There comes a time in your life when you realize that you are a fairly mediocre human being. You can try to rectify some aspects of the situation—exercise or whatever—but there is little you can actually do to outrun your own unremarkableness. (You can’t outrun it because you’re out of shape.)
Atoning with my mediocrity has been on my mind all year, as I’ve been thinking ahead as to when best to visit my family back home. I’ll visit people who may not have seen me in over a year and who will wonder why I look like more of a schlub than ever and why, when asked how my 2016 has been, will receive a vague non-answer: “Fine, just up to the usual!” With that in mind, I thought about getting in shape, and perhaps buying some new clothes, and really getting my not-very-chill semblance of a person in order prior to the litany of parties and family visits I eventually intend.
You won’t believe what happened next: Nothing. I’m not doing anything at all. Instead I have opted to be a minor disappointment to everyone around me. Classic life hack!
I exaggerate of course. I’m not a hushed-tones, meth-addict-level disappointment, just a ‘guess he’ll never actually write a book’ disappointment. (A pretentious benchmark—so pretentious that it’s a mediocre aspiration.) And I know I should exercise more and eat less junk—but I’m not really going to do that either. Eating a salad is not fun or enjoyable. Why would a person eat a leaf, let alone a pile of them? My body is a temple! A temple abandoned years ago and left to waste.
I think the weight of mediocrity really becomes undeniable when you’re in the latter half of your twenties. The confidence and ambition of youth begins to fade, your “career” is about as impressive as your month to month financial survival methodology, and your flabby stomach winces whenever you watch a super hero movie. Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A. (Mediocre writing, too—I’m just quoting the Friends theme song.) I’m not even a very good friend! I let friendships lapse while I pursue my own self-centered games like getting favs on Twitter (@andyorin) instead of leaving my apartment. Sorry, friends, I’m addicted to likes.
Let’s not start on dating and relationships. Given that being witty and charming online is part of what I do professionally and I play Twitter and Slack like video games, it is inevitable that my “real life” persona would be a disappointment to anyone who knows me online first. Especially a handful of poor women I’ve met online who expected a charming man to meet them at the bar but were greeted with a mediocre okay-ness of a mannish person. What mediocre nights! I’m not depressed; I’m just being realistic. I’m fine! It’s okay to be fine! I should aim for fine!
That’s actually part of the fun of working on the internet. This kind of work appeals to a constant need for attention and approval (in quantifiable numbers, even) while allowing for a selective self-representation. Look at me! Now leave me alone! Am I writing this just so strangers on the internet tell me how—actually— great I am? Lol, yes!
But you must accept your own mediocrity, lest everything become a disappointment.
I’ll never be as funny as I present myself online, nor as good looking as I am on Instagram, and I’m more self-centered, more tired, more cynical, and more exhausted by the world than the cute and clever things I occasionally write would suggest. I’ll never be a great writer or a great anything I suppose, and that’s okay. The vast majority of people aren’t great. Get used to it! I do usually work very hard and thoroughly to justify a paycheck. (Usually, that is—it’s the information age. Let’s not break our backs.) Don’t call this “imposter syndrome”—it’s “realizing that you’re not a magic snowflake syndrome.” None of us are, except a few teens on Vine.
If you don’t accept your mediocrity, you will be miserable. I’m not quite there yet. Obviously! I still harbor the suspicion that I might have the potential to be successful in life, and that latent aspiration and hope only causes frustration. Perhaps it is in some regards a motivator, but I’ve almost accepted my mediocrity, and I’ve accepted enough of it to relax, sometimes, and not really aim that high, most of the time.
Accept your mediocrity. It’s okay to be fine. It’s okay not to be the best. Just work hard and be kind. That’s good enough.
Andy Orin is the best Slack user at Gawker Media, and also a writer at Lifehacker.
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