Choosing to live what some people might consider a boring life of family and responsibility is full of rewards, writers Michael Kelley, author of Boring.
Once upon a time, there was an ordinary man. Every day, his alarm clock went off. On good days, he would reach over, turn off the alarm, get up and go to the gym. On the other days, he would hit the snooze button. Upon returning from the YMCA (or waking up after another hour), this man would take a shower and put on a collared shirt and khaki pants.
He would then hear the scurrying of little feet upstairs, and would trace the sound until it eventually made its way down the stairs revealing three young children hungry for breakfast. The man and his wife would go upstairs and get out bowls, milk and cereal.
The family would eat, then clean up the dishes. Then he would get in his car and begin the commute to work. When he got to work, just when he thought this was going to be an ordinary day in his ordinary life . . .
It was. He spent the next eight hours sitting in front of his computer. Answering e-mails. Taking phone calls. Checking a news website occasionally. Then he got in his car and went home. When he pulled in, sure that he knew exactly what was going to happen when he opened the back door . . .
What did you expect? International intrigue? A call from the president? A natural disaster, or a chance to be a hero? Not here. Not in that day. Not in my life.
This is what most of my days look like. Oh sure, there is the occasional interruption in the routine and some vacations peppered in there, but by and large, it’s a fairly regular way to live. A fairly regular way to live for a fairly regular guy.
Most of us are just that—regular. Ordinary. Boring. Most of our lives are spent doing regular, ordinary, boring kinds of things. Changing diapers. Going to work. Reading books. Playing with kids. Relating to our spouses. Paying bills.
I’ve never met a president. Or saved a child from a burning building. Or climbed Everest. I don’t run in powerful circles or tweet nuggets of wisdom adored by millions. My office walls don’t have pictures with me and the Queen of England or medals from my wins at the Olympic Games. Perhaps if I were an international man of mystery, I’d look over and see a picture of me standing next to a world leader at that ceremony when I was awarded some token for my bravery. Then I could turn and see another wall full of mementos and trinkets collected from my adventures. Instead I’m looking at four family pictures, a calendar, and a particularly fierce-looking rendering of a black and yellow fire- breathing dragon laying waste to a castle.
It’s on those days – those entirely regular days – when I’m tempted sometimes to do the very thing that characterizes men in our society today: Escape. Find something new. Pursue something exiting. Abandon the rut and go after the dream. But I want to propose to you that living this kind of boring life isn’t something to escape from—it’s something to embrace and live inside. In fact, I can think of at least four reasons why being the boring guy isn’t such a bad thing.
1. Boring guys value responsibility over excitement.
In a culture obsessed with being entertained, “responsibility” is a dirty word. It’s a mark of the mundane to do things like pay your taxes and bills on time. But you don’t have to look very far to see some of the ill effects of this excitement obsession. Homes are plagued with fatherlessness. Financial debt is crippling the majority of households. Young men are refusing to advance into adulthood because they’d rather spend time playing Playstation than interviewing for jobs.
So many of these issues could be helped if a few guys would choose to be a little more boring and begin to embrace responsibility rather than running from it.
2. Boring guys find meaning inside the ordinary not beyond it.
One of the reasons why so many men feel the need to escape what they see as the prison of the mundane is because they fail to find meaning inside their everyday lives. Marriage, work, parenting, friendships – these things have lost their wonder if they ever even had any. In other words, the male escape artist lives for an insatiable need for satisfaction, and leaves a trail of brokenness in his wake.
The great irony of that kind of life is that while we attempt to escape from these seemingly constraining responsibilities, we fail to see the significance inside them. Consider for a moment the great meaning in the simple act of sacrificing your desires for the sake of your wife. Or think about the impact of actually taking time to throw a ball with your son or listen to your daughter explain the ins and outs of her day. If meaning is what we are searching for, then search no more. It’s right in front of us.
3. Boring guys create stability for their families.
Say what you will about the guy who gets up, goes to work, and comes home every single day, but whatever it is, it’s probably different than what that man’s family would say. When the world looks at a man and sees someone stuck in the grind, a wife and kids looks at the same man and sees safety. Security. Stability.
In fact, I believe there is something intrinsically noble about a man willing to do the same thing every day, especially when he does it with the conscious knowledge that in so doing he is creating an environment where those around him can flourish. What happens to a wife and children when they don’t know what kind of man they live with? They aren’t free to develop in their own selves and become the people they were intended to be because they’re too busy worried about whether or not their house is going to be foreclosed on.
4. Boring guys find margin where adventure is rightly appreciated.
Funny thing about adventure is that when it happens all the time it ceases to be adventure any more. Instead, what you find is an ever-increasing need to do something else. That is, until the “else” becomes another something “else.” The cycle never ends.
But the boring guy has the ability to truly appreciate what adventure really is. In other words, he can enjoy something without finding his fulfillment in it, and those are two very different things. One is about freedom; the other is about slavery. If that’s true, then the boring life of responsibility isn’t about being enslaved to a system or a schedule; it’s about choosing to live inside that schedule, and that ability to choose makes all the difference.
The world is looking for a few good men. Men of action. Men of responsibility. Men of diligence. It might not be glamorous, but then again the real work of life rarely is.
—photo by bark/Flickr