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Noura Selmi is a published writer and a translator from Gaza.

“This world is not for ordinary people; it is for those who think outside the box”. Thinking about this sentence made me feel blue for three days, and I still feel that I don’t fit into this society. Nothing works for me, and no one is there to at least show me what to do. Human development trainers always call for self-growth, thinking outside the box, and that this world needs more special people. They emphasize that we can’t grow if we live in our comfort zone; that we should defy the impossible to get to our goals is a must. But what if I am comfortable in my own space? What if I don’t want to defy the impossible and all I want is to achieve my goals peacefully? Why should I compete fiercely with others to achieve my aims? Society nowadays imposes this way of thinking on us, which is that if we don’t develop ourselves, we will never grow or achieve our ultimate goals.

But what are these ultimate goals? Does society define our dreams and needs? Why should we listen to what other people need? Can’t we just achieve simple goals as long as they satisfy us?

Society sees ordinary people as if they have no purpose and all they want is to live a peaceful life. Well, guess what? All people want to live peacefully, no matter what they are doing in their lives. The problem is that today’s world is competitive, and all you can do is unwillingly compete.

Ordinary life is not as human development trainers portray. It is not imprisoning oneself in a bubble of routine. No, it is the opposite. You can be an ordinary and creative person at the same time. We can do it and achieve our dreams, but not in a harsh, competitive way. Why does society impose its standards on us? Do I have to wake up every morning and all I am thinking about is how to fight with my partners and get ahead of them? I can be a normal person with a mind full of brilliant ideas. I can quietly perform my job. I can achieve my dreams slowly without falling into the “time passes quickly” trap. Every person has a specific rhythm and they perform according to it. Ordinary life doesn’t mean laziness. In the COVID quarantine, some people mocked others for not taking advantage of the spare time they were given. For example, there were a lot of free courses that a person could attend online. I attended one of them. But later on, I was exhausted and depressed because I was forcing myself to take courses just to not waste my time. Can’t this quarantine just be a free time of doing nothing and enjoying life as it is? The stress of COVID itself is already tiring, so why tell people what to do in their free time? Being special doesn’t have to be in the way that society defines it.

The only one I want to compete with is myself. I am studying writing at one of the best universities in my city. This means that I am competing with a lot of excellent students. I go every day and work slowly at my desk without making any noise. But if you see things from my point of view, you will see students who are fighting to be the best. Again, this is not wrong. But sometimes they use mean ways to achieve what they want. And I am not exaggerating when I say that this affects my personality and my psychology. I feel a toxic atmosphere whenever I enter the study room. Being normal removes the pressure and helps you achieve your goal without overthinking. You don’t have to wake up in the morning while your brain is still processing and thinking about how to be the best. I don’t want to fall into the “I am the best” trap. I want to be myself. I want to work hard at my own pace. Of course, I want to be special, but not in society’s style.

Some weeks ago, I won a writing contest and it was paid for. Some of my colleagues accused me of being mean. They wanted me to share everything I do with them, but they never wanted to help me with anything. I did share every step with them. They knew that I was working on an article, but they did not expect that I would succeed. I told them that I don’t want to work under pressure or criticism, and my goal is not to compete with any of you. Later on, I discovered that three of them won in another writing contest, and they didn’t tell anyone. At this point, I understood that they didn’t want anyone to be better than them. They believe that if they shared their progress with us, we would envy them. They poison the class with their unjustified competition.

I am not saying that human development trainers are a bad example. Far from it. But sometimes they exaggerate and give us false energy. Whenever I listen to one of them, I get excited about it for a bit, but then it all vanishes into the air. They want us to work harder and conquer our problems, but they never tell us how. They want us to figure out the solution ourselves, and this is excellent, but not in the way they show. Sometimes you lose your energy while resolving your problems; you forget your goal. Later, you won’t have enough energy to enjoy what you fought for. They don’t take into consideration any circumstances a person is going through. In some cases, all we need is peace and a little bit of, ‘It’s okay, you did your job." You don’t have to be the best’ kind of motto.

Today’s world is all about running. A person wakes up, runs to get a cup of coffee, runs to work, runs to deliver the job on time, runs to catch the car, and runs to bed early to return to the same job the next day. So, well, it is good to think outside the box and live life, but should we want to live under such pressure? Some people do, they choose this life, and that is fine. Some don’t, and that is fine too. You can live what you choose, but you can’t force other people to live your choices. Let people be. Why label them? If someone wants to live like a normal person without any plans, it is okay. People should not judge you and label such people as passionless. You can be ordinary and still have a lot of amazing ideas to develop the world. You can live calmly and stand away from the noise at the same time.