There’s a fine balance between living the way you want to live, and living a mediocre life. It’s possible that what you’re best at, is in an area that just doesn’t pay, leaving you to find a way to make a living. I find myself questioning my life quite often. Am I living a mediocre life? I guess that depends who I compare myself to, which is the first problem. We’re all individuals, so to compare yourself to anyone else sets you up for failure or even elitism. A better way to “judge” yourself, for lack of a better term, is to look at your potential, at what you want to accomplish in life and see how you are progressing towards those goals.
If you have no goals and choose to sit and watch TV in your free time and scroll social media endlessly, then yes, that seems rather mediocre. On the other hand, if you’re able to provide for your family, and that TV time is spent with your children in the room as well, then maybe it is time well spent. I know I always enjoyed watching TV with my two stepsons. There were a lot of life lessons that were prompted by a subject on the show we watched. Now that they are grown, I find watching TV to be a waste of time. I could be creating something instead, but that’s my goal these days, to create, not consume.
But what about the content I’m creating? At the moment, I believe it’s mediocre. Try as I might, the ideas are random and don’t have as much focus as I would like them to have. I’m finding my way, and it shows. That’s OK because these first two years are “practicing in public.” The intention is for me to get better and find a niche, or a subject I like to write about regularly. So far, it’s varied a bit but has ended up centering around my journey as a writer.
Do I care that I’m mediocre? Yes, yes I do. I don’t think anyone wants to be mediocre. I think some try and just are, and others, most others, don’t try at all. I used to be like that. If I don’t put my 100% effort into something, I can’t actually fail. If I didn’t really put all my effort into it, it follows that I didn’t try so I couldn’t have failed. I’ve been doing this for decades. Throughout my life, there aren’t many things I’ve put all my effort into. I think this is a byproduct of being athletic in my youth. There are definitely some kids who are better than others. And if you, like me, were really trying, and couldn’t keep up with the better, more experienced players, you developed a sort of defeatist attitude about the sport.
Now there’s a flip side to this as well. Those who are smart can get decent results without too much effort. I spent most of my high school career barely trying and getting Bs. College was different, but I didn’t even try the first time around. The second time did take effort, but again, I did enough to do well, but not my 100%. When I was a musician, I gave my all. I played with every ounce of my soul. I’m not sure I’ve worked that hard at anything before or since. But since it came easy to me, was it really “giving my all?”
“Giving 100%” is a strange phrase, actually. How do you know you’ve given everything you have? It’s not like there’s a meter that pops up and lets you know. I only know based on how hard I’ve worked on other things. I work hard in my day job, but 100%? I’m not so sure about that. There’s always something more I could have done, more I could have completed, more I could have said or presented, or prepared for. If you’ve ever worked with a truly driven individual, you know what I’m talking about. When you work with someone who just doesn’t quit until the job is done, or who just keeps going, far beyond the point you would have quit if no one was watching, that’s how you know you’re not giving your all or the fabled 100%. I’m more like all the brand new cars out there. When my gas tank says “Zero miles to empty,” I can go another 60 miles at least.
I have a confession. I don’t seem to give my all anywhere in my life. Even though I’m currently getting up at 4 to write every day, and trying to find my voice as a writer, I can’t honestly say I’m doing everything I can towards that goal. Nor can I say I’m putting all my effort into my day job because clearly, I’m carving out time to do my writing. How does all this relate to mediocracy? Mediocre is a label, and it’s subjective. I know I’m not being mediocre by all the things in my life I try to accomplish. I try to further myself in my work, my education and my long-term goals every single day. That’s not mediocre. The results might be, but the effort and focus are not.
Furthermore, why do I have this drive to do great things, or to be great? What flaw in my own self-view is driving me to prove something to some nebulous someone? The only person who cares if I do well is my wife. And even then, she probably only cares in a financial way, or in an emotional way. She’d like us to have enough money so we don’t have to worry, ever. We’ve been there before and should be able to get there again. And then she wants me to be happy, or at least not be angry or upset every day. The daily routine and creating seem to keep me even-keeled. Even after a rough night with my favorite cat having a seizure, I’m pretty pleased this morning because the subject and writing are coming easily. That’s a result of the months of effort I’ve put in so far. It encourages me to keep going and makes me eager to see where I’ll be in a few years.
But what if, at the end of all this work, I still end up being mediocre? That’s a real possibility. Actually, it’s a probability as well. Who will care? Only me. Only I will care if I haven’t been able to be successful in something I really wanted to accomplish in life. But at least I will have tried. Will I have given it my all? 100% effort all the time? No, I can’t say that would be true. But again, I don’t think 100% is possible. Even if I were able to give 100% each day, I’d still think there was more I could have done. So it’s futile to think like that. Working towards my goals is the focus now. If I’m able to set my goals and accomplish them, then I should see some sort of result. Being “successful” as a writer has many meanings. For me, being able to write one book that I’m proud of will be a huge success. I have a good friend who did this, and it changed my life. I know this guy, and I like his books, and even though they haven’t sold as well as he wants them to, he has something to show for all that work. And no one can take his book series away from him. He wrote it. That’s not mediocre to me.
So am I living a mediocre life? Yes and no. I have things in my life that are definitely not mediocre. I also have some things in my life that are very average. I’m working on those or cutting them out completely if I can’t get where I want with them. But overall, I’m happy with my life, mediocre or not, and I’ll keep working towards my goals and maybe someday, I’ll look back and be more kind to myself. Maybe.