I am currently trying to understand how and why it became unacceptable to be an ordinary, average-achiever, and I’m finding the results quite distressing. Thanks in part to historians, and also to the modern age of recording everything, we have an abundance of examples of high achievers. Everyone, from pioneering scientists, to incredible sportspersons to dedicated soldiers, shares a place in the historical spotlight—and they are worthy inhabitants! Without such inspirational stories, there are countless others who would not dare to attempt their life-changing goals and for that, I am thankful.
However, there is a part of me that wonders whether an Average Joe (or Josephine) can be lauded, too. Are the pedestals of the mighty just too precarious to accommodate mediocrity? I am a perfectly ordinary achiever. I got average grades at school, and an acceptable degree score. I have had a few respectable jobs so far, but nothing that sets me apart from my peers. I have not had work published, or been the front-runner for a national talent show, or contributed to London Fashion Week. And everything I am exposed to tells me that this is not OK.
It is not OK to coast through qualifications, passing but without flying colors. It is not OK to have a job that pays the bills, leaves me some cash for savings, and allows me to eat out a few times a month. It is not OK not to know where and when I plan to buy property, when I am going to get married, and when and how many children I am going to have. According to media, social studies, family, friends, and colleagues, at the age of 26 I should already be on the property ladder, have significant financial savings, and have bagged the job of my dreams, which allows me to fully utilize my degree experience.
This pressure is unbelievable. The standards I feel I am expected to attain are unreachable, and to put it bluntly, make me feel like doing the complete opposite. I can fully understand the need for pressure and competition, as it is this which drives many people to greater achievements, but I feel it could be detrimental. It is frustrating to think that I am still not good enough, despite living a functional adult life.
I started writing this post six months ago, and still I feel like nothing has changed. It could be argued that I am the problem—i.e., I don’t have enough drive to succeed, and therefore, I am complaining about my fortune. I accept this statement, because I am a negative person, and I give up all too easily. I have a defeatist attitude toward most things. Luckily, however, my family and my boyfriend are of the opposite personality type and are full of optimism in the face of adversity. They remind me that I am the one who can shape my life by taking full responsibility for it.
So, armed with a positively upbeat support network, an acceptance of my pessimistic inner voice and a dislike for the way I am made to feel about my life, the only sensible action is to push on and become the gold star, A-grader I know I can be, right?
Wrong. Perhaps the best course of action would be to learn to love myself better. My achievements—although small in comparison to some people—are still achievements for me. I, alone, put in the work for my degree. I have financed holidays. I can prepare delicious dinners for my boyfriend and quote any number of song lyrics at him. One day, I will buy property, get married, and have (fur) babies, but not yet, and not because someone else told me I should.
Kat Holbrook is 20-something years old, living in London and trying to find her way through the tangled forests of life. She has an ongoing love affair with Shakespeare and is a bit obsessed with weddings. You can follow her at www.aweddingblog.tumblr.com, or for anything else, check out www.caeliskitten.tumblr.com.