Thought | You’re Not Famous — And that’s okay

Today’s college students want to change the world, but many people think that it is necessary to live an important life to do something amazing and look like being on Instagram. fame, start a successful company or solve a human problem.

Having idealistic thoughts is, of course, part of being young. But thanks to social media, purpose and meaning are combined with beauty: Amazing lives are commonplace on the internet. But the idea that a serious life is necessary or wonderful is not only elitist but misguided. Over the past five years, I have interviewed many people around the country about the meaning of their lives, and I have read through thousands of pages of psychology, philosophy and with neuroscience research to understand what really makes people happy.

Important lives, I’ve learned, are often not extraordinary ones. They were the common people who lived with dignity.

There is perhaps no better expression of that wisdom than George Eliot’s “Middlemarch,” a book I recommend all students read. At 700-some pages, it takes persistence and study, which is the point. Like any serious life, finishing this book is difficult and requires effort. The novel’s heroine is Dorothea Brooke, a wealthy young woman in a provincial English town. Dorothea has a strong personality and is passionate about doing good in the world as a philanthropist. The hero of the story, Tertius Lydgate, is an ambitious young doctor who hopes to make important scientific discoveries. Both hope to lead epic lives.

Dorothea and Tertius end up in unhappy marriages – he to the vicar Mr. Casaubon, which is the beauty of the city of Rosamond. Slowly, their dreams dried up. Rosamond, who has become vain and vulgar, wants Tertius to find a rich business to support his sweet tastes, and at the end of the story, he agrees, and abandons his scientific pursuits. become a doctor for the rich. Although generally “successful”, he died at 50 believing himself to be a failure for not following his original life plan.

For Dorothea, after the death of the Reverend Casaubon, she married her true love, Will Ladislaw. But his big wishes were not fulfilled. At first, he seemed to have exhausted his potential.

Unfortunately for Tertius, he does not reconcile himself to his modesty. Dorothea’s success is her work.

At the end of the novel, she lives life as a wife and mother, and Eliot becomes a writer, the “creation of nothing.” It may be painful for the reader, but not for Dorothea. She devoted herself to her responsibilities as a mother and wife with “the good deed that she did not have the dubious pains of discovery and exploration for herself.”

Looking out of his window one day, he saw a family walking down the street and realized that it was also “a piece of lifeless, palpitating, and unable to he looks at her from his beautiful palace as a mere spectator. , and does not hide his eyes from self-accusation. That is, he begins to live now. Before falling in the hope of dreams that have been sealed, he embraces his life as it is and gives to those around him as much as he can.

These are Eliot’s last words in Dorothea: “His full form, like that river which Cyrus broke in strength, he became in streams of no great name in the world. But the effect of his presence on those who surround him, cannot be compared: because the growth of the good of the world depends on unconventional activities; and things are not so good for you and me as for half of the people who have lived a secret life, and rest in unknown graves.

It’s one of the most beautiful verses in literature, and it encapsulates what life is all about: connecting and giving to something outside of oneself, no matter how low.

Most young people fail to achieve the ideal goals they set for themselves. They are not going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. They don’t get obituaries to run in newspapers like this. But that doesn’t mean their lives lack meaning and value. We have a circle of people that we can touch and improve their lives – and we can see how we feel about that.

A new and growing type of research in the mind about the idea to prove the wisdom of Eliot’s novel – that idea is not found in success and beauty but in the world. A research study has shown that teenagers who do housework are more motivated. Why? Researchers believe it’s because they’re contributing to something bigger: their family. A study found that making a friend happy is an activity that creates meaning in a young person’s life. People who see their work as an opportunity to serve their community find more meaning in their work, whether it’s an accountant helping a client or a construction worker. supporting his family with a salary.

As students head off to school this year, they should keep this in mind: You don’t have to change the world or find your true purpose to lead a meaningful life. A good life is a life of goodness – and that’s something everyone wants, no matter what their dreams or circumstances.

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