Growing up, a lot of us were praised and told we were the "best" at something. I was the "best" at hula-hooping, while my best friend was the "best" at hide and seek (still accurate). But going through college with other people who were the "best" at something has made me feel so unbelievably average. Is that a bad thing?
We caught up with Samantha Matt, founder of Forever 20-somethings, manager of the extremely relatable @20somethingproblems Instagram account, and author of Average is the New Awesome. While she's an accomplished writer and author, she's also pretty average. Sam's here to tell you that sometimes, being average isn't a bad thing. In fact, it can be pretty awesome.
Her Campus (HC): When did you first have the idea to start Forever 20-somethings and what was your goal in creating it?
Samantha Matt (SM): When I graduated college, I was looking for a job in television. I had always wanted to be a TV writer. I'm from the Boston area and I moved back home after graduating. There isn’t a wealth of TV jobs in the Boston area, so I worked at a corporate company.
I was really bored with the job. There wasn't a lot of work to do, no matter how much I asked what I could do or what I could help out with, so that’s where I came up with the idea to start a website. I was so hungry for creativity and I needed to do something creative.
I started my blog Forever 20-somethings, which was very much a free WordPress template. I was writing about random things — since I had just turned 22 and I was writing about going out on the weekend, hanging out with friends, music and the TV shows I watched. Over time, it evolved into more magazine-style writing. I was promoting it on Twitter on Facebook. There was no Instagram at the time, but it took off in a way where people were asking if they could write for the site. I started having contributors, and it turned into so much more than I expected. That's when I realized that I was super passionate about digital publishing, journalism and writing.
HC: What does an average day look like for you?
SM: I work full time, in addition to everything else. I work for a product testing website. For the past couple of years, I started as a social media person, and now I'm running audience development, which is like social and traffic. But, again, editorial is where I really thrive. I'm actually currently transitioning into a newly created role and starting a department for our commerce content.
Obviously, Monday through Friday, I work nine to five, but the company is super flexible, so I'm pretty much just online all the time. When I started, I would wake up extremely early. So around six, I would make sure there were articles scheduled on Forever 20-somethings, along with scheduled social media. I would come home from work and do more work.
It sounds like it was work all the time, but I always made sure I fit in friend time and family time. Like always, my social life has always been as equally important as everything else I'm doing. The only time things got a bit nuts was when my book was just about ready to be done. I would get edits back from my book and then the edits were due in like a month. During that time, I decided to rewrite a lot of the book. I pretty much didn't sleep for that month because I have a full-time job and there was no way that I could stop what I was doing at work and work on my book. Everything had to be done outside of work, which meant really late nights and really early mornings. [bf_image id="q6mplu-5drkdc-7jnfp0"]
HC: How did you balance a full-time job running the website and Instagram while writing your book all at the same time?
SM: Prioritizing everything is so important because you just can't let things completely fall off. I needed to be doing all of these things because they feed each other.
HC: What inspired you to write Average is the New Awesome?
SM: As Forever 20-somethings started to take off, I realized that so many people, sometimes millions, felt the same way as me about things in life. There was this one article that took off about being an average weight. The response was that so many people felt the same way. People ranging from like, all different types of shapes and sizes. I realized that no matter what we look like, everyone just feels the same way about a lot of things. So many other things served as inspiration for just writing a book that everyone could relate to and helping people feel less alone. I'm helping people realize that it's not just them. We all feel the same way and it’s okay.
HC: How did you come to realize that average is awesome? What were your biggest challenges on that journey?
SM: The big thing I talked about at the beginning of the book is how depression and anxiety are such huge issues right now. Obviously they’ve been issues, but people are becoming more open about these things. I experienced burnout firsthand. People are fighting to do the most and to be the best, but at the end of the day, there's only one spot to be the best of something. You don't have to be the best.
We grew up with people telling us we were the best. We got rewarded for everything. But when you get thrown into the real world, at work, people aren't praising you for every little thing that you're doing. You're just doing your job. And if you're doing your job, that means you're doing good at what you're doing. But you don't have to make the 30 Under 30 list to be good at what you're doing. Average is the new awesome, but awesome is also the new average — it goes both ways.
HC: What advice would you give to an average 20-something that might be graduating college soon?
SM: I would tell them that they are doing awesome, no matter how long it takes them to find whatever they're looking for. If they find a job and if they're getting paid, that's going to lead them to the next step. Every step is just as important as reaching the end goal.