me. Everything my friends and I considered in college was met with the unspoken question “Will this look good on my resume?” My resume is a page and a half long. I haven’t done anything except babysit and go to school. And now I’m stuck. When law schools and potential employers ask what sets me apart, I don’t know what to say. I’m normal. I’m not one of those super driven people who bounces from internship to internship doing awesome things like teaching English in Jordan or studying abroad in Germany. I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and I’m being told that I have to be awesome. Kids my age are starting multi-million dollar businesses. They’re getting married and starting families, or fighting insurmountable odds to be the best person they can possibly be. And I’m writing a blog.
But the thing is, no one is extraordinary. It’s an impossible goal. While everyone’s doing these amazing things to pad their resumes, it’s becoming normal. Spending a year in the Middle East teaching English in a refugee camp just doesn’t cut it anymore. Someone else has done something better. The push to be extraordinary is killing actually being extraordinary.
And I am not extraordinary.