(This article is the second in a series. The first is here.)
Pessimism is an easy way to sound smart.
It is, see, for example, those kids who carry their darkness like unique badges, as though they alone hold a monopoly on uncomfortable truths – but pessimism, unvetted, carries a journalistic laziness. And, as a journalist of emotions, I bear a responsibility to present both sides.
And so, here is the argument that you are important, and that within your averageness is, like you’ve always been told, something truly special.
This defends the average.
If you think this is a fluff-piece, I’d encourage you to read the first article in my series. This is, rather, the nuanced upside of what could be a difficult notion to some; that we are, in fact, average.
1. Success Is Not Reserved For The Successful.
So, you’re not a success.
Join the team.
Your band may never make it big. Your writing might not be that well-received or even that well-written to begin with. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for your Vimeo-premiered short film.
But you did it.
Accomplishment stands on its own merit. Validation is nice, notice important, money good to have, but those are all unreliable markers of success. We desperately wish there was a scoreboard for life, some basic system that can guide us to cutting throats and further into our self-obsessions and insecurities, but there aren’t.
The rubrics we use are flawed and vague, biased against our natural accomplishments and biased towards that we haven’t reached. But take stock of where you are and what you want: if you want something insane and grandiose, then congratulations: you have no other earthly goals in the world. You have succeeded a plateau of success unprecedented in human history- fed, paid, literate and living further in the future than anyone in recorded history.
For centuries, success was simpler. For those who lack the markers of basic humanity, those desperate aspirations and hope still remain.
Maybe your lack of a record deal is less of a grand injustice and more “a thing that’s a minor drag” and maybe your happy home and lucky life is less a “whatever” and more of “a thing to celebrate forever.”
Ambition is natural and often helpful. But you’re as successful as you let yourself be. Take some time to mentally cash out and cherish what you have before tallying up what more you want.
2. Specialness Is Factored Into Averageness
So, you’re average.
The word has a lot of negative connotations but let’s look more optimistically into the concept. What then, comes with the basic, no frills starter-pack of humanity?
Here’s what we can assume about the average: that you have people to whom you are special by varied degrees. There are people to whom you mean the world, people to whom you mean something, and, statistically speaking, people who enjoy your company and/or would like to smooch you good.
The numbers vary over time, but love, happiness, friendship, snacks, and sunshine are implicit constants of an average life. And, if you don’t have those, I guess you have the dark pleasure of being special in that one way.
But to the world, no matter who you are, you hold a special significance. And just because that’s common doesn’t mean it should be forgotten or ignored. It is, rather, a promise from on high that you matter, and that your purpose is immune to the vagaries of fate.
You’re free, then, from being weighed only by yourself.
3. Being Average Means Fitting In
You know what’s great?
I would’ve killed to have been average in grade school. To have been taken for granted, to exist in the salmon-like social flow of my school. I was dying for average, and, knocking on that door from the outside, I was never happier than when I was doing nothing, with my nobodies, like any other kid my age.
But I wrote instead. I was unusual, tilting to the other end of the bell-curve. And, let me tell you now: it is better to be snug in the center.
I wrote every night, late at night, weekends too, sure; because I had nothing better to do. If there was a party, or if [redacted] had texted me on my not-even-flipping cellphone I’d have dropped it all happily.
But they didn’t. I wrote because I didn’t have enough to do, enough people to see, because I couldn’t find a party or weed at sixteen.
It’s easy to say that writing was the better decision, that I’d spent time crafting a skill that I enjoyed, but I remember vividly sitting down to write Friday nights. It was fun. I liked it. But, if we’re honest, I remember the staggering shock and joy to come to college, to find friends, parties, joy, and a community, and the unpretentious joys to be found in light beer and nonsense nights.
I wrote less in college. I was happier, too.
Special is what you make for yourself when you’re missing what everyone else has.