In our house, we have a saying: “We specialize in mediocrity.“ We aren’t complete losers. But we aren’t exactly superstars either. And that’s ok.
It seems like with the rise of social media, lives are being played out on screens with not much room for ordinary. Everyone on your Instagram feed, Facebook scroll or Snapchat story is spectacular. Hair is long, blonde and luscious and clothes are fabulous and fashionable. You aren’t special unless you take amazing vacations often. People must look busy and be doing really important things at. all. times. Grades should be high. It leaves not a lot of room for us average folk.
It is kind of sad to watch the pressure on my teenagers and their friends. When I grew up, there weren’t more than about 3 AP classes to choose from. And it never even occurred to me that I ought to study for the ACT (my resulting score reflected that, *ahem*). I played flute because I wanted to, not because it would look good on a college application. And when I was tired of band, I tried out for cheerleader (having a loud voice was about the only prerequisite in my small town in the ‘80’s).
Nowadays things are so different. My seminary students complain ad nauseum about NHS because it requires so many service hours. But they don’t quit because they want to put it on their college applications. My daughter, in her junior year, is studying constantly for the SAT, AP tests or just regular class. She has beat her head against a wall to obtain a high academic ranking. She takes 6 AP classes a year and laments that she can’t take more because of tennis team. It’s a little ridiculous.
As this first semester of her junior year comes to a close, she is faced with the reality that she might drop in ranking because of her brutal math class. She may actually end up with a B- (gasp!). Never mind the fact that she plans to study writing when she goes to college. Somehow, society has convinced us that we must be good at everything. Anything less than a 4.0 is unacceptable.
But she isn’t perfect. No one is. And that’s ok. I think this is going to end up being a good lesson for her, painful as it is.
Why isn’t it enough to just be a kind person? Why can’t we spend our time doing service hours because we love the Savior, not because we are trying to achieve the perfect college essay? Why can’t we choose an extra-curricular or a class because we want to try it, not because it’s going to help us reach some high goal or prove our worth? Not everyone is going to be the best at everything. In fact, very VERY few of us will be the best at anything. And that’s ok.
We are special because we are HIS. We are worthy because we were born. That is all that matters. And yes, that may make us average, in the sense that everyone qualifies for such a designation, but since when was that not enough?
Let me share with you a unique perspective. As a mother of two disabled sons, I’ve come to appreciate even below-average achievements. I was thrilled when Ethan finally used the potty at age 6. When all his peers had achieved this milestone years before, it was still special to us. I’m still working on that milestone for Derick, at age 19. But no one can hug like him. Derick’s special gift to the world is hugging everyone, no matter what they look like. Ethan makes strangers uncomfortable by grabbing their wrists and looking at their watches. It’s good for them. People need to get out of themselves and deal with social discomfort. It’s Ethan’s gift.
Even average gifts have a benefit to society. I am good at giving my elderly friend rides when she needs them. I’m good at loving my husband. Which makes him a better bishop, which helps people who are struggling to feel loved in return. It is an average gift, but I’m good at it. And it helps. I’m not that smart. It’s ok. I’m nice.
We should all strive for greatness, but we should expand its meaning and do it for ourselves, not society’s expectations. It’s about who we want to become, not who we want people to think we are. And it should be rooted in God’s desires for us.
I’m not spectacular, and I dare say maybe you aren’t either. That’s ok. Be kind. Try your hardest to love God. And everything else will work out. Being in a loving, happy marriage is the best thing that can happen to you. All the famous and rich people in Hollywood prove that being spectacular at something doesn’t make you happy. But loving? Loving is the best thing ever. So do it. It may be ordinary. You may feel average in your intelligence or your achievements. But over time, you’ll learn that ordinary is pretty spectacular.