I’m average. How about you?

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Yesterday I read this article by Kerri Sackville , this one by Krista O’Reilly and this one by Jodi Gibson exploring whether it’s okay to be content with being average in a society that celebrates high achievers. I thought they were pretty interesting because I’ve often thought about the pressure, or need, we have to be remarkable. To be noticed. To be recognised. To set goals and push to achieve them. We are told that if we can dream it we can do it (to which my man always says it’s his dream to fly naked across the sky but no matter how much he dreams it, that ain’t gonna happen!). What is it that drives us – or, at least, some of us – to pursue high achievement? Or to desire fame for the recognition that that brings? Can we aim high, can we live atop lofty peaks but still maintain our happiness, health and relationships? And what if we don’t want to dream big? Are we letting ourselves down if we don’t ‘reach our potential’? So many questions!

I know that there are remarkable people out there. People with enormous capacity and focus, who can take on a multitude of roles and responsibilities with apparent ease. I’ve met people who are highly proficient across a multitude of disciplines – art, music, sport, high academic ability, and who are genuinely delightful company to boot. I’ve read about people who have fabulous ideas and motivation and make things happen for the benefit of others in society. I salute these people. The world needs them.

I can feel a bit deflated looking at these high achievers. I sometimes look at their efforts and think ‘and I have done …?’ Do you ever feel like that? Here’s the thing. I did an Arts/Law degree at uni. I worked hard. I was focussed on those marks. The plan? I was aiming for that ‘big 4’ commercial firm. I’d keep working hard. I’d make partner. Imagine the status that would come with that! The reality? Got into the firm I had so wanted to join and…hated it! Stuck it out for a few years, fell into depression. Working there was unsustainable. So I ditched it. Career number two? Stay-at-home mum. There’s no status, no recognition in that! I know when I resigned that there were mutterings behind my back along the lines of ‘how can she waste all that study?’, ‘why would she give up being a lawyer to be a mum?’ But status can’t overcome being unhappy in what you do. I was happy to be a mum – and, to be honest, it’s what I’d always wanted to be. Why should I feel I’ve let myself down in any way by making that choice? That’s not the same as saying that I don’t want to do my best at whatever I do. If I’m going to do something, I’ll always do it to the best of my ability. But I’m never going to be ‘the best’ at anything. Nor do I need to be ‘the best’ at anything. I doubt I’ll ever be recognised for some stellar achievement, or have people stopping me in the streets to take a selfie with me. But that’s okay. I’ve managed to bring two functioning adults into the world, I still love the man I married 25 years ago, and I’ve gathered some friends along the way. That’s enough for me. Why would I want any more? Why should I need any more?

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11 thoughts on “I’m average. How about you?

  1. Amen sister.
    I have so many thoughts on this. I’ve never had a ” career” I do have a qualification but it’s out of date by now and I did work in my field until I had my first child. I’ve worked harder in my job as mum and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it too.
    But now that they are almost all grown and flown I feel as though I should be “doing” more. But this is enough for me and our family. I’m happy being a home maker, a nurturer of our family. It is enough. Not sure if I’m average but I’m I know I’m special to my family and that is all that matters.
    Cheers Kate.

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    1. I hear ya! There are times when I wish had done something society would maybe view as more meaningful but it would have required me to sacrifice time with friends, family and myself that I was not comfortable doing. Not over achieving doesn’t mean we haven’t led a successful life.

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  2. When I was working I worked hard & achieved good success in my job, it wasn’t anything high powered but I learnt from the bottom up & felt proud of myself. Now I’m at home for the past few years with my kids, it wasn’t planned & we just rolled with it but sometimes I feel ugh another day of this, then I feel guilty ……. but you know what I’m raising good kids, doing my blog & craft work & loving it, this to me is a big achievement .

    My eldest son was diagnosed with asd & had no speech , I fought to get him into a speech/language unit & worked hard with him on his speech & now at age 6 he has achieved so much. His speech is good, you can have a conversation with him, social skills have improved , this is our achievement together .

    Just because we are not high flyers or have big careers Carolyn doesn’t mean we are not worth anything, we are! You have raised good healthy happy children, given them a stable home life , a good husband & home life, that means a lot these days. When I read about all the abuse stories etc ( lots of this in Ireland at minute) it makes me so sad & mad. So yes we have achieved that much at least

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    1. Rants are welcome! I think it’s about where our priorities lie – and these can change over time as life events unfold. And if our priorities have always been – or become – smaller scale and closer to home that should be respected and be okay. The most important work you can do, Maura, is to work with your boy. And you bring lots of us pleasure producing your gorgeous work! I’m very happy that’s where you have built your world!

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  3. I love this! I had a friend at school and we always agreed that we were never really good at anything, we were always just mediocre or average at all the things we did, or maybe better than average… good enough to make the team but not star. We tried to accept it but I think honestly we resented it. Private girls schools are a cesspool of comparison, it’s what you’re taught from a young age. It takes a long time to unlearn what you learn there and shift your expectations. Slowly learning to accept average now, but there is that nagging inside going “achieve, achieve, achieve”. I just want quiet and nice experiences now, the desire for grandeur has gone so that is something! (Not that there is anything wrong with wanting grandeur, if it is really what you want).
    Thank you for writing this piece Carolyn! 💕

    PS. I think you’re fab.

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    1. Oh I agree, Deanna. There is certainly that push – expectation – to aim for the highest, that you must WANT to aim for the highest, to do otherwise is to somehow let yourself down. And, yes, if you can do it, and truly want to do it for yourself, and not to fulfil other’s expectations, then that is great. And I completely get the ‘achieve ‘ voice that whispers in the ear. I hear it too. But I feel if I were to prioritise that then I’d lose the stuff that really is important to me. I’m pleased you are having nice times! Tassie is a lovely place to find them. And you are fab too xx

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  4. This is great Carolyn!
    I’m having a full on quarter-life crisis right now. I’m about to resign from my job of five years, because it doesn’t make me happy, and I can’t decide what I’m going to do with my life because I’m scared I’ll be average no matter what I do…which, when you actually stop to think about it, is a really warped perspective. Thanks for this, it’s a great reality check for me!

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    1. Happy to be a reality check! Congrats on taking the bold step to move away from what isn’t making you happy. But, yep, it is scary not knowing what is coming next. We have had to face that as a family on a few occasions. And it is tempting to opt for something we know we can do well but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to make us content. So maybe it is okay to opt for something that is a bit outside the comfort zone but something we know we would want to do our best in? Maybe we’re not the star performer but perhaps a good solid effort is enough. And when I see all your beautiful work I can’t imagine you not putting in love and a 100% effort at something you are engaged by. Good luck! Keep us posted on what Catherine did next!

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  5. Hey Carolyn,
    I think it’s hard sometimes to work out the difference between what we really want, and what society around us tells us that we should want. Do I want the legal career, we think, or do I want approval from my parents/school/randoms I meet at a cocktail party? The way our society places status on certain roles (lawyer = GOOD! full-time mum = BAD!) is such bullshit but it’s powerful bullshit that we can’t help but internalise.

    You’ve committed a huge chunk of your life to being a wonderful mum. My mum did the same. Now that her kids are in their 20s and early 30s, she is also re-evaluating what she has to offer the world besides her important (and ongoing) role as a mum. But the fact is it’s not a full-time or even part-time job for her anymore. We don’t need her every day, and haven’t for a long while now. I see her filling her days with various activities, and she seems happy enough, but sometimes I wonder if she is just waiting around for grandchildren. As an adult, I don’t like feeling like her happiness is dependent on feeling needed by me, because I just don’t need her like I used to. It’s different when your kids are adults with their own lives.

    I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make. It sounds like corporate lawyer was definitely not the right fit for you, and you should feel proud of your achievements as a mum, it looks like you have done an amazing job at raising two healthy independent young people. But, if there is something you really want to do now that your children are adults, you should go for it. It’s never too late. Just because you haven’t worked in a long time doesn’t mean you can’t, doesn’t mean you haven’t got skills to offer, no matter how scary the idea might seem. In many ways it might be freeing because presumably you don’t HAVE to work to make ends meet, so you could be more choosy about what you might LIKE to do rather than what is expected of you.

    Whatever you decide to do with this next part of your life, I’m sure you will do it with style and passion. Ultimately it’s up to each of us to listen to the whisperings of our hearts and try to follow as best we can xx

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    1. Style and passion! I like that! I completely understand how you see your mum. I have a similar experience – and it’s something I am trying to avoid for myself. I have some community volunteer work I do, and I have a few ideas floating around in my head. I actually did apply for a job! Nothing that would set the world on fire but something that would fit in well with our family life and would be a bit of fun for me. If it doesn’t come off, that’s fine, but I’ll keep my eye out. And my boy has suggested doing something with my arty/crafty endeavours, or is there something I’d like to study?! So will it be something that brings status? Highly unlikely but it will be enough for me. Hope you have had a rewarding time these past months!

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