Mind the Gap: Mediocrity

I just want to say that I am writing this to procrastinate studying for two exams. Focusing has been a continued challenge this week. Focusing is a challenge over and over. I went to a professor’s office hours last Tuesday to check in after a personal event had shaken my heart. We talked about the upcoming exam and how I was feeling. My professor mentioned postponing the test and then told me this: “It’s okay to be mediocre.”

A fun word to pronounce, mediocrity is also a “fun” (and by fun I mean wild and bizarre) concept once you get down to it. In my days of severe depression, the idea burned me invisibly like steam. I panicked over and over about the possibility of not being the smartest or most diligent person in the room, and that anxiety debilitated me until I could barely wake up every day. Perfect was what I had to be to prove my worth. Universities don’t want to boast students with C averages.

Now, after about a year since I last felt severely depressed, I find myself edging closer to the idea of being average (or worse) in the eyes of this institution. My GPA, due to me being so scared of not being smart enough at this school that I couldn’t leave my room for most of sophomore year, is a 2.5. I am forced over and over both by circumstance and by my own mindset to rethink: Do I have to be afraid of being less than the best?

A change in mindset for me comes with a reversal of roles. As a marginalized queer Latinx, I came to this school feeling that I had to prove I had resources to give to Tufts to make me valuable. This is unfair to me, turning my unique experience and skills into currency in a larger social and political system created with little regard for my existence or my health. I find myself trying to assert the truth — “I do not have to make myself valuable to the larger institution to be valuable” — Over and over I try to care less about numbers and more about myself and my own growth.

Over and over it feels like other people also view their time here as a complete representation of their success or failure as humans. This is where pushing over and over for subversion has kept me going: time here is a resource for me. Opportunities here are a resource for me. Classes here are a resource for me, my brain and my future. My personal growth is what I will keep with me in 10 years when I won’t have to look at daily memes about the Carm/Dewick rivalry. In some ways, being “mediocre” in school might be necessary for me to keep my mental health. Living with the internalized ideals of this education system forces us all to see our bodies and minds as currency: giving our energy out to meet unreasonable standards until we don’t remember who we are underneath. In a place of “exemplary,” I hope to make space for realizing that “mediocre” isn’t an adjective to describe people. Over and over.