I did everything I was supposed to do but was nowhere closer to greatness than if I’d never tried at all. Hi, I’m Kemi, an engineer, dancer, actor, and writer, but most importantly, I’m mediocre. My father died when I was 3 but I got to know him through the stories I heard. He was kind and friendly but most of all he was a smart man with the potential to conquer all, fate just was not in his favor.
It was a setup. All my life was lived with the desire to be just like this giant of a man I never knew. Have you ever tried competing with a ghost? Tried to make the dead proud? It’d be easier to touch the stars. For the most, it drove me to excel in multiple areas but around 21 the exhaustion set in. Nothing would ever be good enough so why was I even trying?
I was tired of being told what to do and feeling trapped without options. The lack of direction, motivation, confidence left me feeling like a failure because I was not achieving goals fast enough. My life was changing too fast and I could not keep up. Which eventually led to apathy, detachment, and depression. These were a few symptoms of my impending quarter life crisis.
Youth is riddled with expectations to “figure it out”. Everything has to be done, now, and perfectly. Education, career, residence, family, and so on, like a grocery list of responsibilities with an arbitrary timeline.
The spiraling madness of capitalism has made it harder than ever to achieve our dreams. However, instead of approaching the situation with more compassion and patience, there’s a pressured society has put on itself to be phenomenal.
If only 10% of humans are successful, and 10% are absolute failures, then mathematically speaking the remaining 80% are average. Being average doesn’t sound too bad but call these people mediocre and they’ll be up in arms.
But is that not what mediocre means? To be of average quality, ability, or performance. It seems the issue is not the definition but the implication of the words used. If we got past this superficial language bias, we could reduce cases of quarter life crises.
In terms of achievement, we need to assess what greatness means. Who are we doing it for? For what reason? When did we become obsessed with producing more, making everything bigger, better just more more more? Does it ever end? When do we get to be still and enjoy life?
Achievement is what moves us forward as a society. Mediocrity shouldn’t be the goal but should not be viewed as the end of the world if it’s the result.
Ultimately our decisions should be just that- ours. Basing choices on others imprisons us in a thorny cage of frustration and disappointment.
A jack of all trades is a master of none but oftentimes better than a master of one. Without the expectations of high achievement, we are free to explore as many interests as we can handle, spend time with loved ones and just live.
Here’s how to make mediocrity work for you:
- Manage your expectations – don’t be so hard on yourself or want perfection all the time.
- Explore new interests – exploring new talents may spark creative ideas worth working on eg. Steve jobs from a calligraphy class.
- Develop old skills – revisiting skills from the past reminds us why we gave them up or could rekindle a lost love.
- Introspection – we cannot know what we want (out of life) until we first know who we are.
- Observe others – comparison is not the idea but realising how mediocre everyone else is could shift our perspective. If we’re only as great or mediocre as the people we compare ourselves to, then by that logic once we stop comparing we’re our only competition.
- Choose the path of least resistance – easier to do the bare minimum. Why swim upstream when you could let the river transport you?
- Reduce the noise – remove toxic relationships and social pressure from carefully crafted social media posts. Find friends with similar goals. the people around you should serve as an anti-crisis community.
- Enjoy yourself – self care rituals recharge us, make life fun and makes it easier to focus on our goals.
Ultimately, we decide what mediocrity means to us and if we can be happy with that. Are our life plans rigid or flexible?
Our value as people should not be dependent on our accomplishments. We don’t need to be perfect, only good enough for ourselves.