by Nina Hufman
In our world of competitive capitalism, natural disasters and general man-made atrocities, it is normal to set huge, unattainable goals for ourselves. From the time we are children we are told that, in order to matter, we have to do something important with our lives. We have to save people, make a ton of money, win awards, change the world and be the best at whatever we do. Well I’ve won the awards, I’ve been the best, I’ve believed I can change the world – I was incredibly unhappy.
When I was in high school I got perfect grades, I played varsity sports and I was not only involved in extracurricular activities, I was in charge of them. Everyone around me praised me for how smart I was, how much potential I had, how far I would go in life. I was so caught up in being perfect and so incredibly scared to fail. I believed all of my value came from academic performance and extracurricular involvement. I believed that if I wasn’t incredible, amazing and perfect, then I wasn’t anything.
Fuck that. Fuck being perfect. Fuck being amazing. I have no desire to win a Nobel Peace Prize, to run the New York Times, to be rich (well maybe just a little), or famous or to save the world. I’m just a girl who loves writing feature articles about the quirky town she lives in. I don’t want to report from an active war zone in a foreign country, I’ll write my pieces from my nice cozy bed. I don’t want to expose political scandals, I want to write about the North Country Fair, the Medieval Festival of Courage, local art galleries and students on campus who choose to go braless.
For so long, I believed that to be important was to be valuable, and to be incredible was to matter. It has taken me a long time to realize that I still matter, I am still significant, even if I don’t achieve something amazing. I matter when I write an article about a great new business that gets them a lot of customers. I matter when I write about sexual health resources for students. I matter when I give a voice to people in my community. These examples pertaining to my career are actually the least significant ways in which I matter.
I matter to my dad when I call him to tell him about my latest bench press PR and show him a new band that I like. I matter to my mom when I hold her hand while we walk around the grocery store. I matter to my boyfriend when I get up and make him breakfast before he goes to work or send him a song that I think he will like. I matter to my cat when I give her treats and scratch her on the chin; I might not be able to save the world, but I saved her from living in the street and I think that’s just as valuable. I can’t solve homelessness, but I can buy a hot cup of coffee for an unhoused person on a cold day. I can’t solve the climate crisis, but I can carry reusable utensils and recycle as much as I can.
The small things are significant, and they bring me more joy than big achievements ever did. My connection to my family, friends and community is what makes me significant, not my big achievements. I’m not going to live my life to change the world. I’m going to live to help who I can and enjoy it. I like my small, unimportant life and I would like it to stay small and unimportant.
When I was in 7th grade, I played Rebecca Gibbs in my school’s production of “Our Town.” I had this line that people told me was really powerful. I don’t really think I understood it until recently.
Rebecca: I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: ‘Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America.’
George: What’s funny about that?
Rebecca: But listen, it’s not finished: the United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God–that’s what it said on the envelope.
George: What do you know!
Rebecca: And the postman brought it just the same.