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Alexander and the Moderate, So-So, Tolerable, Very Meh Day
Today we are staring in to the void, raging a battle cry of AVERAGE IS OK!!!!, and exploring the implications of grind culture.
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When we aren’t impassioned by the VERY BAD or the VERY GREAT, what exists in-between?
This week, a friend of mine expressed her displeasure at the pressure of having to live every day to it’s fullest. “What’s wrong with a C+ day?” she asked me. “Why does every day have to be great?”
A C+ DAY.
This phrase stopped me in my tracks. Why do we have a moral imperative to make each day special? This ideation equates to pressure: pressure that hangs over our heads with every idiom about life; every inspirational quote superimposed over a heavily-edited nature photograph.
(SIDE NOTE THAT I CAN’T RESIST:
Let’s take a little detour into the world of platitudinal memes!
…but those are pencils?
I, too, dream of swinging over the forest in a skirt.
This is blatantly NOT TRUE. SOME PEOPLE HAVE MAUSOLEUMS.
Oh my God, NO. If a lot of things are broken in your house, you need to fucking move. There are slum laws for this. If your relationship is BROKEN, YOU ABSOLUTELY GO AND GET A NEW PARTNER! Jesus.
“You can trust me. I’m holding a glass paper weight.”
Is this person ok?? Imperfection does not negate abuse! BLINK TWICE IF YOU NEED HELP
This is a very long message for a sandwich board.
Wait- now it’s on a lighthouse? What’s going on?
Nothing says JAY-Z like a ballerina in a doorway.
Ridiculousness aside, these memes are more menacing than they might appear. The consistent messaging of our culture is that where you are at, right now, IS MERELY A PIT STOP TO SOMEWHERE ELSE. And “somewhere else” is inherently better than where you are now.
Our society capitalizes on our FEAR of living a life that means nothing. If our impact is small, then we will be forgotten; anonymous, a blip on the map of existence that had no real significance.
So, living average life in a string of “C+ days” brings up the following question:
Do we lose something if we don’t aim to make every single day special? If we don’t have the guiding light of FUTURE ACHIEVEMENT™ lighting our path, will we be able to see where our feet are going at all?
The only certainties, Ben Franklin, are not only “death” and “taxes,” but also that once a day is gone, that puppy is GONE: out of the park, unreachable, never to be seen or heard from again.
If we allow some days (or, for the hardcore, all days) to slip by without consequence; if we establish the main benchmark for “success” to be “no really bad shit happened today”, then:
Will we have regret at the end of our lives, when there’s no more time left to be had?
Will we wish we had done more? Seen more? Achieved more?
If, at the end of our lives, we regret the average, there is nothing we can do about it.
The hyper-achieving, goal-oriented Midwesterner in me is sent into a spiral of panic at this thought.
I was raised with the implication that if you are not actively achieving, or setting your sights on a goal, or showing up to your 9-5 at 8:30am and BEING THE BEST YOU CAN BE ™, then you are FAILING. Capital F-A-I-L.
This is grind culture in a nutshell: our inherent self-worth is directly, inextricably linked to how much we produce and achieve. Therefore, to be average is a death sentence to happiness and fulfillment.
When my novel failed to be published, or when I failed to secure a visa to stay in the UK, or when my (TWO!) internships at the publishing house didn’t result in a job offer despite being PERFECT IN EVERY WAY and NEVER COMPLAINING and BEING THE YES-GIRL to every single department, I spiraled into a deep, dark well of self-loathing and depression.
I was taught, by well-meaning parents who perpetuated a toxic cycle they didn’t realize was toxic, that if I was not THE BEST at something; if I was not BETTER THAN EVERYBODY ELSE, then I, myself, was not worthy.
We learn these lessons in a myriad of ways. It’s in who we admire, which key players consistently make the news cycle, the stories of “I know this person” meant to impress at the party: the way that we look at others and value them for their specialness, their achievements, their wealth, their fame: this is sending the message that to be average is to be lesser-than.
In the culture we live in, average is bad. Average means you are anonymous, you are not special, you do not pass GO and collect $200.
But what is so terrible about “average”, anyway? Why must we romanticize ourselves into SPECIALNESS all the time?
If you work in Sales, BE THE TOP SALESPERSON!
If you work in education, BE A PROFESSOR AT AN IVY LEAGUE WITH TENURE!
If you’re a parent, PARENT KIDS WHO LEAD THE CURVE!
If you’re in real estate, BECOME THE PRINCIPLE BROKER!
If you’re a lawyer, MAKE PARTNER WITHIN FIVE YEARS!
What about just surviving? Drinking water? Putting clean underwear on? Keeping your kids alive for another day? Resisting the urge to yell at people in traffic?
If our aim is to just get through without any bumps or bruises on a given day, is there not a kind of calm and quiet beauty in this?
And, even if we live an average life in an average house and with an average partner and have an average 2.5 babies and an average white picket fence: we STILL CONVINCE OURSELVES WE ARE SPECIAL! WE ARE UNIQUE! WE ARE DIFFERENT!
We are so afraid of being average, that even when we ACCEPT AN AVERAGE EXISTENCE, we can’t even love ourselves FOR BEING AVERAGE! We need to be MORE, BETTER, BEST, even in our AVERAGENESS!
We inherently assign a moral value to things: either they are GOOD or BAD.
What if we allowed ourselves to marinate in the mediocre?
To bask in the basic?
To ruminate in the rudimentary?
To pickle ourselves in the pedestrian?
Until next week, F-Worders. Thanks for reading.
Love, Light, and Being a Basic Bitch,