The day I realized I was not extraordinary, that I would lead no extraordinary life, that I was never destined to do extraordinary things, it was raining.
My newly-purchased 6'x12' dwelling, the infamous green school-bus that was to be my 'urban hermitage' for the next year, was parked around the corner from the apartment that I had just moved out of hours before. My possessions were piled high inside, leaving me with little room to do anything but lie in the middle of the floor as I helplessly listened to the sound of the sky crashing against the metal roof above me. I had nowhere to go, because I was already there. What I had planned to do for the next year was quickly coming into question. My Idealized Self and my Real Self were meeting, and it was turning out to be a humiliating rendez-vous.
Since college, I aspired to work out my salvation as a monk; it was my career-goal. I spent a number of years visiting monasteries across the country, trying to find a community of men who would accept me, and in turn give me a place to call home. The year of living the solitary life in the school bus was my idea of a testing period, an internship of sorts (albeit without the careful guidance of a spiritual father to watch over me), to see if I could cut it as an ascetic. I wanted an ordinary life that was, in the eyes of the world, quite extraordinary. And I wanted it on my terms.
Now that I was living the pseudo-life of a pseudo-ascetic, I found myself struggling with the logistics of not having electricity, running water, or indoor plumbing, with doubt, with loneliness, and the embarrassing realization that this life and this solitude did not seem to be fitting me as well as I imaged it would. So far my experiment had siphoned me off from the norm, but the words of Angela Hayes in American Beauty ("I don't think there's anything worse than being ordinary") haunted me like a debt collector. Sitting on the floor of the bus that night, listening to the panging of the rain, I was starting to smell failure. It felt like Ordinary Life was just around the corner, grinning, getting ready to swallow me whole.