I’ve lived my whole life never wanting to settle. “Good enough,” didn’t work for me, and I wanted to be the best at everything I did. In high school, it was that way. Everything I chose to do, I excelled at, and if I wasn’t excellent at it I quit. Living this way for four years engrained in me that I always had to be perfect: amazing grades and excelling in all my activities with ease defined who I was. This never fazed me since it was something I was so used to. Then college hit me. Hard.

They say the transition from high school to college is a big one, but I never realized how big it could actually be. The amount of reality checks that I encountered even in the first week of college were tremendous. I was no longer the golden child in anything! Now at a large university, I am not the best. Or the second best. Or even the third. At first, this frustrated me. I always excelled in academics and music specifically, and not being the top in my classes and my band was extremely shocking to me. I thought, “In high school, I was able to be the best even as an underclassman, so it should be easy in college too!” WRONG. I realized that in college (unlike high school) almost everyone cares as much as I do. People take their academics and their activities seriously, and I underestimated them. This concept took me a while to wrap my head around. If I couldn’t be the best, what was I to do?

Obviously just quitting wasn’t an option like I may have done in the past (I paid way too much for this to just drop out). After a while the answer became apparent to me: do more. In all aspects. Work harder at the things I’m already good at and can improve upon, but also accept more challenges. Take on more things that scare me or do things I’ve never tried before. The expression, “Jack of all trades,” doesn’t mean what we all think it means: someone who can do anything and everything with ease. The true expression is, “Jack of all trades but master of none.” This made me realize that it’s okay to not be perfect all the time. Do things even if you’re not great at them if that’s what makes you happy! Focus on more than one thing and be a well rounded individual.

Once I followed my own advice (which I am still trying to accept completely), I was okay with being average. I don’t have to get straight A’s as long as I’m learning and putting effort into my classes. I don’t have to be the best clarinet player in the band as long as I’m playing my best and having fun. I don’t have to be the most fit person in the gym as long as I’m going and doing what I can handle to make myself healthier. Another saying is, “Do one thing a day that scares you.” Failing was what scared me most, sometimes more than the actual activity. So now that I’m accepting my “failure” or “mediocrity” or whatever I used to see it as, I’m doing a bunch of things every day that scare me, and it’s awesome! It is so much more fun and fulfilling to do things because they’re fun or they benefit myself than to do them because I know I’m the best at them. And while yes, it does feel good to be the top or the best, perhaps my variety of skills may get me there someday. Maybe I’ll stumble across something brand new that I’ve never done before and be great at it and love it. But I never would’ve known if I was too scared to try.

Being average doesn’t mean what society has made it out to mean. It has this negative connotation that I believed in for so long. But doing a lot of things for enjoyment and purpose is better than doing one thing for recognition. Attitude is everything, and it’s so easy to tell if someone hates what they’re doing even if they’re great at it (I can think of a handful of my teachers that fall into this category). If you go into an activity with the sole mindset that you need to be first or the best and you don’t achieve that, you’ll be disappointed, and I've experienced this so often. But now, I don’t really feel that if I know I did MY best for my OWN self. So yeah, call me “average” if you want. But I don’t see it in the negative way a lot of people do and how I used to. I’m having fun doing what I want to do, and I don’t have to be the best anymore to be successful in anything that I want to set my mind to.

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