Back in the Saddle: My Triumphant Return to Mediocrity

Days later, all this peeled off and my toe looks pretty normal now. Isn't it so gross?!
Days later, all this peeled off and my toe looks pretty normal now. Isn’t it so gross?!

When given a choice between sleeping in and being repeatedly hit in the face with ice, normal people would choose the former every time. Due to some kind of malfunction in my brain, I am drawn to the latter option, and when someone asks if I’d like to get up at the crack of dawn and endure hours of falling ice and freezing temperatures, I reply that I’ll be there with bells on. I guess my synapses aren’t firing quite as they should be.

The good news is that thanks to a final checkup with The Frostbite Doctor, I have been cleared for action. I may now venture forth into the wild blue yonder, albeit with a stout supply of Little Hotties toe warmers, which work well as long as you’re not in temperatures of forty below.

Since being given the proverbial green light, I have: cross-country skied (poorly), attempted skate skiing (impressive for my first time, but my fans will be less impressed when they realize I’m not actually going to improve from there), downhill skied (I seem better before you know I’ve been skiing since childhood), and ice climbed (again, many points for effort but few for style).

A trend exists in my participation in all the activities listed above: I am kind of mediocre. I’m not a complete spaz; I don’t whine or cry or quit. I can competently do all those activities without keeping anyone waiting too long, but I wouldn’t say I’m good at any of them.

If you’re wishing that you, too, could find yourself in the middle of every pack, never first but usually not last, I follow a few simple steps:

    • Trying new things adds to your mediocre-jack-of-all-trades bag of tricks, and you should always say yes when invited to do them. People have low expectations when you try something new, which means they will probably be impressed if you’re even mildly okay at them. This leads me to step 2:
    • The art of sandbagging. I never, ever, ever tell someone I’m “good” at something, even if it’s something I’ve done a few times and am fairly confident in my ability to repeat. This way, if I have an off day or they’re much faster/better/stronger than I am, it’s okay because I already admitted I don’t know what I’m doing. On the other hand, when I end up being decent at [insert activity at which I am mediocre], they are pleasantly surprised and invite me to do more fun stuff.
    • Equipment is never an excuse for failure. Know your equipment well enough to adjust it properly. Blaming your inability to perform on your gear is annoying, and it makes you sound like a jerk, even if you’re not one.
    • Have a sense of humor. It’s okay to be a little self-deprecating.This brings me to #5, the absolute most important rule there is:
    • No whining. Ever. When I was a kid and insisted I couldn’t go to school, my-mother-the-nurse would ask me the following series of questions: Are you bleeding? Are you vomiting? Are any bones broken? No? Then get dressed and go to school. I attribute my universal mediocrity to this frequent childhood interaction, because being competent at a variety of activities requires a certain amount of mental toughness. The aforementioned activities mean you will probably be cold, tired, hungry, and otherwise physically uncomfortable, but unless you are bleeding, vomiting, with broken bones or otherwise physically unable to proceed, you really should saddle up, because it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun. It’s okay to be slower, but I prefer to be slower with a smile, because nobody likes a whiner.
I crashed and burned shortly after this was taken, but being covered in snow was still better than sitting at home. (Photo: Hannah Brewster)
I crashed and burned shortly after this was taken, but being covered in snow was still better than sitting at home. (Photo: Hannah Brewster)

A former boss once described me as “exceedingly competent,” and while I’m still not totally sure what he meant, I believe this status is a result of my following the previous advice. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s okay. Proceed with caution, and eventually a solution presents itself. This attitude has afforded me the opportunity to try lots of new things, in part because every group needs a mediocre member to make everyone else look good.

Would I like to be really, really good at one thing? Yes. Of course I would. I think if I keep saying “yes” to stuff, I will eventually get there with some activity or another. For now, though, I take solace in knowing it’s a lot more fun to be kind-of-okay at a few things than it is to sit on my couch and wish I were great at all of them. Also, after a nearly month-long hiatus from doing stuff, I’m pretty grateful to be back outside in the Great White North again.


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