I don’t want to become mediocre

Post written by Orsolya Hernold

I was always fascinated by the lives of famous people. I read biographies, watched movies of successes, great inventions, death-defying expeditions. Based on these stories I imagined a life for myself of success, grandiose accomplishments, being the person to start something unique.

I’m from a small town in Hungary, with a driver dad and an administrator mom, first in my family to graduate from university. We lived in an apartment building, I shared my room with my sister. We didn’t go on holidays, or go out to eat. My family lived a modest middle-class life without glamor or extraordinary, a rather mediocre lifestyle. Yeah, my life didn’t exactly determine me for this imagined future. Against all odds, I was attached to this notion of becoming somebody important.

At the age of 19, I started to work for a peace NGO (Service Civil International) that organized voluntary community projects in Hungary with international volunteers and sent Hungarian volunteers to international projects. Their mission is:

“SCI believes that living and working together with people of different backgrounds helps volunteers to break down barriers and prejudices. It allows them to experience a world of mutual respect and understanding. In this sense, volunteering can be seen as a way of life, a demonstration of the possible reality of a peaceful and cooperative world.”

Yes, I made it, I was somebody important, the Hungarian representative of an international peace organization. Changing the world with volunteering and promoting peace–the place for me!

After two years of engagement–meanwhile being a project leader 3 times in Hungary and volunteering in Turkey, Slovenia, and Germany–I discovered a new notion in my university studies of economics: sustainable development. So I dumped peace and poured my enthusiasm into my newly found ideal (besides idealism probably some pragmatism was having its say here, as development was more connected to my studies). I applied to be part of a global network of young business leaders working for the sustainable development of the world. How does that sound?

The project of establishing this network contained a 6-month international traineeship that I spent in Liberia. I conducted a research here about sustainable development: I interviewed 60 organizations, organized a workshop about the possible development routes for Liberia and pieced my findings together in a report nobody read. I didn’t change the world, not even Liberia, with my stay, but it shaped me in a profound way and shifted my attention from global to local.

I concluded (my analysis is too long to include here) that education was the key in development, so I immersed myself in alternative schools, criticism of today’s educational model, and initiated a project with students and teachers to found an interdisciplinary college. The college would have supplemented higher education with providing a practical experience where students from different educational backgrounds were working together in teams in a community. The project faded away due to lack of funding.

My enthusiasm was so overwhelming that I got a part-time job as a project leader in an educational model program (with no specific experience whatsoever). I was working with primary school teachers to create a model for regional education that could have been introduced to other regions of Hungary later on. I had the possibility of influencing a reform of the Hungarian educational system, well, the place to be for me, doing something important locally. After two years, the government stopped funding the program.

Meanwhile, I graduated.

I needed a job and there were no ads starting ‘Looking for somebody eager to change the world…’.

I started to work in HR, my major I chose at the university.

I bought a small apartment in Budapest downtown.

Then I fell in love. We moved together and bought a car.

Then my children were born. We moved to a bigger apartment.

I was at home with my kids for three years. I did laundry (from sustainable development I kept washable diapers), cleaning (with green products), cooking (vegetarian), my educational endeavors were down to speaking monosyllabic words to kids, and I tried to be at peace with poop-themed conversations with other moms at the playground.

I went back to work, the ads didn’t change over the years.

I worked in HR, now I work as a trainer. We rent an apartment downtown, have the same car. I do the laundry and the cooking, drive kids to ballet and swimming, read bedtime stories now with full sentences.

My life became mediocre. A slap in the face. I was to write I am accepting this, but honestly, I miss peace, sustainable development, and educational reforms. So I write, and hope to inspire you to write also, to keep my image of becoming somebody important (at least for some) alive.






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