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In Defense of ‘Average’

Average. In essence, this is not a scary word. It means regular, typical, ordinary—there’s nothing sinister about it. But when used to describe a life or a person, somehow it’s the darkest, most brutal word in the dictionary. For many, this simple, monosyllabic word calls to mind the image of a small, white cubicle or a tired housewife awaiting the return of her husband; it’s tired, boring, and somewhat depressing. But why does ‘average’ have to be such a dirty word?

To most of us, a life well lived involves adventure, overwhelming success, and a picture-perfect family. From the time we were little kids, we were taught to “reach for the stars” and achieve something extraordinary and incredible, and in doing so, to pity those who live less remarkable lives. Our movies, our books, and our TV shows all echo the same story of a dissatisfied character who one day decides they’re wasting their life and drastically changes course to the dismay of their friends and family, but later achieves their dreams and falls in love and lives happily ever after.

We eat stories like these for breakfast, imagining the mundane routine of school and work as a precursor to real life, where we’ll have fantastical experiences and prestige. We are the generation that believes we are special and are going to change the world. We are adventurous, ambitious, and enthusiastic—all of which are incredibly good things to be. However, why is ambition only good if it’s directed at what society considers an impressive career? Why do people who work in cubicles to earn a living get looked down upon? Why are stay-at-home mothers portrayed as insufficient? Why are ambitions like these so ‘average’?

The answers to these questions are simple—these are traditional, honest, and for lack of a better word, “boring” occupations. The glamour associated with being a CEO or an editor of Cosmopolitan magazine is admittedly more captivating than becoming an accountant or a store manager, and because of this, the latter careers are considered undesirable.  The danger in sensationalizing certain paths is that we ignore the parts of them that are boring. Every career will have an aspect you don’t like. Paperwork, meetings, payroll—it’s not always exciting, no matter what field you’re in. What we need to understand, however, is that just because someone is in an ‘average’ position, doesn’t mean that their lives are boring all of the time either.

There’s so much excitement to be had in life itself. Finding joy in life’s small moments, to love and be loved, and to grow and change over time are just a few examples. These things can’t be bought or coerced, they have to be found and experienced. To find this fulfillment and happiness, you need more than just an exciting career path and a luxury home—you need passion, people, and individuality. Who’s to say that these things can’t be found while living an ‘average’ life? Excitement isn’t the be-all-end-all of success. You could be the most sought-after attorney or most famous actress in the world and still not be happy, just like you could be a housekeeper or a bank teller and not be unsatisfied.

What’s important is to live a life that you choose for yourself. No one can tell you what to find fulfilling—you get to decide that for yourself. Your job is a big part of your life, but it isn’t the whole thing. What’s most important is that you feel good about the life you lead—‘average’ or not. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

Madison Adams is a feminist, a tea enthusiast, a friend to the animals, and a lover of words. Mostly, though, she's a young woman who's still trying to figure things out. 
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