By Kalma Sadiya
“Are you either a manic overachiever or filled with shame at your so-called mediocrity?”
During this quarantine, my screen time has increased significantly spent on social media. Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok, you name it. My timeline is filled with people showing off their talent and productivity, making me think of this simple question a lot more than on a normal day. Why do I slack all day, doing nothing other than the ordinary unlike these people? What am I really capable of?
Recently, I’ve been watching this Youtube channel called The School of Life. As you can tell from the name, it basically teaches you about life from a different point of view than yours once was. One of my favourite videos in the channel is called “Why You Don’t Need to be Exceptional”. From the video, I learned that mediocrity is a common struggle for many people in the world. People get pressured by expectations from their surroundings or even their own self to be exceptional. To achieve more than others, to change the world with their presence, or to feel content when surrounded by luxury and wealth.
One of the Youtube comments in that video moved me. The comment said, when she was a college student, her professor once asked the class to stand up if they wanted to lead an exceptional life and touch a lot of people and to stay seated if they wanted to lead a quiet life that affects a few people. Not going to lie, if I were in that class I’d stand up in a split second. But not the commenter, she stayed in her seat. She wanted to live a quiet life with a small family, working in a small job she likes, and invest in a few but meaningful friendships. Then, the professor said that the ones standing up are correct, and those that stayed seated are wrong, and they needed to change their perspective to live up to their potential.
Today, four years later, the commenter is married and pregnant with her first child, living in a tiny apartment and working a desk job that might not impact the grand scheme of life but one that she loves fully. And that is, perhaps, all that truly matters in life.
This video, utilizing only a narrator and simple graphics, delivered a message—that it is perfectly fine to work hard to achieve your dreams. But self value and attainment doesn’t only belong to the genius inventors of all time, to pop stars with thousands of fans, or to super wealthy businessmen. It is saying that even if you’re just an ordinary person with an ordinary job, you are still full of value.
But what is exceptionality itself? Most exceptional people who reached astounding levels of success define their own success by the fulfilment they get in giving a great impact to the world. Does that necessarily mean only a small bunch of the entire human population are exceptional? I would personally disagree. Perhaps, exceptionality doesn’t have a definite measurement, and it’s definition might differ from one person to another.
For instance, the first son in a family suffering from poverty graduating from the best university in town might be a normal thing for others, but for his family that struggles to get through day by day, that is without a doubt exceptional. Sure, it might not give him fame nor does it give a great impact to the world, but the fulfilment of his achievement for his family and himself would make him exceptional. From this example, I might rather agree on John Wooden’s take on success—“peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to the best of which you’re capable”.
As a quote in the video that I truly like say, “as we discover that we may be beyond others’ expectations, life’s true luxuries might comprise nothing more or less than simplicity, quiet, friendship based on vulnerability, creativity without an audience, love without too much hope or despair, hot baths and dried fruits, walnuts, and a little bit of dark chocolate.”