When Did Ordinary Become a Bad Word? Asking for a Purposeless Millennial Friend Caught in Legacy Limbo.

Last year, I helped co-found a nonprofit. Through the creation of the project I had started to identify as an empowered + privileged feminist who was gifting necessary tools to “underprivileged” women, tools that would not only help them survive but THRIVE (sounds white savior-ish, I know..SMH.) But I imagine this is what it feels like to give birth. In a fit of love or passion, you create something (or someone) that you not only hope survives your rearing but who can also contribute positively to society. Not only that but you’re leaving a legacy!

While giving birth to this project, I began to have a lot of empathy for mothers. Not only was I lacking sleep, “me” time, and emotional stability but for the first time in my life perhaps — my intention and focus was on something greater than myself. And for a while it was going well — partners were rolling in, sponsors were donating goods, and feminist ears were perking all over Berlin as the project began making more noise in the space. Behind the scenes, however, things were unraveling at the seams, causing me stress and many sleepless nights. After a dark night of the soul (and eerily about 9 months after first beginning the project) I made the painstaking decision to give up my “baby” for adoption.

While this decision brought me instant relief, I quickly spiraled into one of the lowest points of my life. Not only had I thought I landed on my “purpose” but after making a career helping others build their brands, gain followers, and spread their ideas and insights, I was FINALLY doing the same. I was stepping out from behind the curtain and creating the world I wanted to live in. It was hard work (especially when you aren’t getting compensated monetarily for your time) but… it was work…with meaning. And also ironically extremely de-meaning. So much so that I no longer felt good about slinging empowerment when I was the furthest from it myself.

So where am I now? Well, things are going seemingly well. I am working with the same clients I have worked with for many years, clients that respect my input, pay me on time, trust me, and give me the autonomy to operate on my own wavelength. One client is transforming the addiction treatment industry, another client is making breath work more accessible, another is empowering change leaders, and another is showcasing the importance of servant leadership. I work with some DAMN amazing humans spreading hope and positivity. But I didn’t always feel that way about my freelance work. In fact, living through my dark night of the soul, I realized that I have a LOT more to be grateful for than I realized.

I don’t have to go into a traditional 9–5 job which means I can travel and set up my workdays as I see fit. Sometimes I work long hours and sometimes I take naps in the park. It’s glorious. But not having a job dictate my every waking moment isn’t just one sweet ass cakewalk. It comes with some dire consequences too — like feeling pressured to make every moment of your life meaningful. To feel overwhelmed by all the options and therefore find yourself overcommitting and underdelivering. The inability to make choices without feeling FOMO or overanalyzing the pros and cons until you’ve missed the opportunity altogether. This brings me to a decision I have been mulling over for a few years now, the decision to not have kids.

I now have two friends in my close circle (both Cancers, just saying) who have taken the plunge and decided to become mothers. I am 34, so statistically, that number is quite low. I mean it’s not like I have a lot of friends, but still. One of those friends is still preggo. She’s an American ex-pat living in Tel Aviv with her Israeli husband. They are both long and lean with olive skin and they met while doing their post-grad at Oxford, so like that baby is still cooking but already pretty much set for life. And then there’s my other friend, a French ex-pat living in Berlin with her Italian-German boyfriend. They fall more on the hippie side of the spectrum (they put crystals in their drinking water and use natural DO) but are not completely off the deep end (they still bathe and pay taxes). My French friend was even riding her bike and having frequent friend hangouts up until the last few days of her pregnancy. I told her she was my hero, showing me that there was another way to create life that wasn’t on the suburban spectrum of things.

As excited as I am to watch my friends blossom into their mom role, mostly because these women also embody values that are so much a part of me (and some of my reasons for NOT having kids) — they both love to explore the world, have jobs that give them more time than money, and are empathetic and open-minded — I am also worried about the next iteration of our friendship.

  • What will their post-pregnancy values be?
  • Will their worlds become laser-focused on their small yet growing family?
  • Will they have less time for nurturing friendships because they have to keep a human alive?
  • Will they give up on their dreams because there just aren’t enough hours in the day?
  • Will they begin to see the world around them as a threat thus developing a family-centric attitude where it’s their crew against everyone else?
  • And even more important, will we somehow drift apart if I don’t share their same family-centric values? What if I never have a kid? What if I never found another company? What if I freelance the rest of my life, helping others build their brands and make an impact but I never do so myself? What if I spend my money on trips around the world instead of knickknacks, collecting experiences instead of dust?

In other words — I’m a 30 something woman trying to find meaning in her life aside from 1. building a giant company 2. getting filthy rich or 3. raising a family. Is it possible?

Is it enough to just float through life, assisting others in creating life-altering concepts and/or carving out their own inflated identities to soothe some inert desire to be famous or at least remembered? What happens if you’re in legacy limbo- caught between wanting to share your insights and experience with as many people as possible and wanting to remain invisible, quietly enjoying the small joys of being human?

I often find myself teetering between two worlds, judging those with earth-shattering egos who have the audacity to shoot themselves into space, and secretly wishing I had the audacity to do the same. Just the thought of sharing my beliefs and values on a grander scale terrifies me.

Here are some reasons why sharing my insights terrifies me…

I don’t want to say something and then regret it in 5 years when I have received new soul-expanding information. I’d rather cancel myself before anyone else can.

I don’t want to take up any more space in a world that has been created and then destroyed by whyte people when there are other more marginalized groups with far deeper insights.

I don’t want to become a brand, create a platform and build an audience that I can spoon feed information to -with the hopes of *maybe* selling them an online course and ethically made sweatshirt once I’ve sucked them into my vortex.

Who are these people that wake up every morning believing that they honestly have something more impactful, more important, more special to say than anyone who came before them? What brand of mushroom coffee are they sipping on? And more importantly — where can I get some?

That being said, no matter how strongly I feel about remaining an ordinary nobody, a quiet soul who impacts her immediate circle through presence and patience, I still feel this inner longing to be seen, to be heard, to be validated by those walking a similar journey albeit a few steps behind. And thus comes my dilemma — to kid or not to kid? To scale up my business or mind my business? To step out into the world and find a pack with similar values or remain a lone wolf?

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Nicole Paulus

Nicole Paulus

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Squarespace website designer and writer in Berlin. Helping Conscious Business Owners navigate the Squarespace platform and gain clarity around their content.