There’s this guy I work with, he’s a few years older than me and honestly he’s the most frustrating head-fuck of a person I’ve ever met. I won’t use his name as he’s totally the type of prick who would find out and sue me, so I’ll simply refer to him as ‘the colleague’. I’ll try not to go on about him too much as it makes me angry and I don’t have time, I could literally write volumes on him, in fact perhaps I will, and then take the hefty tomes to a therapist to help me deal with the years worth of shit he’s put me through. I mean, this is an asshole who orders for lunch hot chips with salt and vinegar- minus the salt. What a monster, right? My eye is twitching just thinking about it. Anyway.
So the colleague will amble into work every day, lanky and immediately irritating on sight, and proceed to log in and put his stuff away, without greeting anyone. Someone will inevitably call out, “Hey, colleague!” To which he’ll respond with an unenthusiastic “hey” in turn. Someone will follow up with, “how are you?” To which the colleague will respond, every single fucking day, five working days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, for the past five fucking years:
This response is never elaborated on, nor is the question ever returned. And the answer is always the same. I’m ok.
Like everything he does, including in no small part the way he breathes, I’ve become increasingly furious at this inevitable daily exchange. So recently, I confronted him about it. “Why just ‘ok’, colleague?” I demanded angrily. “Why never ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ or ‘tired’ or ‘shit’? Why are you always just fucking ok?” The colleague, who forever remains infuriatingly unfazed by my spontaneous bursts of anger towards him, just shrugged. “I’m ok. I’m always ok.” I was seething by this point, all white knuckles and pursed lips. “But why, Colleague? Why? Why aren’t you ever more or less than ok?” Once again he shrugged his fucking stupid shrug with his shitty shoulders and said, “I guess its coz all my good days are behind me. I had a good year when I was twenty-three. But I’m, like 32 now. Now I’ll only ever be ok.” I found this as sad as I did annoying, and that’s one of the worst things about the Colleague, right when you’re ready to rip his stupid goofy head off and use it as a bowling ball to repeatedly knock down his lanky headless body, he goes and says something so pathetically sweet that your anger just kinds of simmers down and melts into a begrudging pity. Usually followed by a moment of shame for thinking of him so unkindly, reminding yourself that he’s 99% likely on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum but his stupid religious parents never got him diagnosed or treated, so it’s not really his fault that he’s stumbling about blindy in mainstream society, deliberately unaware of how burdensome he is to those forced to be around him. And then I usually feel angry at him for making me feel sorry for him and wasting another 10minutes of my life thinking about him and his stupid fucking family.
Again, I digress. The whole point of this, before I got lost in my intense feelings towards the Colleague (and now I’m furious at him again for hijacking my thought process), was to question whether at some point, is it acceptable to abandon striving for greatness and just embrace mediocrity? Is it ok to be just… Ok?
I’ve accidentally spent the last decade working a reasonably enjoyable, but ultimately completely pointless job, selling CDs and DVDs. I love music and movies but hate sales and the corporate environment and most of the general public, and I’ve always felt guilty for not pursuing a more lucrative career path.
This sense of guilt compelled to me strive for more, kind of- I climbed the corporate ladder, used my smart mouth to kiss the proper assess and quickly wound up managing a multi-million dollar a year business with a staff of 30, by the age of 25. While doing this I also decided to study online and I obtained a diploma of counseling and another in training and management. And pretty soon I was so stressed and burned out that I wanted to fucking neck myself. I would literally cry myself to sleep because I had too many things to do and I was too overwhelmed to do any of them. One time I was so rundown and dehydrated I got a kidney infection. I woke up in the middle of the night paralyzed with agony, so I rang the house-call Doctor who arrived at 4am and gave me a shot of morphine in the ass for the pain. I had to open up the store at 7am and I couldn’t get hold of any of the other managers to cover for me, so I literally had to open the shop high on morphine and battling a life-threatening infection- that’s fucking dedication, my friend.
Needless to say, I eventually figured out that management life was not for me, or for anyone really with a soul, so I stepped back down to a lower-ranking position and have never once regretted it. I haven’t really aimed for anything work-related since, and have stopped putting so much importance in my job. It’s just a fucking job, a dumb one at that, just a way to make the money that allows my existence to continue. In this case, I felt it’s ok to be just ok.
We can’t all be special. We can’t all lead a magnificent life or leave an important legacy. Barely any of us will have any affect on humanity whatsoever or have our names in the history books. We are, as individuals, less significant than a grain of sand in the ocean, but collectively,we make something vital and expansive, like all the single grains of sand combined to form a body of land, or how the drops of water flow together to create a sea.
Ultimately I think it’s ok to be just ok, but only when it comes to the mediocrities of life, and that in itself is the tricky part; determining what is truly meaningful versus mediocre. I feel like so many of us put things on the wrong end of the scale because we are influenced by the values of others. Of course your boss is going to tell you that finishing some report takes precedence over getting home to your family; because to him, it is. It’s ok to not be cutthroat in the workplace; your work is not the sum of of your life; unless, of course, you have devoted yourself to caring, healing, or another all-consuming, noble labor. It’s ok to be just ok with yourself at times- self-love is a lifelong journey, and the pressure to be happy all the time is bullshit, like the old man in the street who tells you to “smile love, it’s free!” when you were just minding your own business, trying desperately to get to the coffee shop before work even though you’re already running late, you weren’t even unhappy, and what kind of fucking maniac walks around with a smile as their default expression anyway? Stupid old prick.
On the other hand, I feel there are many things you should never be ok with being just ok.
Whatever you are passionate about, whatever your thing is, be it writing, singing, making people laugh, fucking beat-boxing, be it creative or analytical or just plain weird, whatever pops those pleasure bubbles, you should try to be the fucking boss at. Once you’ve taken over, don’t stop- aim to redifine the game. Try to be the ultimate greatest in the universe at that thing you love; not for ego or physical reward, but so that you can spend your days on something fulfilling, so that you can put something out into the world that could change lives, so that you can enhance the existence of your passion by your unique contribution.
If you create something out of passion, unmotivated by the possibly of notoriety or prestige but compelled to create for the sake of creation alone, there is no success or failure, and you couldn’t be ‘just ok’ if you tried.
One should also never settle for mediocrity when it comes to love, sex, and important relationships. Love should knock you off your feet and make you more terrified and vulnerable than you’ve ever felt. Sex should deprive you, at least momentarily, of your breath and speech, leaving you both exhilarated and exhausted. That kind of love and sex exists, and can be attained by just about everyone, so settling for anything less is just depriving yourself of one of life’s most beautiful gifts. I’ve certainly been guilty of it; I wasted years on a shitty relationship because leaving seemed like too much effort. I won’t ever get those years back but I also won’t waste any more. Don’t misunderstand me; you can’t expect an otherworldly, transcendental experience every time for everyone, but it is certainly the bar for which you should aim.
Ultimately, I believe that the Colleague is, as usual, mistaken when he says he won’t have any more good days. We don’t get a quota, we don’t run out, we have however damn many we create for ourselves.
If we want a more fulfilling life, we need to be ok with some things being just ok. Your lunch order won’t always be on time or even correct. Sometimes someone will spill shit on your new expensive blouse. Do you really have to get worked up about it? Seems to me, if you’re the type of person to wear ‘blouses’, you’ve already go enough to worry about.
Essentially, spend less energy on life’s minor inconveniences and trivial pursuits (including the boardgame of the same name, that game fucking sucks) and focus it on things more worthy of your precious hours.
For a long period, I didn’t write at all, although writing’s always been my one release, purely because it doesn’t bring in money and I couldn’t afford to waste a moment on financially fruitless endeveours. I imagine that more than half the civilized population are in the same boat- how many people can actually spend time doing things they enjoy anymore? How many are actually able to rise above the distractions and obsessions of modern living?
A beautiful writer once said; ‘how we spend our days, is, of course, how we spend our lives’. I’ve had my share of bad days, probably more than my share actually, probably excarbated by my own inaction. I spent a lot of time desperately wishing to just be ok. When you’re in despair, getting back to ‘ok’ feels like all you could ever hope for, so when you get there, you stop trying for more. All your hopes and dreams end at ‘ok’, because you don’t know any different.
It’s like someone wanting to have sex but not orgasm. Imagine going around your whole life fucking people with no concept of climaxing? Just being like ‘oh yeah this feels great I’m so glad I got laid’ and then stopping after like three thrusts and tucking your junk away and going about the rest of your afternoon because that’s all you know. Sure, boning is great, but we all know orgasms are next level great (and kind of the whole point). If we hadn’t figured this out, we would have been a short-lived and frustrated species indeed. We shouldn’t want to spend our life having climax-free sex or ok-days.
So for now, I’m trying to first figure out what my standard of mediocrity is, and then each day aiming to do (even just slightly) better than that. Devote my time to people and pursuits that bring me the most fulfillment; be ok with putting myself first and being selfish with my time. Although in doing so, if I do happen to affect someone else positively and they also end up having an above-average day, well, that’s kind of great.
Except the Colleague. Fuck that guy.