Confession: What If I’m Okay With Mediocre?


Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui wrote a beautiful essay where she asks, “What if I am mediocre and choose to be at peace with that?” The essay is calming and quiet and gives permission to take things more slowly. I hope you get to read it. 

I’d love to discuss it with you, because even though I enjoyed it, as I read, I found myself disagreeing with her concept of mediocre. The life she’s describing is familiar, but I don’t see it as mediocre in any way. It’s a life full of love and of time spent on things she’s passionate about. She describes it as plain, but it’s actually full of envious accomplishments (like a decades-long happy marriage). It seems like almost anyone could be content with her version of a mediocre life.

In fact, I think the calm, unhurried life she describes is the end goal that many people are working toward. Perhaps it’s even the ultimate sign of success. I know that for me personally, when I think about work-life balance, the idea is all wrapped up with time — and having enough of it to gracefully and calmly go about my day.

It makes me wonder about some of the strange ways we talk about success and simplicity. If you get a chance to read it, I’d love to hear what kind of reaction you have. How do you describe success for yourself these days? Is it about money? Power? Determining your own schedule? Being happy? Being content? And what would a “mediocre life” look like for you?


Credits: Photos by Sarah Hebenstreit for Design Mom. Find more here.

66 thoughts on “Confession: What If I’m Okay With Mediocre?”

  1. I totally agree with you. This kind of life has always been my goal and it also feels like the life I am living right now.
    But I also met a lot of people who are driven differently, who seem to always have the need to keep going, achieve more, climb the ladder even higher. As if otherwise what they have right now means nothing.
    Whenever I take a break from my creative work to spend some time just being home, pottering around and hanging out with my kids (I do that when I had an intense time of work and earned some money in advance), some people seem to get nervous by the idea of a modern woman spending more time with her kids then with her career.
    I think, this is what the essay is about.

    1. “some people seem to get nervous by the idea of a modern woman spending more time with her kids then with her career”

      I totally recognize what you’re saying. I wonder how much of that is in our heads. I’m trying to remember when I’ve seen someone actually bother a woman about taking time for her kids.

  2. Doesn’t she mean “mediocre” by the culture’s standards, which tend to elevate career success above all else? I feel the same whenever I read one of the many articles bewailing women’s failure to “lean in” and fight tooth and nail for a corner office at the same rate as men do – when I read those articles I always wonder, don’t these people see that perhaps it’s not everybody’s goal to out-compete everybody else? That some people (often female people, for very good biological and evolutionary reasons) value peace and harmony and cooperative relationships more than doing whatever it takes to be top dog?

    1. Katherine Brigham

      Yes, that is what I gathered from it too. “Mediocre” by our culture’s standards. People think her way of living is mediocre but in truth, it is a life of treasures. She found the secret.

      1. I’ve actually struggled with this myself. I work in state government, and we have a lot of women in positions of power. And I admire them, but I don’t want to be them. And sometimes it seems like people think I’m settling and not working hard enough and a million other things. But honestly, I don’t need to set the world on fire…I’m perfectly content to just be myself and live each day to my own standards.

    2. Does our culture really teach that a life like her’s is mediocre? Because it seems like everyone who reads the essay recognizes she has a good life and that she loves her life. I don’t imagine anyone reads it and thinks: she really needs to be more ambitious.

      So I wonder where we get the idea that anyone who’s not super ambitious must be mediocre. Clearly no one actually thinks or believes that. (Or maybe if they do, they just don’t read Design Mom. Hah!)

      1. Well, specifically, I’m thinking of a bunch of articles I read at WSJ maybe a year or two ago on this topic. So I suppose it’s more the culture of opinion-makers, which might be different than the culture of real people.

        I just remember finding it so absurd: they even talked to evolutionary biologists who said, well, in primitive tribal life, it’s kind of necessary that while a few people can be the movers and shakers and leaders of the tribe, you also need a lot of people (ideally a majority) who are good at doing what needs to be done regardless of whether anybody honors them for it, getting along with everybody, bridging conflicts between egos, etc. But they only raised that topic to say, how can we get those personality types to start acting like alpha males so more of them achieve the corner office?

        Which I just don’t understand. Does anybody really truly want to live in a world populated exclusively by alpha males (and females)? It sounds like hell to me, and no less feasible today than it ever was.

      2. When I graduated high school and then college, people always commented on all the career/job choices I could have. It felt like there was an expectation of doing something important and great with your life. I’ve worked in the same office for 15 years, and the same job for 10 now, and sometimes I do feel like people that knew me back then look at my life now and think I settled, never living up to my potential. No one has ever said anything like this to me, it’s just something I’ve internalized. I’ve really tried to tell my kids it’s okay to do whatever you want with your life. If you are a happy, productive member of society, you’ve succeeded, and productive doesn’t mean your job.

  3. This was a lovely essay; thanks for sharing it, G. I will be curious to read the comments and see if this resonates with a younger audience. I had decades of striving and tendencies toward perfection in all areas of my life: career, mothering, relationships with my husband, family, and friends. Now my focus is on contentment and freedom. I cherish and relish both with a full and grateful heart but wonder if I could/would enjoy them as I do without all that went beforehand. I know that my work ethic and discipline contributed to getting me to this place. I am very content to be married for 36 years and be a grandmother to five little ones while I enjoy freedom from paid work and active child-raising.

  4. My reaction was that her life didn’t sound very “mediocre” to me. Publishing something that thousands of people are reading and many commenting/discussing sounds enviable as well. That said, we all have our own definition of mediocrity and our own frame of reference. We also tend to compare ourselves against the very highest of achieving.

    It might have resonated had she said “slow-paced” or “less frantic” or even “simple”.

  5. Adrianne Williams

    To me, this isn’t about mediocracy but about not comparing lives. I don’t think of it as living a mediocre life but her own life.

  6. I think she is using “mediocre” in terms of our culture’s standards. I think her opinion (like mine) is that she is very pleased with her life and her choices and therefore there is no way it can be seen as mediocre! I loved this. All I ever strived to be was a good wife and mother. I had no big business ambitions- my choices were more than enough for me to have a very loving and fulfilling life! Thanks so much for sharing this. It is a gem!!

  7. I think it’s impossible to be thoughtful and mediocre at the same time. So, no, I don’t find this woman’s description on her life as mediocre. It feels a bit like womanhood as Thoreau to me. “I went into the woods to love deliberately” and all that but with a domestic slant. And, let’s face it the woods are lovely, but not for everyone. The thoughtful, deliberately domestic and simple life she describes is only freeing if that’s what you want and for all her calling for no-judgment the very idea that she’s comfortable with “settling” means that she sees the opposite of “mediocre” as “too much” and maybe that’s not fair. Maybe the real idea is that she’s found a kind of selfishness that she’s comfortable with and shouldn’t we all try to have that so we can be happy? Work until it feels slightly selfish or don’t work until it feels slightly selfish and that might be the key to it all.

  8. Sometimes I feel like blogging and the internet and being creative have really manipulated my expectations for the life that I have/want. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in needing to do a million things, and sometimes I see these other moms in the car pool lanes who don’t have this internet life, don’t really know what blogging is, and they just go home and do chores and tend to their kids and are just full mom 100% of the time… and I feel like that’s such a simple and envious thing that I really feel like I’m gravitating toward lately.


    1. I get that. Maybe once we see what sort of life or home can be achieved, we assume it must be achieved. And we lose site of what we actually want for our own lives.

    2. And some of us, from a young age, struggle with feelings of never quite being enough. No matter how beautiful our life. I use “mediocre” as in “enough.” I think media messages can reinforce the idea that we ought to be more…. but the longer I live I realize this is an inside job. That it is up to me to accept and love myself as I am. Hard work.

  9. This essay really struck a chord with me. A few years ago, I left a very exciting, but demanding (extremely demanding!) job in the city to get married and start a new life in a much smaller town. But for the first time in so long I had time to think about who I was, where I was, and what I wanted out of this new life. I had two kids, started freelancing, and even began teaching. But when I hear about my former coworkers and the big, impressive things they are doing, I can feel, well, pathetic. Should I be doing those things? Did I miss out on something, somewhere? Am I less than them now, or would they think less of me? While they’re off doing fabulous things with fabulous people in, say, Paris, I’m out over here working away in the home studio I currently share with my 5-month old. It is exhausting, and crazy, but I love it. I now have time, so much wonderful time with this sweet, silly family that my husband and I have created. But doubt is insidious, as is the compulsion to compare ones self to others. So on those days I can’t shut out the noise and focus on what I know to be true, I will bookmark this article to remind me.

  10. I really enjoyed that essay.

    I used to be a big dreamer–I wanted to be a bestselling author, have lots of blog views, get lots of degrees, start a nonprofit–be successful in that sort of way. Especially when I was younger, I heard a lot of supposedly inspiration messages from successful people in their fields saying that you should go for your dreams.

    And there are all these others voices saying how to be a better cook, or how to decorate my home, or how to parent. A lot of ideals that I just can’t maintain.

    But I have this beautiful, absolutely wonderful life. I LOVE it. I don’t personally make any money. I self-published a book that sold five copies. I have a handful of readers of my blog. I live in an 80s modular home with lots of wood paneling. So many things might seem mediocre from someone else’s standard. But I guess some things are quite exceptional too, from a different perspective–like financial security, happy marriage, and happy kids. It doesn’t really matter what other people think and what they are doing with there lives. I am so happy with where I’m at, happy focusing on my children and my family and the friends around me.

    So I don’t have to achieve my dreams I used to have. I’ve given up on a lot of my dreams, in a way, and switched them around. I grew up getting 4.0 GPAs and winning a few contests/awards–it used to mean a lot, but now it doesn’t. I can live a very normal life, without much of a resume or any enviable accomplishments and be very happy.

  11. I felt like “mediocre” made it so the title was almost/most definitely clickbaity. Loved the article but that word felt funny to me. Unhurried, simple, etc. would have had a more positive connotation in my mind. PS these are lovely pictures!!

    1. I think you’re right. I can imagine I may have reacted differently if the words had been unhurried or simple — then again, I may not have ever read it.

      1. Hi – I held back from commenting when I first came upon your discussion of my article. But I enjoy the conversation here and would like to hang out a while. This title was not clickbaity (or at least not intentionally)… I wrote it in tears one day and never imagined it would have been liked by more than 40 people – mostly my family who love me dearly. This is how I was feeling in the moment. It is a struggle I have lived with as far back as I remember…feelings of being not quite enough. A little too broken. I have worked long and hard to love myself, to see my gifts and to make peace with who I am. To fight back against my vicious inner critic. And by sharing my own struggle I want to offer hope and encouragement to others – and to remind them that they, too, are enough.

  12. I actually was thinking the other week how I feel extremely successful in this: I work a job I absolutely adore, for a great company, from my home, and get paid well, from 9-4. Outside of those hours, I don’t have to do anything for my job – I get to soak in and be a present mama and wife for my one-year-old daughter and husband. I feel like I’m in such a sweet spot, and I’m grateful. I feel like it’s what a lot of the women my age I talk to are looking for, and I wish it could be a reality for more of us.

  13. Bethany Barnette

    I think her definition of “mediocre” is based on what the world tells her is mediocre, and by accepting her life as her best, and what she wants it’s not mediocre at all. Our world certainly needs more women who embrace the perfectly imperfect style of parenting and living. Some women and families find joy in the striving for something different, and that is okay, too.

  14. Stephanie Higginbotham

    Hey there! Your blog is the only one I read, it’s looking fabulous. This life in the essay sounds pretty dreamy. Thinking of my own life and other women I work with at my blue collar job, at a restaurant, a relaxed life sounds amazing. I would say she’s lucky to have the choice to be mediocre!

  15. Jennifer Polischuk

    I loved this essay! “We define our own success”, we truly do. A friend shared that line with me in my early twenties and I have come back to it numerous times as I have made career decisions, as my husband and I make family choices….we can set our own standard of what success is! Saying that, I think it is great to be encouraged and inspired by the lives others lead, being motivated to dream or work towards goals in your own life. I always come back to what will be gratifying personally, what is good for me and my little family?!

  16. This is something that I’ve found very, very challenging recently. I’m coming to the end of my college career now, and I was planning to take things easy for some time afterwards. I hoped to stay home and continue to freelance as a designer for a while, rather than up roots and leap into a high-pressure studio environment straight away. A line in that essay really spoke to me in that regard: “I need tons of solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swathes of unscheduled time in order to be healthy. Body, spirit, soul healthy.” College took everything I have in terms of energy for the past four years, and I feel like I need some time to recover.

    However, everyone I meet tells me about a job offer or an opportunity or a project that I could get involved with. And they’re wonderful opportunities. These are jobs I’d love to have. But not right now. There’s huge pressure to say yes to everything, fight for everything, and strive to start succeeding in the next thing before you’ve even finished the first… and it’s exhausting.

    I would be happy to have my own version of the ‘mediocre’ life described in the essay, but I feel like choosing to take life at the more peaceful pace I’d like would disappoint a lot of people who think I am capable of a ‘bigger,’ ‘more successful,’ more competitive life.

    I’ll work hard to strike a balance.

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s fascinating to read how different people at different stages of life are reacting to those words!

    1. Alice,

      If you are wrapping up college that means you have the rest of your life to say “yes”. From one (older) random voice .. give yourself permission to say “no” right now. Listen to your soul. If you need rest, quiet and time to recharge – take it while you can. You will only benefit from giving yourself the gift of time. And, as your life progresses and your responsibilities change it make not be as easy to do in the future.


      1. Thank you, Valerie and Gabby, for your kind words of wisdom! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with expectations, especially during times of big change. Just hearing someone say that it’s okay to say ‘no’ sometimes, and that it’s okay to slow down a little, has given me a some sense of calm and perspective.

  17. I always struggle with these types of essays….. In my opinion, there is always the undercurrent of judgment to them. In many ways, I find the ‘simple’ movement to be just as judgemental/righteous as the ‘lean in’ movement. Each faction seems to think that they have THE answer. The author clearly does not believe that her life is mediocre…. just that she thinks ‘society’ may view it as mediocre. That being said, it comes across like those who live the high powered, hectic, high achieving, high earning life may be missing something. At the end of the day, we each individually have to choose/follow a life that works for us while understanding that our decisions come with benefits and consequences

  18. I think most people would love to have this so called “mediocre” life. Her life sounds absolutely wonderful.

  19. I enjoyed this article so much. I feel I have a very similar life to the authors. I just wouldn’t describe it as mediocre, but rather as balanced. I’m not exceptional at anything concrete, but am comfortable with that at this point in my life. The only time I have a niggling feeling there should be more is when I contemplate my legacy. There will be no book I’ve written or award I’ve received etc. and that does give me pause at times. On the other hand, I enjoy my life and feel happy, calm, and content so I guess this is the life I am meant to live.

  20. Here’s a snapshot of my life: I am 36 years old, work full time in a job that I think is okay and sometimes fulfilling (but is definitely not my ideal). I have 3 amazing kids under 10 years old, and an awesome husband. My husband works nights and takes care of the kids while I work during the weekdays; then he works on Saturdays while I have the kiddos, followed by him Ubering at night and completing other random jobs for us to try to pay off debt. On the weekdays he has generally cooked dinner (as the parent at home when it’s time to cook), and we spend half the year’s evenings and Saturdays going to soccer practices/games, or school functions, or family functions. We have both of our large families nearby which is great. I am one of the people who feels truly like I can (and should) do “bigger” things. I remember feeling this way my whole life and wondering how my friends or other people could just be fine with “regular” low-middle class jobs, and basically living my current life (on the surface). I feel the need to almost always be “doing” (whether it’s actually productive is questionable!) and thinking/planning what’s next. I don’t judge people who do this, I just always felt different and I like I was missing support to be me in this way. In fact, it feels like I am judged frequently if I bring up my feelings of not being fully satisfied (count your blessings! you have a great family and solid job! you have a home and friends! What more could you want?!). I appreciate everything I have, but is it so wrong to strive for more? Does that make sense?

    I have stayed in my current job for 7 years even though I really want to do something else now, moving up to more of a leadership position and with better pay. This job is stable, not too demanding, somewhat flexible and creative, decent pay, good leave time, and a great schedule. I am terrified that starting a new job will be super demanding, and that I will have to work a less than ideal schedule to allow me to be home in the evenings; but the real fear is that I will go for it, get it, and then everyone will realize that I am not good enough for it and that I can’t hack it. Then I would stink in the higher job I want and be miserable, I wouldn’t have all the great perks of this job, and my family’s financial security would be at risk if I can’t cut it. How to remedy this fear? Perhaps get some additional training/education, but that would take away from my home time (during which I now think I should be doing something like grad school so i am not necessarily truly present anyway). I feel trapped in my situation from debt and expenses, a house with an upside down mortgage due to housing market, and a feeling like I am unable to get the education to move out/up without sacrificing my family time and balancing it all.

    Not to even mention how do I find time to work out and eat better to lose weight (and why did my metabolism totally change at 35?!?)? How can I have “date night” when we are trying to get out of debt, how to add in time with friends and family and also just “be” when the hours are so limited?! I know it is possible, and I try my best but sometimes it just feels like I will never be good or able enough (for who? everyone. myself. my potential). I read all the growth mindset, positive self help books, practice gratitude, meditate and the whole shebang, but it is still hard. Welcome to my brain (and the same things many of my friends are going through)!

      1. In a way, I feel like I could have written this (36 years old, 2 kids, husband home after school to take care of the kids, and yes, at 35 my body and metabolism changed even though I hadn’t had a baby since I was 30). I fluctuate being feeling satisfied with my work and not wanting anything more to feeling like I SHOULD want and shoot for something more, but I really don’t want to devote any more of my life to work since it would mean sacrificing family time and the scarce time I have for myself. One other hard part is that I work at a private college, and I’m surrounded by talented, intelligent, and sometimes privileged, young people that have already accomplished some great things by the time they are 21 and have lived such interesting and global lives.

    1. My only remark is on the metabolism thing – it’s not just you. 35 does that. Though you could check your thyroid if you haven’t, since that can be a contributing factor – but alas, fixing my thyroid problem didn’t make that weight go away.

    2. I think what you are feeling is cognitive dissonance. Although you mention that you are that person who feels like they should do “bigger” things, remember that none of us exist in a vacuum and that your personality stems from your unique life experiences. Perhaps you are that person because that’s how you were conditioned yet kids have the awesome ability to help us reflect on our own lives while we’re relentlessly trying to help mold them. It is in our quest to teach them that we must also face these existential questions, like am I good enough? Is it wrong to want this at the expense of my family? Is it ok for me to live more simply although society might think it’s “mediocre”, ad naseaum. I think at some point our true self rebels as it tries to find it’s own balance and it’s made more difficult by comparing ourselves to others KNOWING full well, that everyone’s needs are different. We want to be good at everything. I want to be a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good employee, a good human, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. Unfortunately we only have so many hours in the day and our body needs rest too. Alas, you pick which of those roles you’d like to be best at and focus on those and hopefully in the process you learn to relax a bit and enjoy the journey because it’s a lot shorter than it seems. Do what makes you happy and go all in! Cheers!

  21. I do relate to the author’s meaning of mediocre. We live in a society where the media, social media and other sources make it very easy to feel like you are not enough. You can only do so much in the time that you have, and you have to make choices about what you value and want to focus on. I think her message is about accepting imperfection and embracing it, (which is something I am working on doing!). I play a sport I am not very good at, but enjoy; I am not renovating my fusty old house at all, because I can’t afford it; I don’t throw Pinterest worthy kids parties, I kind of hate throwing them at all (introvert problems!); and more. These may seem like small things, but it can be a struggle for me to accept and embrace my life for what it is and not what I think it should be, and to know that I am enough and I have enough. Good read!

  22. The article resonated with me a great deal. It is always difficult to stay true to oneself especially in this age of social media which has enabled the comparison of lives to reach an almost feverish pitch.
    I aspire to be “mediocre”.

  23. I completely relate to this. Instead of “mediocre” I always say I am not “ambitious”. I work for a global tech company and have done the same job for almost 10 years. I have had the opportunity for promotions, etc but I feel like it would interfere with my close to perfect work life balance. I sometimes feel guilty for this. I put the pressure on saying “shouldn’t I want more professionally”, but I just don’t. I am ok with being in the middle. I have the opportunity to work from home, pick my kids up from school and still provide for my family.

    1. “I have had the opportunity for promotions, etc but I feel like it would interfere with my close to perfect work life balance.”

      I’m impressed. Impressed that you recognize your life is in balance, and impressed that you resist temptations that would make it out of balance.

  24. this resonated with me soooo very much. i think she just means simple, mindful. not driven my ambition to attain money, status or power.

    much of my life, i felt i needed to be “special” and do “special” things in order to have a life worth living. growing up, i *guess* i was lucky in that most things came easily to me: i was outgoing, popular, creative, did well in school, was voted “most likely to succeed,” etc. people expected big, fancy things out of me. as i got deeper in to my 20s, it began to dawn on me that i might not ever be (or want to be) a movie star, a powerful CEO or a bestselling author, and it tortured me. think of all of those disappointed people (including a dead mother whom i felt sacrificed so much for me)! and what if i don’t leave a lasting legacy long after i’m gone? what’s the point of life then? as a 20-something struggling with an eating disorder and anxiety, my therapist said to me one day, “what’s so wrong with being average?” it was a simple question, but it was like a light went on: absolutely nothing. as a matter of fact, it sounds incredibly wonderful to not always be trying SO. DAMN. HARD.

    i’m in my early 40s now, and while i still struggle with balancing ambition and motherhood (and pinterest expectations of motherhood), i have relaxed into my average-ness. my life does not look like everything i would like it to, but for now, i have chosen to bloom where i am planted. i really do have an incredible life – two gorgeous daughters, a husband who makes me laugh, a mostly delightful job, a good home, loving friends, my health – even if it looks absolutely nothing like i thought it would at 16.

  25. Susanna Leon Daniell

    l LOVED the essay!!! I can’t say it enough. She put into words what I’ve felt for a long time now. As far as mediocre? Well, I find her use of the word to be her little “jab” at all that dare to tell us how we should be. Those that tell us we are too something and not enough something else. To say it here would just be repeating the whole essay again…why try when it has been said so well.

  26. Tangental to the topic, but that essay was poorly written. Question after question after question….

    There is much better content about living a slow and intentional life.

  27. Oh, this gives me all the chills. Yes, she is definitely describing the cultural standards. My mother was a career woman, so I always assumed I would be too. I always put so much pressure on myself to have a career. My first long-term, serious boyfriend told me he would marry me only if I “had more drive.” As though moving hundreds of miles from my hometown, being the first to go to college, and move to a city where I knew no one meant nothing, all because I wasn’t a manager or something? We broke up. :)

    It had always been a hot button issue for me, and I was so ashamed by my menial jobs, but by 28ish, i realized that I was actually happy, I didn’t want the pressure of an “important” job. I like my flexibility. I like my friends. I like my freedom, all more than more money. I’m just not money-motivated (don’t get me wrong, it is important! But it’s just not everything to me, and it’s somehow embarrassing to admit that).

    By realizing that, I instantly felt happier. Yeah, my work is minutia, but I kind of like making copies and putting together presentations. Still, I can’t tell you how many people have said, “…but you’re smart” when they find out my job, but now it just makes me laugh.

  28. I think the key phrase she uses is “accepting limits.” Our culture doesn’t value setting (or accepting) limits because culture links limits with settling. It’s as if you have said you cannot achieve everything you want to achieve, which is a threat to who you are as a person–your identity. I don’t agree with that assessment by our culture, which is why I think her piece describes a virtuous, good and fulfilling life. Her life is actually life-giving! So in a way, to be a woman and to set boundaries, to set limits is like saying–the river of my life is going to flow between these banks. I do not feel the need to flood the banks. I feel the need to maintain boundaries, maintain limits. And when a woman does that–the river of her life is powerful, life sustaining and going places. If mediocre means accepting and choosing limits, then I’m in!

  29. Christie Wagner

    I saw this article in my Facebook feed, and I’ve been wishing that I had read it, but couldn’t find it. Thank you for posting it. I think the term mediocre suggests settling. I agree with you that the writer’s definition of a mediocre life actually sounds like a beautiful life, rather than a life where someone has settled. I am in my early 40s now and have finished having children, and now I’m on this path of finding out what I really want in life. I have a great career, even if it is part-time, so that I can stay home a bit more. After we’ve hit all these milestones that are, at times, expected of us, now we ask, what now? I don’t think there necessarily has to be a what now. The author sums it up well when she is happy and at peace caring for her husband, children, home, and herself. To me, that isn’t just good enough, it is beautiful. These simple things that seemed out of reach to me in my early 20s are now here in front of me, waiting to be cultivated. I am forever grateful for this happy, peaceful, undramatic, yet extraordinary life.

  30. I went to read the essay and, how funny, it was what I printed for my daughter last week. I was so moved by it, it instantly calmed me. It was also a confirmation of my daughter’s life. I got it, I understood why she was living the way she was…and it made me happy and proud. She learned way sooner than her mama.

  31. Dear Gabrielle

    I read the same article a few days ago and I felt quite (really) unconfortable with it, and even wrote about it (link in the end).
    Not with the content, with which I cannot be more ok.

    I guess she’s american and i read it as an anti “american success” way of life – corporate work and success definition, no vacation and no post partum paid license, etc.
    I totally agree with it – we shouldn’t need external/society/capitalist approval of what it means to lead a successful life, that she defines as a “mediocre” life.

    I tell you what bothered me about:

    I heard a french cleaning lady who is the protagonist in a monologue, starring at the Thêàtre de la Colline in Paris. She comes and she still belongs to the lowest paid, lowest educated, lowest considered people, at least in the french society. And the piece, auto biographical, is about that – her life, her world.

    That woman is NOT alone and she complains she is considered invisible by most of the people she crosses with. In other words, she as no privilege, and never had it and probably will never have. Maybe her kids will never have too.
    She cumulates many low paid jobs to sustain her family, and with the theatre income she could finally pay her first smartphone to virtually visit her son, who lives far away (and cannot afford to visit).

    The author of this article writes from a obviously privileged point of view, which is ok. But please, PLEASE, assume that, otherwise I read it as being quite offensive for a big part of the population.

    «Accept that all I want is a small, slow, simple life. A mediocre life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life.» This “mediocre” life of hers is actually a dream life for many…

    A beautifully nailed comic’s explanation of privilege here:

    My article translated here:

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  33. This reminds me of a conversation I have often with my husband. He is an artist, a dreamer, a project guy. Every once in a while, he asks if I’m happy and what my dreams are. I struggled with this question until I could recently articulate that I don’t have dreams as much as values. I still work hard to live them and maintain them, but I pursue them in individual moments, not (usually) over a span of time. Values like community, calm days, presence, health, and charity come to the top of my mind.

    It seems this article is about being OK with not pursuing dreams per se (career or otherwise) but being proud of your values and everyday life.

  34. As the generation of “dream big” and “you can be whatever you want to be” moves into middle age, I think a lot of us are coming to terms with this idea. It’s a wonderful life but it’s not what we were “sold” even in the days before social media. At 35 with multiple degrees I often feel like I have failed even though my life is the basic American dream. I was supposed to be MORE THAN those who came before me in terms of career and ambition. It’s a struggle born of privilege but it is nonetheless a struggle. Us eighties babies carry a lot more cultural baggage than folks might realize.

  35. I enjoyed this article. There is a definite pressure to do and be more. My daughter and I have been talking about this a lot.

    About two years ago I finished homeschooling my four kids – a 24 year job. At the same time, my oldest daughter married and she and her husband made a conscious decision that she would not look for a job for one year.
    We are at opposite ends of life but find ourselves in a similar lifestyle.
    Both of us have been asked repeatedly what we “are doing now”, what we “do all day”, “when are you going to get a job” and similar questions on the same theme.

    Surprisingly, it isn’t high-powered executives and world changers asking. It’s other stay-at-home moms and homeschool moms.
    For a few month’s this just felt awkward. I would hem and haw and change the subject. My daughter would vaguely talk about looking for a job.
    We both decided to just own our life and (try) to stop caring what people think. It’s none of their business.

    I have since discovered that some moms my age sincerely want to know what life looks like after the mom-identity takes a back seat. For my daughter, there is an undercurrent of envy because they are starting out in life, but don’t need the second income. She’s learning to not own other people’s jealousy.

    I heard a pastor once ask, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” He was talking about faith, of course. But I think it applies to our life choices. I believe that my greatest accomplishment, fulfillment, and joy has been putting my family and home first. Note I didn’t say, THE Greatest, just my greatest. So if that’s what’s real for me, shouldn’t I wear that with satisfaction and without apology.

  36. I agree with what you’ve said. The life described in this essay may be mediocre for someone yet not for another. Mediocre, successful, safe, calm and all the other adjectives are judgments that come from different points of reference. Yet the balance that reflects from this life the author labels as “mediocre” sounds balanced and deserves no labels or judgment.

  37. Sara Tingey Gordon

    I connected to the author’s perspective very much but did feel like it was falsely self-deprecating in the sense that she called what is clearly an extremely privileged life “mediocre”. Having the financial resources and spousal support to pursue a slower more peaceful life is a luxury very few Americans can afford. I am profoundly grateful that I am able to enjoy a slower pace of life and I recognize that most american women don’t have that option.

  38. I don’t want a mediocre life but I firmly believe in taking relaxation breaks and enjoying myself between my life’s milestones.The article is awesome-thanks for sharing.

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