Embracing Mediocrity

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Today’s thought is dedicated to those days we all know very well, and tend to file away under the labels “unsuccessful”, “unproductive”, or “unsatisfactory”. Teaching goes ok, but won’t win you any prizes. Writing … well, you did some. A tiny bit. Nothing paradigm shifting in either quantity or quality. Maybe you even did some domestic chores. Not to show home standards, but you have matching socks at the ready for the next day or two.

I had one of those days today. I did far less than the examples I’ve just listed. Actually, the only thing I really achieved today was getting out for a run, and doing bits of admin. Oh and I cooked an edible and healthy lunch for myself (in my world, that’s kind of a big deal). My mind was busy overthinking all sorts of things, even during my run, and I didn’t feel particularly great all day.

But as I lie here typing this, I’m actually pretty happy with all that. Especially those of you who, like me, have suffered from anxiety or other mental health issues, will recognise the desirability of a mediocre day because, in comparison to the dark times we know, it’s a pretty major achievement. But even if you have never suffered from these kinds of problems, you should learn to be satisfied, perhaps even proud, of an average day.

An average day means we managed to keep the worst at bay. It means we did something. Maybe we didn’t produce a prize-winning article, delivered the most dramatic and entertaining and informative lecture ever witnessed in higher education. Maybe we only did one of the ten things that were on our task list today. But that’s ok. As the brilliant Mary Eagleton reminds us in her guest post on this blog, we don’t have to be brilliant all the time. It’s totally fine just to plod along between the inevitable highs and lows. Even on days when I don’t get anything done, for whatever reason, I usually manage to not be disappointed in myself. I know there are other days. Days when everything just falls into place, when writing almost come effortlessly, and you walk out of your seminar room or lecture hall with the feeling that you and your students did a really good job today. Days when even those admin tasks that you’ve dreaded the most disappear of your list one by one.

As I’m ready to go to sleep, I feel content. Content with my average day, and content that I managed to not let get my irrational worries get the better of me, even though I didn’t manage to keep them at bay entirely. Content with the few things I got done, even if it’s not everything I had planned to do.

So, here’s to mediocrity, and to the value that lies in learning to appreciate the average.

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Nadine Muller

Nadine Muller

Nadine is Senior Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research covers the literary and cultural histories of women, gender, and feminism from the nineteenth century through to the present day. She is currently completing a monograph on the Victorian widow (Liverpool University Press, 2019), and is leading War Widows' Stories, a participatory arts and oral history project on war widows in Britain.

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