There's nothing wrong with the desire to be a part of something significant. We need to have a clear head, thoug, about what is significant: making a million dollars as a basketball star or being the best friend we can possibly be.
Significance is overlooked because it is disguised as "average". Everyone is gifted and everyone is unique. Being average simply means maintaining balance which leads to happiness. How quickly our society creates and disposes of their number ones.
This week I read about David Galenson's discovery of two creative disciplines. His research came about because of his nagging desire to do something big:
In graduate school, he watched brash colleagues write dissertaions that earned them quick acclaim and instant tenure, while he sat in the library meticulouly tabulating 17th- and 18th-century indentured-servitude records. He eventually found a spot on the University of Chicago's Nobelist-studded economics faculty, but not as a big-name theorist. He was a colonial economic historian - a utility infielder on a team of Hall of Famers.
Being an art economist, his initial research plotted the relationship between an artist's age (X) and the value of his or her paintings (Y). He discovered two distinct patterns: those who peaked early and those who peaked late. He calls these two groups the conceptualists and the experimentalists.
Conceptualists make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines with their breakthroughs coming at an early age. They know with certainty what they're trying to create and when they've created it. Picasso created his revolutionary Les Demoiselles d'Avignon when he was 26.
The Experimentalists work by trial and error and make their breakthroughs later. They never really know when their work is finished. They do not preconceive but figure it out as they go. Cézanne is a good example. His most valuable works are the ones he painted the year he died.
I like to think of myself in the last group. I've been feeling like my time has passed to be a part of something big. But I guess what I said in my original post may be true. I've only just begun. The idea is to not give up and just keep at it.
(Check out Galenson books on the subject. They sound really interesting: Painting Outside the Lines: Patterns of Creativity in Modern Art and Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artisitc Creativity.)