Mediocrity is messy.
I live in it, I know.
It messes with your mind.
It messes with your perspective.
It messes with your heart.
It messes with your faith.
It messes with your dreams.
It messes with everything.
I’ve spent my life striving to get out of this mess, but it seems I land right back in it.
I’ve climbed up the walls of mediocrity with the breath of hope-filled dreams, only to slide right back down into that dreaded mess over and over again. I have fought hard to earn the dream of excellence, to receive the praise of worthiness, and to feel the power of extraordinary…
Only to forfeit the fight with ordinary, average, good- but not great.
As I inch closer to 50, I’ve learned it really doesn’t go away… That hope of becoming more than who I am. As I grow older, I am reminded quite regularly that I am just that- middle of the road nothing far from fairly good at mostly everything. Every aspect of my identity has been tested for that high bar, and I always fall short.
The history goes way back.
I landed in the middle as your average student, musician, dancer, employee, wife, mom, daughter, sister, writer, friend, Christian, teacher, youth leader, and any other label I’ve worn in my life. Some days, I’m perfectly at peace with living in this place. Other days it stings.
I’ve learned to navigate my life through it and in doing so, I’ve learned a valuable truth:
Those are what I live for, and I want to teach my kids how to reach for them more than the spotlight.
My daughter recently had her swim banquet celebrating the end of season, as awards and medals and trophies were given to those valuable team members who earned such praise. My girl made the final championship meet, where she placed 10th, 11th, and 15th…
This was of course extraordinary to her mom, but surely not to her.
While many of her swimming buddies were running around with medals weighing down their necks, she approached me with her compensating ribbons stating her disappointment and defeat. I knew this was incredibly difficult for her, after she worked so hard and hoped above all hope to get a medal.
I am familiar with that face… it broke my heart to see it on her.
And despite my arms wrapped around her with words of praise and encouragement, she will slip down those walls into the mess too. She will have to grapple with this mediocrity and sort it out on her own, as she is old enough to realize her mom’s love doesn’t change things- it’s only a comfort to her fall.
We are your average folk over here. We don’t dwell on the top of the mountain; we are usually camped about half way up. And despite it being a bit rocky at times, I think we manage pretty well. It took a lot of hard work to get this far, so I’ll take it.
I believe the majority of people live in this place…
But here’s the thing-
I can safely say that I have had a multitude of extraordinary moments in my life. Sometimes I reflect on them and smile with both pride and gratitude. Those were my finest moments… the ones where I was nothing near mediocre, but perhaps close to being pretty damn exceptional. When those moments come…
That’s the sweet spot of life.
My greatest victories didn’t earn medals or awards- but they earned a ton of praise and affirmation from the two I needed to hear it most. Me and my God.
I have felt much like a champion, in many circumstances in my life that offered moments of extraordinary choices:
I triumphed when I was tested.
I forgave when I could have fought.
I acted in humility instead of pride.
I found strength where I thought I had none.
I chose to give more and take less, instead of give less and take more.
And truth be told, there were those desperate days I just got myself out of bed and felt pretty damn victorious.
I want my kids to have this kind of vision too…
I want them to look for the moments when they excelled at something that was far beyond their reach.
I want them to have a true understanding that accomplishments and talent stretch deep and wide within who they are, and that winning a game, getting that trophy, or earning that award isn’t the only significant achievement they can hold with integrity.
I want them to be most proud of those moments when they made a decision to live much higher than the bar was held. There will surely be many opportunities for them to discern greatness in the throes of pain, pressure, testing, compassion, serving, sacrificing, loving, forgiving, exhaustion, doubt, grief, sickness, relationships, jobs, disappointments, failures, and conflicts.
Sure, it’d be nice to be an exceptional swimmer, soccer star, entrepreneur, and writer amongst our family…
I believe we can capture moments of excellence, where we shine much brighter than any medal or trophy out there. That kind of light lasts a lot longer too. I know. I still remember some of those moments I handled with greatness over 30 years ago. And guess what? I was an excellent swimmer when I was a kid. I DID earn those trophies and medals.
I can’t for the life of me remember one of them now…
They are all gone, along with my swimming abilities.
But my mountaintop moments?
They’ll be remembered forever.