Category Archives: mediocrity

Being Unique!

Sharpie, oil pastels, and a napkin canvas from the diner.
Sharpie, oil pastels, and a napkin canvas from the diner.

Style is something very individual, very personal, and in their own unique way, I believe everyone is stylish.

-Salamn Khan, film actor

Listening to Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy this morning with my coffee. Creates a bit of magical realism in your day. Cheers!

Primrose Tea and Sympathy

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

-T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

My sister requested a reset button for her vacation. I wish I could do the same for my weekend. Too many complications, arguments with loved ones, self-doubt, and add to that, random cantankerous strangers on the streets of Brooklyn who occasionally like to chime in with something resembling a put down. It’s that kind of a weekend. Having one of those days where I felt like my life was missing purpose.

So, I stormed out of my tiny apartment in search for a place that felt nurturing for breakfast and found myself at Primrose Cafe in Clinton Hill for tea. Under a brownstone, this small place has a feeling like you are visiting your grandmother’s house, complete with board games, garden seating in the back, and pretty shabby chic décor that set the right tone for my doodling and some comforting hot Earl Grey tea. I drew some real nonsense for a while until I got it out of my system. Maybe not solving all my problems, but certainly felt safe to just be.

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It’s important to self-nurture. There are a lot of opinions that float out there about people’s worth or value. It’s easy to slip into a dark place of feeling worthless and powerless to change everything. I suppose these napkins are worthless since they no longer do their job of cleaning up messes since I’ve drawn on them. However, to me and maybe to a few people who enjoy them, they are worth considering. It’s all perspective in how we choose see any given situation.

So after tea, I took a short walk to a community garden. It used to be an abandoned lot, worthless. The people in the community felt this tiny piece of land was worth something to their garden and their art. Here’s a couple of pics of it…

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These flowers aren’t solving world hunger but, certainly, they are not worthless to someone like me who needs a place to sit, be, and breathe in a nurturing place. Anyway, that’s my rant for the day. Just try to remember, your sheer existence is worth it to someone who might be sitting nearby you. Not everyone can be the beacon of hope to the world but your energy adds to everyone else’s life experience. Try to keep positive…or just doodle something crazy for your waiter or waitress. Peace!

Mediocrity Monster

Meet George. He is the lesser known brother for Edvard Munch’s The Scream due to some hair gel issues and lack of motivation to be recognized. That is why this napkin from my local diner was the perfect venue for him rather than a canvas featured at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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A note on the whole notion of mediocrity. I was listening to several parents this week speak of their children’s futures. One felt their 7th grader needed to be placed in an honors program because she got A’s too easily and seemed to be “drifting” into the realm of the arts. Another parent spoke of her child graduating with a degree in the arts. There was some talk of whether the graduating student should pursue teaching or “not settle for a mediocre life and go after her dream of being famous instead” within her chosen arts degree. The opinions about pursuing the arts, or teaching, for that matter was deemed to be the dreaded mediocrity! It’s a word that is treated like a social disease and a slippery slope into a life of dissatisfaction. The discussion brought me back to my teenage years in high school. A beloved English teacher of mine who appeared to like my writing style declared that one of my older sisters and one of my older brothers were destined for great things in life. It was true. Both siblings have done very well for themselves. My sister was (and is) very accomplished, intelligent, and had striking looks. My brother was an intelligent risk-taker with a lot of charisma, charm, and good looks. It was easy to see why my teacher would make that statement. Naturally, I asked, “What about me?” He declared, “Well, there’s something to be said about mediocrity.” I felt like I had been stamped with the Scarlet Letter M. I was devastated and, suddenly, resented my more accomplished siblings. Later on, he declared that I would probably become a teacher. He declared this after he told the class to never be a teacher. He made it seem as though he had just called me an ugly gutter rat instead. Clearly, he was having his own issues as a teacher and perhaps, I reminded him of himself at that age. I have been a teacher for nearly ten years so he was right about that too. I tend to keep to myself. Apparently, that was the blueprint for mediocrity in America since extroversion was valued over introversion. If you are an introvert reading this, pick up the book, Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It’ll lift your spirits up in that regard. Here’s the ever popular Ted Talks lecture on the overlooked quiet ones as well if you give it a click.

Back to the present. After hearing the two parents make a plan to prevent their children from a life of mediocrity, I realized that the standard of mediocrity was based on societal expectations of success and not personal success. Glamorous, rich, and beautiful lifestyles are supposed to be better than our anonymous, pay check to pay check, and sometimes messy lives. And yet, one of the most popular books to date is a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Each meditation in the book teaches individuals to find the extraordinary in the simple tasks of each day. I think it helps individuals to find their own path in life and approach each day with profound awareness rather than rely on the traditional roads to success deemed by society. I remember a line from my mom’s favorite poet, Robert Frost,

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Did I take the road less traveled? My career is a bit traditional. Drawing on napkins at diners lacks the ambition needed to receive any accolades. And yet, as I allow myself to draw, the creative reservoirs within me manifests itself onto my napkin. I discover something extraordinary about humanity in our ability to create. My ordinary interests belies extraordinary revelations found within the ordinary passing of each day. I have decided that I don’t think it matters which path in the woods we have taken. It matters what we observe along the way that makes all the difference.