A few weeks ago, I read a New York Times article with an intriguing title: “You’ll Never Be Famous — And That’s O.K.” The author, Emily Esfahani Smith argues that young people desire to become famous and do big things, yet most dreams will not be fulfilled. She says, “The most meaningful lives, I’ve learned, are often not the extraordinary ones. They’re the ordinary ones lived with dignity.”
Smith uses the example of George Eliot’s 700-page-novel, Middlemarch, which focuses on two ambitious characters who want to create epic lives, but those aspirations are eventually dashed away to make her point. In closing, Eliot writes of one of the characters: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Ever since I was young, I wanted to make a lot of money and become famous while doing so. I initially wanted to become an actress, enamored by the glamour and the wealth it may bring. It wasn’t until we did some filming and I had to watch myself and listen to my own voice when those dreams faded away; I didn’t feel comfortable confronting myself on the screen. Even though I did drama productions and found myself comfortable enough to ask questions in assembly and make speeches, those dreams never rose from the concrete again.
On the other hand, I still dream of becoming an author: I started writing poetry in my later elementary school days and started a story, which would later become a novel that has yet to be published. In addition to some poetry publications in school literary magazines, I developed new ideas, still in the nascent stages in sheets of paper and notecards in my room, and wrote short stories for my creative writing class in high school. A persistent flame, it is also paralyzed because I wanted to write what I believed was my best work and would become famous, but if I started writing, I feared that I may be wrong.
So, when I read Smith’s article, I think about the people who live quiet lives and find happiness in myriads of forms—my family members, who work hard to push their children to a brighter future; my friends, who volunteer and research and work so hard on many crafts that I believe they would become famous one day; and other mentors whom I share conversations with. I’m inspired, enlightened, and driven to create more and give something more positive for such a crazy world we live in.
Overall, I liked Smith’s article for its message, but I would like to ask if she had any advice for those who still seek fame and recognition for what they do. My opinion would be that one must continue to refine one’s craft in the little corners of the night. I do not like fame without anything to show for it, but I don’t want to traverse through life as a troubadour for my age, without anybody to listen. Ultimately, I might have to go offline and look around at the people I may have impacted.