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Coming Clean, Part 2 - Ordinary People

Ordinary People - John Legend

I ran across a funny quote last week. I don't recall who said it but the gist was: "Most average people think they aren't."

The reason they probably don't is because who wants to wake up and face the day believing they're average? Especially in our society where the term average has come to be associated with marginal. 9 is the average size for men's shoes. 65 is the average age most Americans die. Households average 2.5 kids. But to actually be average? You might as well not get out of bed.

In the workplace and in society no one is rewarded for being average even though the average everyday person who anonymously clocks a 9-5 each day is what makes the world go round. Lebron James is all over the media now for having an "average" moment: he got pissed off after losing and walked off the court. Unsportsmanlike? Definitely. A very human effort to avoid saying or doing something he'd really live to regret? Most likely. Believing he was more than what he actually was (a 1-man basketball team) because his yes-men, Nike, Vitamin Water, the NBA and the world told him so? Yup. That's about as average a reaction you can get from a human being. And as the Bible says, "Pride precedes the fall." But because he's not your average ball handler (he's actually the closest thing to Jordan I've seen) the world (or at least us Americans) expects more. That's pretty average too.

Average, not negative.

I am a man who was raised to believe average was unacceptable. Reared by a braniac and extremely handy father, it wasn't even a consideration. I powered through school with straight A's and an occassional B. I wasn't the best athlete, but I was a machine when it came to practicing to be so. I excelled in the creative: piano, writing, acting and even singing (before my voice dropped) but somewhere the average germ got into my system and convinced me that I needed to get a "real job" and all that other stuff was just a hobby. An extracurricular to round out my character.

What a crock of shit. If I could go back in time (Terminator style) I would find me, probably outside my 6th grade locker, and beat myself senseless. Then drag me, kicking and screaming, everywhere I needed to go to get on the right track.

Everyone around me, including myself, with the exception of my mother, had it backwards. But because my mother was "average" in comparison to my father, sadly, I discounted her saying, "Hey baby, why don't you pursue piano as far as you can. You never know..."

"Aww, mom..." was always my response. She saw more in me than I did or even could. This is an average flaw most kids used to suffer. (Nowadays many kids are suped up to believe they are way better than they actually are and have meltdowns when they're smacked with reality.)

Hindsight is always 20/20 and I have no desire to place blame anyone because as far as I know my life isn't over. For some (like my wife) it's easy to know what you want, to be adamant about it and to switch gears --- going left to eventually go straight. The biggest problem I had at my job wasn't with my boss or the place where I worked. It was with the man in the mirror --- the heart versus the mind. I used to get dressed everyday, put on my "face the world" mask and venture out. My soul was disgusted with me for playing out my daily farce and in 2007-2008 waged an incredible war against me. Not because I was being average. But because I wasn't being me.

I'm not crazy, folks. I'm just being honest.

If there is a pejorative that's associated with being average it's taking the you out of the equation to fall in line with what society suggests. Lebron James is basketball, just like Jordan is. Musicians, athletes, politicians, actors (legitimate), the Jack Welch's, the Jobe Paynes (my father) and John Paynes (my artistic uncle - see previous post), and so on of the world are 100% who they are, uncompromisingly. That doesn't mean there wasn't a struggle to get there. It just means they tapped their essence. Are they are above average in the eyes of the world? That's up to some PR machine to decide. Behind the keyboard of my laptop, behind the smiles, behind the kisses I give my wife and kids, behind it all except for my nakedness before my God, this is the cross I bear --- figuring out how to be me, 100%.

How about you?

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