“It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.” — Isaac Disraeli
Keep your head down. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make waves. There is pressure in our society to live the status quo and thus settle for mediocrity.
But what does it mean to live the status quo? It means a life of stability, normalcy and social acceptance. For some, it could mean a steady 9-to-5 job, a lifetime working for someone else, and washing your car on Sundays. Of course, any and all of these things could be just great. Settling for mediocrity means different things to different people.
To Hollywood, settling for mediocrity means living a life in the suburbs. I recently watched Revolutionary Road, and I would say this film strongly implies that suburban life means selling out and giving up on your dreams.
To someone who has lived in the suburbs, I find this generalization judgemental and untrue. What of the person who always dreamed of being a dentist, but chooses to live in the suburbs for the trees and yard? What of the person whose dream it is to raise a family in a quiet, family-oriented neighbourhood? Neither of these people is settling for mediocrity.
To me, settling for mediocrity means choosing social acceptance over dreams and passions, and living a life you believe someone else wants or expects of you. It could mean sticking it out at a job you dislike for 20, 30 or 40 years just to secure the pension because that’s what’s reasonable in our society. It could mean giving up on dreams because they’re seemingly too difficult or unrealistic or unusual, and thus becoming very small and unremarkable in the process — not to mention resentful and regretful.
I admire people who challenge the status quo. These people are true to themselves even when it means being different.
At the end of the day, you have to like yourself. A life well lived is not one that meets with everyone else’s expectations. It’s one that meets with yours.
“The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.” — Rita Mae Brown.