Average (adjective) 1. typical, common or ordinary
It's official. I'm an average guy.
As a 53 year old, I now claim membership in a very big group of American women and men. In 2014, to be 53 is to have the fourth most common age in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. True, I did come in behind some of my younger friends, who are even more ubiquitous in number. The top three age groups by population in the U.S. are 22 year olds, followed by 23 year olds and then 21 year olds. The least common age is one hundred years old and above. There I'm not so average, at least tangentially for my grandfather is still going strong at 100 years plus.
Yet still I do have to face into this one hard fact. Most days I'm just not all that special, not really one of a kind or very unique, at least statistically speaking.
I live where 82 percent of Americans also live, in an urban area, close to a major city. I drive an eleven year old car, just slightly more decrepit than the average U.S. vehicle which is still going after a full decade. Irish, I live in the second most Irish county in the country. Balding, I join half of my fellow males in mourning that hair loss. Even my faith in God is pretty common. Those who claim a Christian affiliation make up 78 percent of the U.S. population.
So I'm average and I think I'm ok with that. For to be average in America...well, it is not so easy sometimes, in a culture which so often tries to convince us that our worth as humans is in fact tied to being above average, right? To never be quite satisfied with where we are in this life or what we have or what we do for work or where we live.
If we live in a little house we are supposed to get into a bigger home, right? Move on up, even if that mortgage payment is a stretch, because who wants an average house?! Drive an old jalopy like my 171,000 mile trusty Toyota, and I'm supposed to get the latest model, for I am what I drive and I can’t be zooming around in my fading average rust bucket. Apply for college but only an "elite" school will really do. If you get into a "second tier" school or even worse a public university, you must be disappointed at being so average. And are we really doing enough for our kids? Just one more class, one more sport, one more commitment and then I'll be an above average Mom or Dad!
Some days it feels like our communal ethos is this: be above average always, no matter what it takes and no matter what the toll this effort exacts.
It's not that our striving is bad. It is good to try and be the best that we can, to have that hope for our loved ones, to reach our full God given potential and use the gifts we have been given by our Creator. That's our life call as children of God. What worries me is the spirit of nagging discontentment and chronic restlessness which can underlie our frantic efforts to be above average, to get ahead, to pull in front of the pack, to always race forward. What I fear are communal and inner voices questioning, critiquing, judging. Is good enough ever really good enough? In this state of mind and heart? No.
Instead be anything you want but just don't be ordinary, or common, or average.
But here's the rub. Most of us are just that: average and that will never, ever change. Average. That's the nature of the math and the statistics and the reality of living. Most of us live in the middle of life, neither soaring so high in the clouds nor stumbling way down below. On average we're a little overweight. On average we make mistakes every single day. On average our grades put us in the middle of the bell curve. On average our kids are doing ok. On average we're middle managers, weekend athletes, and dwellers in a nice Cape with a used car in the driveway.
So today, on this average June morning, as I write these words which most likely will not be my best, nor my worst, I'm ok with being average. I think God's ok with that too.
How about you?