Yesterday part of the Maritime Noon radio show on CBC had an interesting topic; should average be good enough? The idea was discussed with Mark Manson, author of a new book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.” Listening to the way he described it made me think of and where I am right now. Should I be happy with my life as it is? I have a family and a job that pays decently (for the area I live). I get to travel at least every other year. I have financial debt but its not completely overwhelming and we never feel like we can’t provide what we need. To me this is the definition of “good enough,” the question is should good enough be good enough?
The point seemed to be that not everyone is going to be successful. Every person that tries their best won’t run a multi-million dollar company or be a pro-athlete. Not everyone in the world is going to be rich and not every person who wants to be a writer will get a book published. All of this is completely true, too. So I started to think about something I’ve thought about from time to time, how completely average I am. Well, average-ish.
When I was little, around 10 or 12, as sad and pathetic as it sounds I think I peaked. I was good at baseball but not the best on the team. I got mostly A’s in school along with a couple of B’s. I was a pretty skinny kid too. I was doing pretty good but it never seemed to get better and ended up going down hill pretty quick. I was skipped an entire level at baseball and was way over-matched, then ended up getting hit in the face with a ball and basically quit. My grades never tanked but they slipped slightly and some of the A’s turned to low B’s and the occasional C. All of a sudden it felt like I completely ballooned with my weight and this was all by the time I ended high school.
Ever since then I have felt that I’ve never been great at anything. I think I’m smart but I could be smarter. Every other aspect I’m merely ‘okay.’ I’m good with numbers but make mistakes frequently. I can’t build anything. I can’t draw. I’m a horrible singer. I don’t even bother trying to be athletic. I’m terribly unfunny. I’m not a quick thinker and even though my movie knowledge might win us a free pizza every month its not like the questions are that hard. I can’t think of anything more average than me. And the “ish” comes along because I sometimes question if I’m even at the level of average and perhaps a smidgen below.
So the question remains, should I accept that I am average-ish and just be happy with good enough as its gotten me all I have so far. Will I ever be able to have anything more even if I tried harder? Then I start to think, have I tried hard at anything in that time? Have I actually given my full effort into doing anything? A hobby? An interest? Some specialty area where I can actually refine a skill? The answer is a resounding no. I have never excelled at anything because I’ve even never bothered to try. I’ve never given myself a chance to fail and I’ve never given myself a chance to succeed.
My fear of failure in regards to writing is very strong. I think its seeped down into my unconscious where my entire body works against me. I think that this is the only way I’ll ever escape being mediocre and if it fails I’ll have to finally accept everything I’ve always thought might be true as completely true. My brain shuts down and I lose focus. I get tired. I get distracted. I go looking for other things to do rather than write and when I finally do write I think about how average what I just wrote is and don’t bother continuing it. However it all goes back to the route of the fear, not trying. My losing weight? Not trying. My not reading? Not trying. The real reason I’m so average-ish is my fear of failure over riding every single thing I do and I don’t even try. Its telling me that good enough is good enough.
On the radio show, I can’t remember if it was a caller or the author, someone said something along the lines that we need garbage men and bus drivers. Basically people who are going to do the mundane tasks of the world and that’s when it sealed it; good enough isn’t good enough for me. Good enough is for the people who want to stop trying. I might be more than half way through my thirties but I’m not ready to give up and settle. I’m not going to accept my mundane tasks as the job that I’ll have for the rest of my life. The people who are comfortable and happy with their lives aren’t quitting, but they are settling. If that’s okay with them and they’re happy then I wish them the best and maybe I’ll reach that point eventually but right now I haven’t lived the life I want to yet. I may not be the best at something but I know I can be better than this.
The great tragedy of the average man is that he goes to his grave with his music still in him.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow