Illustration By Andrew Gillespie
I used to really, really, want to be a writer. But as time passed that changed. Now I just really, really want to choose the right thing to do with my day.
I used to think I was a failure when I didn’t choose to write more often because I thought it meant that I didn’t have enough discipline to “make my dreams come true.”
Now I can’t even say with certainty that I have “dreams”. For a while I wondered if maybe I was just making excuses for my lack of discipline.
Is it enough to just hope for a mediocre day? Does that mean that I’m settling?
Part of what happened is that, as I got older, I realized that if I wanted to continue to have vitality for my children and my life-partners and my community, I was going to have to take care of my body. That takes time.
Part of what happened is that I fell in love with my kids’ school and wanted to be there as often as I possibly could.
Part of what happened is that I accumulated more and more people to love, and maintaining relationships takes time.
Can I do all of these things and still be a writer? Well, I’m writing right now. But this isn’t exactly what I was imagined a “real” writer would write.
However, I don’t want to BE anything anymore, except proud of the choices I make for each individual day. I’ve decided that, for me, it’s better not to have a plan or an ambition. And that sounds like an American’s version of failure. We always think we need a 5-year-plan and a 10-year-plan. But the truth is, I love my life. And the things that I love the most about my life are not things that I planned. They are not even things that I could have ever imagined or visualized.
These are my ultimate goals:
1) To keep my body healthy.
2) To be nice to the people around me.
3) To make good decisions that honor the trust and safety of the people around me.
I have realized that when I make goals that are more specific or ambitious than the three above, I end up compromising one of those basic three, or I set myself up for failure.
That is a reality that can be very hard for me to accept. Maybe because I am an American and our American ideal has us all growing up thinking that we are supposed to be exceptional and famous in some way.
But I’m currently going for a different version of exceptional. I am attempting to be exceptionally chill with the-way-life-goes. Perhaps I’ll call my new philosophy “passionate mediocrity.”
Isn’t it funny how much we all cringe at the word “mediocrity”? But it just means “neither good or bad.” Which is how life usually feels. Whether you’re famous, or poor, or sick, or heathy, or young, or old. You usually still have some good days and some bad days and a whole bunch of mid-range days. If you add it all up and divide it by the total of your life, the answer will probably come out to be somewhere in the range of… mediocre.
Of course, there are exceptions that fall below mediocre for people who endure serious tragedy, war, discrimination, mental illness, or chronic pain. But I can’t think of anybody who experiences ongoing euphoria. Truthfully, those of us who fall in the mediocre range are the privileged ones.
So… why not passionately embrace the mediocre? Be mediocre with a spark in your eye!
Let’s all get satisfied with what we’ve got! And if you’re discovering that some version of mediocrity might apply to you, try not to get all depressed about it. Practice mediocrity with style! And, for goodness sake, be nice!