You Don't Have to be a Unicorn
"We can't wait to see what Griffin does when she grows up!" And with a single line, cue the pressure.
The above sentence was a common occurrence in my grade school years. Teachers were in awe of my eagerness (read obsessiveness) to learn and my drive to accomplish anything in my path. I was the textbook over-achiever, I always have been, and my interests ranged far and wide. I wanted A+ marks on every paper, the solo in every song, and the leadership position in any group project. My parents didn't make me that way, I made me that way. I didn't need an extra push to be impressive - it was my life goal to be impressive.
I'll go ahead and say that my specific goals don't apply to everyone. Not everyone is born with dreams of the spotlight and a need to be the best at everything. In all honesty, you should probably hope you weren't born with those dreams since they are impossible to fulfill. However, we are all born with a need for significance and the deep desire to be able to define who we are to other people.
My teachers didn't realize it, but they were somewhat feeding my perfectionism with remarks like the one above. What will Griffin do with her life? My awkward middle school self had no idea, but the question made me feel that I needed to have a darn good (and impressive) answer.
My husband is also an over achiever, but thankfully his title stems from his accomplishments, rather than an obsessive attitude (that's my territory). He was recently in a meeting with an older executive who said to him, "I feel like I'm sitting here with a unicorn." He was stating that Ross (husband) was one of a kind, the person who made the big things happen, the star. If you know Ross, well...that's pretty accurate. However, a statement like that is truly a pressure-filled compliment. It can bolster your confidence, but it also sets a standard. Between the lines, phrases like this say, "I expect something of you. I have high hopes. Impress me."
Maybe you don't feel like people are speaking their standards over you, but you feel pressure, nonetheless. Social media makes you suck in before you post that bathing suit picture. Other parents' posts about their children make you up the ante on your own. Your 10 year reunion has you hitting the gym every day.
After all, if you don't have a good answer to the "what are you doing with your life" question, are you doing anything of substance at all?
It's taken me years to learn, but hear me when I say yes. Yes, you are. I've always wanted the impressive answer to give to other people and to myself. What do you want to be, Griffin? For years I said "Broadway!" without a shadow of a doubt. When that dream died, I knew I needed a bigger and better one to put in its place. Here's the problem: what if the dream God is calling you to isn't "big" by the world's standards at all? What if it's a minor role, side-stage, assisting? What if it's not impressive and doesn't raise eyebrows? Is it still worthy of being a dream?
Absolutely. You don't have to be a unicorn. Not everyone is meant to be a unicorn, and it's my personal belief that even the unicorns need to retire their horns and become horses now and again. There's always a trade off.
Right now, I can give the world answers that they may deem impressive, but my relationships were often richer in seasons when I was doing less. It's not that busyness and relationships are always correlated, but they are definitely connected. Having big dreams is wonderful, but we need to reshape our expectations to realize that we aren't all called to do big things all the time. If my call at some point in my life is to invest in people differently, to serve in a smaller way, to have a more "boring" role, I need to be equally proud of those calls. In the same way, we need to be equally impressed with other people who are living out God's call on their life, regardless of their title, pay, or possessions.
I believe it's necessary to have dreams and chase after them, but they can be as big or as small as you want them to be. Just have them, own them, and be proud of your answer.