Confusion Corner: Average is still better than half

Friends, the end of the semester is nigh. The calendar tells us that summer vacation is less than a month away, but our current workload suggests we won’t see summer vacation until 2016. Yes, it’s that time of the year when three hours of sleep is a blessing, when trekking across campus to nap for nine and a half minutes sounds like a plan, and when “class cancelled” emails are likely to bring real tears of joy to your eyes. Put simply, it’s getting rough out here. How do we handle all of this stress? What’s the most effective way to remind ourselves that summer vacation is, in fact, near? My unsolicited advice is to strive for, and accept, mediocrity.

If getting a 4.0 GPA and the hottest matches on Tinder comes easily to you, then totally continue to succeed and reach your goals.

This isn’t to say that if you’re great, you should halt your greatness. If getting a 4.0 GPA and the hottest matches on Tinder comes easily to you, then totally continue to succeed and reach your goals. Seriously. Without you all, the mediocre group of people that I’m advocating for would not have a basis for what human perfection looks like. We can only identify as mediocre if your kind exists, so thank you. Furthermore, this praise of mediocrity isn’t to say that you shouldn’t set goals and try to achieve them. It just means that when you set goals, you should accept that there’s a strong chance you won’t meet them — and that’s okay.

Let me explain this through a short anecdote. In the 1990s, there was a boy band called *NSYNC, and its lead singer, Justin Timberlake, was — and still is — way above mediocre talent. Also in this group was a man named Chris Kirkpatrick. Does that ring a bell? Probably not. Chris rarely got a chance to sing outside of the harmony, and teenage girls around the world only had eyes for Justin. Chris Kirkpatrick is the unofficial leader of this mediocrity movement. Was he as talented as Justin Timberlake? Not at all. What people forget, however, is that regardless of how much talent he had, he was still a member of *NSYNC. He still got to travel the world, he still got to hang out with Justin Timberlake and he still made millions of dollars. So who really cares if he was the oddball, mediocre member of the group? What matters is that Chris was in this incredibly successful group that mostly relied on the talent of Justin Timberlake. Sorry, JT, but you definitely received the shorter end of the stick here.

Let’s apply the lessons learned from the Chris Kirkpatrick anecdote to our own lives at the College of William and Mary. For starters, just as Chris was a member of *NSYNC, you are enrolled at the College. Congratulations. Remind yourself every single day that this is an accomplishment in itself. Millions of people would love a chance to attend this institution. You could literally take undergraduate courses here for the next twenty years — an act society would define as mediocre — and you’d still be attending one of the greatest universities in the world. 

For starters, just as Chris was a member of *NSYNC, you are enrolled at the College. Congratulations.

Lastly, we examine Chris’ ultimate avoidance of the spotlight: an incredibly smart move. While Justin was stuck telling yet another interviewer about his Mickey Mouse Club background, Chris was probably chilling somewhere, sipping on a margarita simply because he was the mediocre member. Can you imagine how much pressure our “perfect humans” group faces every day? People actually look to them for guidance and/or inspiration, and that’s terrifying. Here, it’s okay that you are not the head of several clubs. What matters most is that all of that responsibility doesn’t belong to you. This means that there is more room for you to fail loudly, as people don’t hold an idealized image of you.

This is a mostly facetious way to remind you all that not everyone is born a Justin Timberlake, a Beyonce, a Honey Boo Boo or anyone we perceive as “perfect,” and that’s okay. We all have to start from somewhere, and we are all worth way more than the GPA given to us. Remind yourself that Chris Kirkpatrick was perceived as mediocre his whole career and accomplished more than most do in an entire lifetime. Accepting failures and moving forward is what keeps us mediocre folks mediocre, and it couples as an incredible way to deal with stress. My name is Zoe Johnson, and by many standards, I am a mediocre person — and I’m proud.

Zoe Johnson is a Confusion Corner columnist who plays Chris Kirkpatrick in an *NSYNC tribute band.


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