I wasn’t born into greatness, and I wasn’t born into squalor either.
I was right smack dab in (or maybe slightly above) the middle. I always had decent new cars to transport me, a two-story house, a cat, a dog, married parents and a sibling.
I lived in a neighborhood where we had to lock our doors and keep our things picked up or they would disappear, but I never had to worry about being robbed, mugged, or killed, even after bar close. I’m a white male, always performed well in class, never took any A.P. courses, was told early on that I was not smart enough to be known as talented or gifted. My parents never really pushed me to be competitive in sports or work hard at my interests, but they always enrolled me in the “fun” league and paid for music instruments and lessons.
College and respectable jobs were expected of me from birth, but real trials and tribulations to prepare me for the rigors of study and hard work did not exist. I coasted by, pretty much unnoticed by everyone. I had a close group of really great friends, was never a loner, nor was I super popular.
Teachers got to know my name because I always showed up for class, never excelling and never playing hooky.
I never felt right. I was always uneasy about something but never knew what. These feelings made me feel guilty and ashamed of myself, knowing that my life was okay and much better than many.
Was I selfish for wanting more?
As I grew, I realized there were many f*cked up things about my family that we glossed over in the hope of appearing average. It was always important in my family to be on an even keel emotionally. Showing too much emotion of any kind was looked down upon. Difficult topics such as economic uncertainty, illness, and other family b.s. were veiled with fake smiles or meaningless words. When we needed hugs and tears, there were back pats and “It’ll be okay’s.” When there should’ve been jumping high-fives and “F*ck Yeah’s!” there were “Good Job’s” and mostly quiet resignation that that’s the way I should be.
By avoiding any true struggle or emotional conflict, I never really learned how much it hurt to fail, how good it felt to succeed. I never knew what it felt like to love, or have my heart ripped apart. As I sit here now, learning new things about being authentic from courageous authors and teachers, I can feel the thick walls around my heart and brain wanting to crack.
I can feel the years of pain that have built up. And I have to say it hurts.
It’s not even coming out and it hurts.
I’ve never felt like addressing my internal pain was valid because my life was never horrible. I never wanted to seem like a spoiled brat, complaining when everything wasn’t that bad. In reality though, someone is always going to have a harder, shittier situation in life, so we should all stop letting ourselves or others tell us that our situation is okay. If you’ve lived in the mediocre zone your whole life, constantly feeling okay but not ever really great or even really awful, it’s time to feel the hidden pain of mediocrity and start the path to a better life.
Find a quiet space, it may be your car after work, in your bed after the lights go out, skipping your favorite TV show, or take a walk on lunch and find a quiet nook (the more private the better). If you’re like me, you can easily feel that sense of pain and uneasiness right below your skin-crawling like worms, that chunk of iron in your chest, that’s your heart, that fogginess in your head, that is where we start. Instead of pushing it down, instead of saying “My life has been not bad so I should not feel this,” I want you to take just a few minutes and let the feelings come.
Tears may flow, your body may twitch and convulse, you may tense and release your muscles, you may feel compelled to yell some profanity, just be with it. If it gets too crazy, do not worry, open your eyes, take a few deep breaths and give yourself a mental hug. When the tears stop, you’ll feel your heart lighten, the fog thin, and maybe even a genuine smile crack your lips.
Now I am not a guru, therapist, or life coach, but if you’ve suffered from a mediocre life, I’m here to let you know that you are not the only one.
Author: Dave Miller
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Michael Dorokhov at Flickr