By: Kim Hardiker
I recently received the result of the first module of my degree with The Open University which was a pleasing 83%. You would think that this would be cause for celebration and, in part it was although the celebration was muted, I was happy, more than happy with the result and yet part of me was disappointed that I didn’t get the 85% that would have meant I clocked up a first. Reading that back to myself trust me, I am aware of how ridiculous that admission is and, that I should be perfectly happy with my result. On the whole I am but, there is a residual niggle that I could have done better.
Due to having an innate desire to analyse my behaviour and reactions this got me thinking. Where does that niggle come from? What is it that makes me think I am producing work that is good but not quite good enough? Why can’t I be one hundred per cent happy with an excellent result. All those questions have lead me back to one specific place which is, school, more specifically high school.
I left school with several GCSEs, 1B, the rest Cs and followed that up with passing my A’ Levels again with 1 B and 2 Cs. The message that this, and many of my teachers transmitted to me was that academically, I was distinctively average (if distinctively average isn’t an oxymoron). Passing exams wasn’t good enough, I was to pass them well. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think to strive for excellence is in itself is a good thing. However, can this really be a linear scale? What if one person’s excellent is another persons mediocre, if an A* for one child is excellent but a C for another child is equally excellent?
Another area for me personally where this thread surfaced was in high school P.E. lessons. As an overweight teenager, mediocre was a hallmark of my participation in sport, never really terrible (unless it was cross country - seriously I still have nightmares about that) but never great, never excellent. I was firmly in the bottom five to be picked for teams but generally saved from the shame of always being last. This is definitely not a sob story but, the lesson I learnt from these times was, if you are not excellent don’t try, if you participate and get by, this will not be celebrated. As above don’t get me wrong, I am one of the most competitive people I know. I have been known to knock small children over to make it through to another round of musical chairs, orchestrated games to ensure I win against anyone, no mercy. So, why do I want to start to embrace mediocracy?
For just over a year, I have being going running with a friend once, sometimes twice a week. I so enjoy the mix of chatting and exercising and we probably secretly compete but, I am average. I will never be the fastest person in the world, but also not the slowest. In addition to this I have become the owner of a bike (albeit second hand and probably not one that would be targeted by thieves) and I enjoy cycling, the peace of being on a bike and of seeing the world from a different perspective I adore but, I am never going to participate in the Tour de France. In the last twelve months I have played football and tennis with a friend’s rather ruthless children and the one thing that has stood out to me the most is that I have really enjoyed my participation in all these activities. Freed up from having to be excellent at sport I have discovered the love of just having a go.
Now this makes me wonder. Are we able to instil in people, more importantly children that sometimes participation alone is acceptable, that they may never make the team of a sport or come in first but, thats okay. That taking part at something and being just okay is better than never giving something a a go. Can we move to a place where we can can celebrate excellent and mediocracy equally?
My aforementioned competitiveness means that “its the taking part that counts” statement doesn’t wash with me. As an adolescent when I started playing guitar, and one of my brother’s started to play and was better than me I stopped, swiftly - for me, it is the winning and being the best that counts. However, what if my personal quest to win and excel is a direct response to the social construct that excellence and winning is the only thing that society celebrates? What if I have accepted the message that being just good enough means I shouldn't’ even try something because being average is an automatic fail?. If that is true, then I have to question and change my own personal stance on this. My venture into sports is teaching me that doing something that I am mediocre at but that I enjoy is acceptable. The experience of being picked near to last for school sports has to dissipate and I should fully embrace trying, being average and not calling it failure. Further still rather than rather just saying “its the taking part that counts” we should start to actively celebrate taking part and being average.
That said, academically I will continue to strive to be excellent, I have found a personal space where the pressure to be excellent isn’t expected and by doing so I have found the freedom to excel and thrive. However, maybe it is time to embrace and celebrate every pass and every win, to celebrate mediocracy and not measure excellence by someone else's standard. Not only that, maybe is time we all stopped letting other people’s standards prevent us from trying and doing something we might enjoy being mediocre at.
In Celebration of Mediocracy Reviewed by Student Voices on 17:36 Rating: