The Fear of Being Average
Growing up, you are constantly told how special you are, how you can do anything, be anything, and possibly touch the moon if you jump high enough. In high school, you are encouraged to find the thing you like/are good at and pursue it. In college, you develop expertise in that area until you are sure in your young, confident brain, that you now Know Everything. You're ready to go out an conquer the world, like your mom always told you that you could!
Then you get to the job market, and your dreams screech to a halt.
Due to long life expectancy and better health care, most people continue to live and work into their 60s and 70s, which means that when bouncing baby college students enter the workforce, there are not nearly as many opportunities for unqualified, inexperienced workers as we might have thought. For years, we were told that we were the "Best" and that if we followed our "Bliss" or the most "Lucrative" job avenue, we would end up gainfully employed and happy. As a writer, I did not believe there would be a direct path to success in my field right out of college, but I DID think that there would be many great jobs to pay the bills while I worked on my novels and took mini vacations.
That was rather naive.
So now, even though I have a steady job and feel good about where I am on my novel progress (stay tuned for my blog post on the SCBWI LA conference and why it really IS a good investment), for the majority of my day I am beyond bored. Years of hard work in high-level classes and busting my butt for a double major, minor, study abroad, and an MFA before 25 has lead to me applying for positions I could have gotten with a regular Bachelor's degree, no GPA needed (all other openings in my field requiring 10 years of experience and a PhD I don't have). So, do I get ahead because I'm an overachiever currently stuck with lower-end job opportunities?
The lack of calls tells me, "No."
What is going on then? Have I, and possibly many others in my position, fallen for the "Participation Trophy" lie of Millennial Life? The idea that if we show up/are dragged to practice/games by our athletic mothers, that we will be rewarded with a pat on the back, a trophy, and a bag of sliced oranges? 25-years-old is not the time I would have picked to figure out that I'd swallowed the Khool-Aid and have been harboring unrealistic expectations of life fulfillment.
But is it really so hard to ask for a job that I am A) Qualified for, and B) Interested in? Apparently so.
I have recently been faced with the terrible realization that perhaps I am, and always have been, too "Average" to really stand out. In a crowd, friend group, classroom, or applicant pool, am I just too Average for my face/name/hard work to actually be remembered? At a recent visit to my Alma Mater, a faculty member I had worked with for six months couldn't remember my name. Oof.
So what do you do in a world where only the extraordinary people seem to win the prizes/scholarships/jobs/book deals? If maybe you're just a little bit average too?
This is what my boyfriend (Bless him!) had to say when I started to spiral into average-sized hopelessness regarding job opportunities:
"It doesn't matter if you're the best. The people who get the jobs are the people who show up to get them."
Yup. That's it! Simple advice, I know, but it made me feel a heck of a lot better. Because it doesn't matter if I'm average, forgettable, or suffering from "Participation Trophy" withdrawal. If I continue to put myself out there, over and over again, I am opening myself up to the possibility for success. As Wayne Gretzy says (because you should always listen to armored guys holding sticks, with knives strapped to their feet):
So, next time you're feeling a little invisible, a little not-good-enough, and a lot average, just remind yourself that there are other people like you out there. I'm here. You're here. We're both going to be alright. Keep working hard and you will achieve the dream you show up to get.