I used to be at the top of my class back in elementary school. I’d get triple A+++ on book reports that rocketed my confidence up to sky-high levels.
I honestly don’t know if I deserved it or not. But, heck, I was good at this game called school. And my parents invested a lot into my activities and endeavors.
Outside of school, I was skilled at playing the piano, achieving several awards and certificates at a young age. I excelled in Chinese School as well, and spoke Mandarin more fluently than many of my friends.
Even athletically, I enrolled in taek won do, skiing, basketball, baseball, and tennis. And I was passable there as well.
Even in school plays in elementary school, I’d excel at acting. I remembered playing the tailor in Fiddler on the Roof in 5th grade. And I remembered being the Muse of Music in the 6th grade play about Pandora’s Box.
So, I was pretty well-rounded and unafraid to toot my own horn. And all this success at a young age made me feel like I was destined for big things.
I felt like I was special. Unique. Deserving and entitled to success.
Of course, this type of mentality is unsustainable. At some point, sooner or later, life will knock you down and will make you realize that the Earth does not revolve around yourself.
And the first true knockdown happened at Cornell University, where I majored in Operations Research.
I talked to some alumni, and back then Operations Research was considered the “easy” engineering major. Well, I took it and there was nothing “easy” about it at all.
I scratched and clawed and worked long hours on reports and engineering homework assignments. But I was treading water at best in a classroom that was filled with seeming geniuses.
I even had to retake the Optimization course during the summer of Junior year in order to appropriately get passing grades.
I was no longer the cream of the crop, nor even considered average. All my hard work got me to somewhat average marks at best.
But at Cornell, average wasn’t enough. At least, it wasn’t enough for me. I needed to be exceptional. I needed to be special. To be the cream of the crop.
And this need for exceptionality was probably one of the reasons that triggered my eventual social anxiety upon graduation.
Upon my first job after graduation, I didn’t feel happy nor content at the work environment. I would shun social outings for fear of being awkward and not knowing what to do.
I wasn’t making as much money as some of my fellow peers whom graduated at the same time. And I felt below the curve. A bit insufficient. This was not how I envisioned things to go in my mind.
Again, I was just okay. Not super good anymore like those good old days before college. I was just okay at my job. Just okay with socializing. Just okay with everything.
And it took me awhile to get okay with this feeling of being just okay. Of being one of the many. Of being normal and standard.
There was no epiphany or anything like that. I just got used to this feeling of okayness. The feeling of being cool sometimes, and awkward in other environments.
Of getting things right on a Monday, and then failing miserably on a Tuesday.
Of counting the achievements made in my current job, but also tracking the progress that I have yet to make.
Of being center of attention at one party, and off standing at the corner of another.
Nowadays, I’m okay with that. Being okay with okay doesn’t mean that we don’t strive to achieve great things. If you want to do that, then more power to you. Go for it.
But, in New York City, there are 8 million people with their own stories, their own struggles, their own desires and wants.
In the world, there are billions of people, each fighting to make ends meet, to be someone that they can be proud of. All these stories of struggle and challenge pervade the world, and my story is just one of the many.
This is not a bad thing. Actually, it can be very refreshing and invigorating.
To know that you are not alone. That you are not special. Not unique in any way. You are just another guy (or girl) trying to make it in this game of life.
That is okay. Being just okay is okay. There’s no need to stress. No need to fret.
Most people are just okay. The absolute top of the mountain is reserved for a select few. But even that top may not be as glorious as it seems.
What exactly is the “top” anyways? By what metrics or standards are we measuring the “top” with? Does everyone agree that the top looks to be the same for everyone?
The vast majority of people will live out to be just okay. And that’s okay. I’m one of the majority. I don’t stand out, and don’t make a fuss.
But now, I am okay with being okay. There is so much to be grateful for in this world. So many beauties. So much imperfection. And so much beautiful imperfection.
It’s okay if we are not at the top of the pack. It’s okay if we’re not standing out. It’s okay if we fail. Everything is okay. Count your blessings and you can feel that being okay is simply more than enough.