Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Exceptional Life: It Isn't About Being an Exception

Trent over at the Simple Dollar just had a post called The Myth of the Exceptional Life.

It is not unusual for me to disagree with Trent; although I enjoy the site, he does sometimes have opinions I disagree with--often not about finances but general philosophy and outlook.

I found this post interesting for two reasons: 1. He implies that an exceptional life is about being an exception and that 2. Exceptional life means comparing yourself to others (which seems to be about material goods).

I disagree with both of these ideas. I don't believe that living an exceptional life means that few have it. Sure, the word "Exceptional" comes from "Exception" but I don't know that it necessarily excludes the majority of people. I am not sure where the idea that if you could live a great life (one that is better than what you might have led) it excludes other people from doing so to comes from --rather than the idea that it excludes that lesser life you could have led. It is not a Zero Sum game. I believe everyone could lead an exceptional life (under the right circumstances--but each would look different than the next).

I also don't believe that the exceptional life necessitates people comparing themselves to others or being drawn to material goals. Trent, in his youth, was obsessed with keeping up with the Jones--doing as many people do and seeking to impress through spending. He now counsels against this, which is great, but he also tends to associate everything with that mindset.

Maybe because I am older than him (I believe) I see things differently. My exceptional life was never about other people, although some people like Trent would see it that way since it partly involves material things. My exceptional life is partly about my collections and about the home I desire. However, collections don't have to be about comparing to others but about the inner joy that I gain through my interests. I am a book collector; I love books. I love reading books and being surrounded by books. I have books that you just can't walk into a library and find. I have beautiful and scarce books. For me the physical object of the book is important and I am the curator for a future generation, caring for this edition of the book for the future. This brings great joy to me but it is not about materialism the way his gadgets, clothes or car might have been. It is part of how I view myself.

I am spending this year seeking ways to gain my exceptional life. It is not a myth. It is not about being an exception to others (as if only some people can gain the best life they can) nor is it about comparing myself to others. It is about recognizing what I want for my future and figuring out how to get there. This is partly trying to find a job which is not just a paycheck but is a calling and partly about getting myself organized and content with my life. The contentment will come as I get in touch with who I really am, now that I am almost 42.

I have found that who I am changes over time and somewhere while I was getting my degree, I lost track of who I am and what makes me happy. I also lost the ability to pursue the goals I say I want (like writing my novel). I am still working on gaining that back. When I do, I think my exceptional life will come.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please be kind in your comments.