Escape the Ordinary


“Escape the Ordinary!” urges the ad for the exotic vacation getaway, and for the fancy hotel.

Certainly I knew I was never destined to be ordinary.

When I was in college, I used to assume that I would be extraordinary. My best friend and I sat over greasy dorm cafeteria food, confidently forecasting our great achievements. I would end corruption as an investigative reporter and then write the “great American novel.” I don’t remember my friend’s dreams – like most college students, I was fairly self-absorbed and my own dreams were the only ones worth taking note of.

But what we both knew with a certainty was that we would never be ordinary. Like all those other college students around us.

No one wants to be ordinary. It’s why “all the children are above average” in Garrison Keillor’s mythical town of Lake Woebegone, formerly on National Public Radio.

But here’s the thing.

Every time I’ve tried to “escape the ordinary” into the amazing, it’s fallen a bit flat. Maybe it’s the pressure on each “escape the ordinary” experience to be so transformative. Oh, the wonders of the world are still wondrous. An island carpeted with slow-moving iguanas in the Galapagos was still wonderful. Renaissance art in sun-drenched Italy still inspiring and beautiful. The hordes of people filling the sidewalks of Shanghai still equal parts appalling and amazing. But, aside from some great vacation photos, they haven’t fundamentally changed who I am; which just may be ordinary.


The things that have changed me, really rocked me to the core? The birth of my daughter, and every milestone thereafter, including the discovery that I would enjoy this young woman even if she weren’t mine. Meeting my husband-to-be and feeling like I already knew him, or at least everything that counts. Marveling at how quickly a stray pup, neglected if not abused, trusts me enough to fall asleep on her back next to me, her legs akimbo.

I am not yet at the age when I’m grateful just to wake up every morning, but, after a long career of speed and stress, I am grateful now when that morning is slow and sleepy and sometimes sexy.

There have been a few times when the slow and the sleepy have been shaken by tragedy – ironically, the kinds that would make a terrific “great American novel.” At those times, the ordinary seems a haven just out of reach.

So, for me, average is okay. For me, maybe the ads should say, “Escape TO the Ordinary.”

Helen Mitternight is a former AP reporter and current freelancer living in downtown Charleston. She headed up public relations for the Humane Society of the...

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