I think mediocrity is underestimated. I spend a lot of time with mediocrity, and I find its company charming and comforting. In fact, at the age of 53, I might just be the Hester Prynne of average moments, roaming around with a big "M" on my chest.
Mediocrity is that quiet kid in school who demands very little but keeps getting beaten up by those bullies, ambition and achievement. Somehow, its very presence threatens those who are determined to stand out, shine, and rise just a little above all others.
I started thinking about this today when I went to buy a birthday card for my son, and found an entire section called Kids Encouragement. Seriously. You know why kids need an entire section of Hallmark dedicated to their encouragement? Because they're not allowed to hang out with mediocrity.
They're not getting the chance to spend their Saturdays with their best friend riding bikes while building an entire day around a ride to Circle K to purchase a giant Pixie Stick that will stain their clothes and gum up at the end. They don't get to do that ordinary thing where they stop their bikes and lay their sweaty bodies on a neighbor's lawn so they can tear off the Pixie Stick part that's all gummed up and finish it.
Instead, they're on the soccer field with occasionally maniacal parents who buy expensive soccer chairs and run up and down the field screaming because they believe their child is going to become the next Mia Hamm.
Kids need encouragement because they're not putting on their roller blades and spending hours trying to jump over the cracks in sidewalks. Instead, they're going to gymnastics and ballet and Aikido lessons so they can become the next, I don't know, Miss America/Mixed Martial Arts champion.
It seems that we, as parents, are terrified of having an average child.
I would like to walk up to some of these children, with the big "M" on my chest, and declare that it's alright to be average at some things. For example, I made straight A's in English all of my life, but put me in a geometry class and I turn into a babbling idiot. I actually have panic attacks when I hear the word protractor. I see three dots before my eyes every time someone says therefore. I'm in a work meeting when someone asks me what my angle is, and I instantly need deodorant.
As my daughter says, "Why can't geometry just use its words?" I ended up being an English major, a writer, a person who trades in stories. I got a "C" in geometry, and that's okay.
I'm also fairly mediocre when it comes to menopause and aging. I'm okay with hot flashes and spreading middles. While some women are out there running marathons and tightening things and looking better than ever at the age of 60, I am enjoying a new bag of Cheese Puffs while sitting on my couch. Achievement is free to run and will probably live longer, but I need some average days so I can sigh.
My skin is wrinkling, my veins are bursting like fireworks on the 4th of July, and I'm not fixating on them. Why? Because I don't really have the desire to . . . I'd rather talk on the phone with my daughter or swap funny stories with my son or read a book or write this blog. It's true. I won't be able to wear shorts or a tight dress to an awards ceremony, but I will have incredibly entertaining conversations with my friends and family members. I will gather stories while I may, and ignore my spreading thighs.
So, to all of the self-help books that will help me be more like somebody else, and tighten my belly while building my self-esteem and dressing for success, I'd like to say that I appreciate your ideas but I don't really need your help. When I work, I work hard, but rather than going all PX90, I workout by watching the old Bob Newhart shows while walking on my treadmill. Sometimes I'm even eating something while walking. And right beside me doing light weights? Yep, it's mediocrity. And we're laughing our asses off.
We're talking about those childhood moments when my mom brought us Kool-Aid in a paper cup, and we would lie on our backs and watch the clouds go by. I still want to grab a great book and sit outside on a chair while the sun burns the top of my head and I read about a wrinkle in time.
And, yes, sometimes I want to watch a television show that adds no value at all. I want to watch other people chop up food and cook it even though I despise cooking. I want to listen to stories about women who have snapped and snuffed out their husbands and figure out why they did what they did. I want to listen to people sing as they embark on a new opportunity and cheer them on.
Achievement is not a bad thing, it's just not necessary in every moment of our very short time here on earth. Someday our souls get to leave these bodies to hang out with other souls. But our bodies? We came from dust, and we will return to dust, and I'm pretty sure all of those soccer trophies and Ivy League college degrees won't make a bit of difference.
Earlier on Huff/Post50: