Rara was one of the first bloggers I looked up to when I started writing regularly; her words were entrancing, and after every post of hers I was left with a quiet sense of satisfaction and a burning desire to read more, to read everything. After getting to know her a bit, I knew I wanted Rara to write something for A Sign Of Life, but I was too shy to ask; I told myself she was too busy, that I had too small of a blog to warrant her attention, that she wouldn’t be interested…
I can be stupid sometimes. I’m sure she would have gladly written something for me, had I only asked.
It’s been a couple of years and no requests later, and I finally have a Rara-post to feature.
I received a letter yesterday, and in her tidy handwriting that she insists is horrendous, on a page of yellow paper, the following was written:
In high school — years and years ago — my best friend took an art class and showed the town that she was just as good at creative pursuits as she was at everything else. She was — and still is, actually — larger than life and excellent in every way. It wasn’t just that she was extraordinary (though she was). It was that she sought excellence in everyone and everything and did not give up till she found it.
That’s why, when she was instructed to visually represent the word “mediocre”, she was stymied. Totally baffled. I don’t think she had ever spent a moment on mediocre — not when amazing things were just one or two steps beyond it. We laughed and waited eagerly to see her creation.
After a week, her art piece was displayed in class. It was characteristically perfect in terms of technique, but so different from her normal style. Looking at the painting was like stepping into an old kitchen. There was tile floor that was probably once a fine olive green. There was an old fridge, and a plain dining room table, and a bag of unfinished McDonald’s-for-one on the table. It wasn’t in the scope of the artwork, but I could almost see the flickering fluorescent light above. Someone would replace that bulb someday. And maybe they would cook something tomorrow. But for now, clean and fed would have to do. All of those thoughts were in the tone. It was, simply and perfectly, mediocre.
I could see the mediocrity because I knew my best friend. Her lights didn’t flicker and she spent her energy making everything around her better every day, so there was no such thing as “something in need of fixing” in her world. Like Yoda, she practiced the art of doing, or not doing. There was no such thing as “trying” as an end goal for herself. In others, she encouraged gracefully within the boundaries of their own mantras — loving people who lived and defined excellence in their own way.
Which is why I knew I’d risk nothing by telling her what I had always told her: the truth. And that day, the truth was I could see myself living in that kitchen, happily scribbling at the table. The wood would be worn, so I’d have bumps in my writing — but oh well. The McDonald’s would be cold, but would taste deliciously of a night without dishes. Olive green, even worn down and faded, is a nice color, too. To me, the art was content, not mediocre. I could be truly happy there.
We laughed, and she said if I was sitting on one of those rickety chairs — writing and smiling — then she would have titled the piece “Excellence”, because it’s rare when one woman’s mediocre matches another, but happiness is always excellent.
The floor here is an olive green tile. It was probably once a fine, strong version of the color. It can look dirty under the flickering fluorescent lights, but maybe someone will fix those bulbs someday. Our packaged food sits out, half-eaten, but there are no dishes to do. Nothing interrupts my writing, and the tile reminds me of good friends and extraordinarily gifted people. It reminds me of comfort in truth. It makes me smile, and smiling makes me happy.
Today is an excellent day.
What is mediocre to you? What is excellent?