If one more, well, mediocre person I know shares the January blog post, “What If All I Want Is A Mediocre Life?” I’m gonna choke the mediocre life right out of him/her. As with most Facebook shares, I’m guessing that at least fifty people didn’t even read the post, but simply saw the title as an excuse for their own lamentable mediocrity and clicked “Share” without a moment’s hesitation. “Yes! I’m a MOM and a TEACHER and I’m PROUD OF IT!” Well, okay, then. Your biggest accomplishments are a biological act and having a career that is typically chosen by the stupidest college students. Congrats, you’re even less than mediocre!
The first thing that you should know about this blog post was that it was written by Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Dagui (I can’t begin to understand how that name was generated), who is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant™ & Joyful Living Educator. This is Not a Real Fucking Job. And the trademark is the author’s, not mine.
But let’s get past the ad hominem attacks and get to the meat of the post, shall we? Yeah, let’s.
The world is such a noisy place. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. For bigger and better. Sacrifice sleep for productivity. Strive for excellence. Go big or go home. Have a huge impact in the world. Make your life count.
But what if I just don’t have it in me. What if all the striving for excellence leaves me sad, worn out, depleted. Drained of joy. Am I simply not enough?
Yes, the world is noisy, and that can be bothersome. Solid point. And even Henry Ford knew that working longer than eight hours in a day was likely to decrease a worker’s productivity—he didn’t establish the 9 to 5 workday out of the goodness of his heart, you know?
I understand, on some level, what Krista’s saying: she doesn’t feel the need to be great, and she doesn’t want to be judged because of it. Krista, I have bad news: we’re gonna judge you. Humans judge each other. I can’t put up a picture of myself or write a single word on the internet without somebody judging it. Hell, I can’t walk out into the world without somebody judging me. It’s life. It’s reality.
And at the risk of sounding like somebody thirty years my senior, what she’s trying to get me and you and everybody else to accept is exactly what is wrong with America. In fact, it’s exactly what has caused this generation of people entering the workforce to be nearly completely useless and unemployable.
There’s much handwringing about Generations Y and Z, but we don’t give nearly enough blame to the people who sired them. People like Krista have raised an entire nation of people who think that having a tattoo is an accomplishment. They are currently out en masse #resisting a democratically elected president because they don’t want America to be great. They have been told that they don’t need to strive for excellence.
And while, as a parent, I can wholeheartedly support this bullshit because it nearly eliminates the competitive environment for my children, I’m saddened to know that they’ll be forced to work alongside these people who want a 30 hour work week, a “fair living wage,” and full benefits simply because they desire a mediocre life. Even worse, I’m saddened that they’ll be shamed into being mediocre themselves, because modern society loves nothing more than to drag down the exceptional. Why? Fear.
The truth behind living a mediocre life isn’t that people are satisfied with mediocrity. It’s that they’re terrified of what it might take to be great. It’s so much easier to say that they didn’t try, than to say that they tried and failed.
I tried to be a great saxophonist at one point in my life. I failed. I was merely very good. Good enough to get a full scholarship. Good enough to tour with some big acts. Good enough to pay (most of) the bills. But not a world-renowned artist. I never got to lead a band at the Village Vanguard. I never recorded a major label record. In many ways, it’s the greatest failure of my life. But, damnit, I tried. And there’s some honor in that.
There’s honor in coming in early and staying late. There’s honor in working harder than the guy next to you. There’s honor in putting your best work out there for the world to see, whether it’s on a relatively minor car blog in the corner of the internet, a PowerPoint presentation for the board, or forever immortalized in digital form on a compact disc/MP3/whatever the kids are listening to nowadays. There’s honor in failing on a massive scale because you put everything you had into trying to be better than mediocre.
To be mediocre is to tell the world that it doesn’t deserve your best efforts. It’s telling your children that they don’t have to give their employer, their family, or themselves their best. Hell, it’s telling yourself that you don’t deserve your best.
And you know what? There’s every chance that you’ll end up being mediocre anyway, even if you try to be great. Lord knows that I’ve tried and failed at many more things that I’ve succeeded at. But there’s also a chance, however slim, that you’ll be great. You deserve that chance. Your family deserves that chance.
If you want to be a writer, go be one. Want to climb the ladder? Do it. Want to be the best mom possible? Hell, yeah! I got your back, even if, or more likely, when you fail. Want to be mediocre? I have no time for you. Neither does the rest of the adult world. And that’s not our fault. It’s yours.