When I was a teenager there was one line of one song which I identified with more than any other. It was a line that understood me. It was a line that felt my pain. It was a line that understood why I had dyed my hair black and quit violin and got myself thrown out of the Girl Guides and covered my bedroom ceiling with endless lyrics written by endless other angsty bands.
And that line was, almost inevitably, from a Smashing Pumpkins song. Muzzle, to be precise. And the line was thus:
“I fear that I am ordinary, just like everyone.”
It’s a simple little line, but it covered everything I felt as a teenager. Not because I was Wildly Different or Crazily Individual (although I also thought I was both of those things); it was simply that I grew up believing I had to be the best at everything.
I didn’t believe that I was the best at everything, or that I deserved to be, or even that I should be. I just believed that I absolutely had to be the best at everything I tried, or I would have failed. There was no point in doing something unless I could do it well, so I aspired to utter brilliance.
In fairness, so did a lot of my peers. I grew up in the kind of independently-educated environment where everyone wanted to be the best at stuff all the time, and a lot of the people I knew did manage to be the best at stuff. Unfortunately for teenage me, I did not. I was good at some stuff, yes, but I was not the best. I was not even the best at falling over, or at being ginger. I was just kind of….there.
And slowly, this realisation that I was not the best at all the things stopped me from doing a lot of the things; because after all, what was the point? It was futile and stupid to do things badly (and if you’re not the best, then by definition what you are is bad), so I may as well just not do them.
This was, quite obviously, stupid logic.
Stupid logic, yes. But powerful logic also. It’s taken me many, many years to escape from the fear of not being amazing, and it’s only now that I’ve sort-of pulled it off.
And in fairness, it’s taken a fair old chunk of CBT and telling myself I’m incredibly silly to find a way around it, but now I’m OK with being mediocre. I’m not a brilliant baker, but I still give it a shot. I cock up my knitting a bit, but I carry on anyway. I can’t sew any pattern that’s marked as “advanced”, but I can make a decent attempt at average ones. I don’t have the most amazingly powerful and widely-read blog in the world, but I keep going anyway.
And actually, I’d rather have a life full of lots of things that I’m a little bit average at than a life which is entirely empty because I’m not willing to do anything unless I can be the best. It’s considerably more entertaining that sitting around and being really good at scowling.
So, for yet another time, I would just like to say this: Fuck you, Billy Corgan.