You asked for it. I delivered it. This is the first Life Advice Wednesday. Keep your pants on, people.
I was watching an episode of Mind of a Chef the other day (which is the weirdest, most fascinatingly amazing show) and Anthony Bourdain struck up a conversation with all this really famous chefs over what their definition of mediocrity was.
What an awesome question.
Mediocrity is something that everyone has a vague impression of. It’s what not to be. The official definition of mediocrity is “the quality or state of being mediocre”, and the definition of mediocre is “not very good”, and I think the only think we’ve just learned from that is that those definitions of mediocrity are themselves mediocre.
Some synonyms include average, uninspired, lackluster and forgettable, which gets us a little farther. Mediocrity is the quality or state of being utterly forgettable. Harsh.
Questions that logically follow the definition include:
How do you become mediocre? How do you perform mediocrity? How do you stop being mediocre? Can you even know you’re being mediocre? Is it important? Do you care? Does it matter? Does anything matter??
(Okay I got a little carried away. But you get the point).
I asked my coworker, Awesome Andy, whether or not he thought that striving to overcome mediocrity was important, and he made an excellent point that somebody could work the same job for 40 years and be seen as living a mediocre life, but that same person could be a perfectly happy individual, and perhaps happier than the ladder-climbing overachiever we’ve all supposed to emulate.
So I guess the question then becomes where happiness and mediocrity collide, and whether or not you can be happy being mediocre. I believe for a lot of people, that answer would be yes (even if they don’t know it or aren’t willing to admit it). Let’s face it, on a grand scale, the vast majority of us are and will continue to be mediocre (unless you’re Beyonce).
However, that brings me to my last point.
(Have I been making points? I think so? I’m just going to go with it, I guess).
As far as my own warped, biased, politically incorrect opinion goes, I believe people can be happy leading fairly unexceptional lives, as long as they are striving beyond mediocrity in at least one aspect.
Mediocre job? Fine. No spectacular life achievements? Cool. Never run a marathon? With you.
But good god, do something. Maybe strive to be the best parent you could possibly be. Win a chess tournament. Collect stamps or Barbies or severed heads.
You don’t have to be the next Barack Obama or Steve Jobs or Britney Spears, but you should have goals or dreams or ambitions that make your life above average.
Isn’t that what makes getting out of bed in the morning worth it?
Let’s talk about failure.
I used to be pretty sure that I thought about failure probably more than any sane person ever thinks about failure, but one of the youtube vloggers I watch regularly, Charlie Mcdonnell, made this amazing vlog about his fear of creation, and other youtubers made video responses talking about how they were scared, too. This is one of the reasons I love the internet so much- sometimes you can put something out there and people will have an amazing, supportive, kind response to it that spreads like wildfire.
I’m scared too, Charlie.
Recently I’ve been battling with this little voice inside my head (not that kind of little voice, people, calm down) that’s been telling me that I shouldn’t bother with anything because as much as I may aspire to greatness, I will never be anything more than mediocre. That somehow, because I haven’t already won the lottery or become a supermodel or started a business or gotten a stable, well paying job or even been able to move into an apartment and pay for it all by myself that I never will. That I really shouldn’t even bother, and that, even worse, the goals I have accomplished mean nothing because they aren’t good enough.
Because of this conviction, I shrink away from praise. I haven’t told anyone I know about this blog yet. I’ve been singing and playing the ukulele for 5 years and none of my friends in my hometown knew until this year. I sang in a show once and told my ex-boyfriend he wasn’t allowed to come watch. I refused to go to my own graduation ceremony at college.
I’ve been letting my own fear of failure keep me from applying to jobs I’m interested in, from exercising, even from committing to playing music in a show because I’m convinced somehow that I will not measure up to the bar that I haven’t even set. Damn that’s low.
Well, internet, if you’re listening, today’s the day to go out into the world and say fuck that noise. I’m awesome, and you better watch me shine. I found an amazing quote on Pinterest (yeahhhh, I know) that sums it up nicely:
The time will pass anyways. Do something with it.