On Being Average

I earned my first ‘C’ when I was a junior in college.

May of 1988.

Early Civilizations.

An interim class: 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, 3 consecutive weeks.

The fact that I can instantly recall all of this information should give you an indication of its importance in my life. (The ‘C’, not the class.)

I just so happened to meet my husband in May of 1988. Coincidence? I think not. (And if you are thinking I’m still holding a grudge for that unsightly blemish on my transcripts, you are correct.)

I was devastated. Seriously. I know it sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

At that point in my life, a ‘C’ represented failure. Yep, you heard me. Average was failure.

Today, I get it. I understand. I can look at that ‘C’ a bit more objectively thanks to my experiences with my own children, 15+ years of teaching, and the wisdom that accompanies being 48.

That ‘C’ did not represent failure; it represented my knowledge of a certain subject during a specific time period.

It didn’t reflect the background knowledge I had coming into the class. (Apparently a year of Advanced Western Cultures in high school didn’t do much for me. The only thing I remember  was that my class kept a list of shoes my teacher wore each day. Seriously, how could anybody own that many pair of shoes?)

That ‘C’ didn’t necessarily represent the effort I put in. Or maybe it did. I was good at playing ‘school’. I was a strong student, earning mostly ‘A’s with a few B’s sprinkled in. I accomplished this by doing homework while listening to music and watching TV. In hindsight, I wasn’t that good at learning for the right reasons. I was learning for the grade. Not for the knowledge. I’ve gotten smarter in that respect as well.

That ‘C’ most certainly did not take my emotional state into play. Did I mention that I had just met my husband? I’m sure my notebook was covered with  RH’s+ KA’s enclosed in hearts. There may even have been some scribblings of Mrs. Reed J. Hovie. I was most definitely thinking of our next date, not the dates on a timeline.

And now to state the obvious. I was not a failure. I was…well, average. Ouch. I most certainly did not want to be categorized as average. (Even if in a subject I was not the least bit passionate.)

Which brings me to this: what even is average?

The math people are probably all out there thinking well it depends. Are we talking mean, median, or mode?

But I’m not a math person. (Actually I am…I love math…except for Geometry…not a fan.)

In the real world, average has a lot to do with the source of comparison. For example, I am 5’8”. The average American woman is about 5’4”. Clearly I am above average. But in my family, I am the shortest. Below average. (A fact of which I am reminded of quite frequently.)

You don’t hear of many people striving to be average. But the truth is, most of us are average in most ways. Life is a bell shaped curve. I am undoubtedly average in most respects. (And no offense, but so are you, BTW.) There are areas in which I am below average-like backing a trailer, for instance. And likewise, there are areas I am above average, of which I am struggling for an example at this point in time. Oh wait…modesty. I’m above average in modesty.

Is being average necessarily a bad thing?  We tend to migrate toward activities that allow us to experience success. But at times, our passion pushes us to excel in areas we are not naturally gifted. Effort compensates for our shortcomings. Definitely a good thing. Shows character and ambition.

Yet, we seem to have such a difficult time accepting average. You don’t have to look any further than the Sports Illustrated, who recently drew a lot of attention by choosing a plus size model for the cover of their swimsuit issue. Why is it that we are either looking at emaciated high fashion models, sculpted fitness models or plus size models. The extremes seem to be well represented in the media.

But where are the models that represent the average woman?

Herein lies the problem. What is average? Note: we’ve come full circle here.

Perhaps we need to look at average from a different perspective. Average should mean healthy. And while healthy can take many different shapes and sizes, there are parameters that cannot be ignored when it comes to health.

This is one situation where it takes a lot of effort to be average. Eating nutritious foods, exercising in moderation, getting adequate sleep, and taking time for reflection and spirituality is difficult.

To complicate matters, sometimes we think one extreme is “healthy”, when in fact there isn’t anything healthy about restricting calories, exercising to excess, getting by on little sleep, or trying to “do it all”. Unfortunately, we live in a world with messed up values.

Sometimes, being average is the biggest challenge of all. So each time I am tempted to engage in unhealthy behaviors, I will remind myself that I am a better, healthier person for being average.


One thought on “On Being Average

  1. Average is healthy (though that’s within reason with the US’s elevated BMI levels, for example).
    In most cases, being average can be a secure comfort zone. If the cause is reasonable, soaring for above average (as you do with this blog and your recipes, for example) can be a good thing 🙂


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