On Mediocrity

I just received official ratification of my masters degree. I can officially say that I have a Masters of Science (MSc.) degree. Based on my grades, my degree was awarded with merit (which is an equivalent of an overall grade of B/B+). Looking at the grades of all my modules, I realised that there were some classes I did better than expected, other classes, I did not do so well.

While I was surprised at some of my grades, I was finally able to admit to myself that I was aiming for mediocrity the entire time. I just wanted to pass after the coursework got harder. I could have done so much better if I had procrastinated less, changed some studying habits and sought assistance from my tutors.

Growing up, I was always considered to be an overachiever. Through out my formal primary school education I was always 2nd or 3rd in my class. I graduated 8th (out of about 300 students) in my high school.

But it appears that everything changed after I attended university. My first semester of attending college was very stressful and it was a difficult adjustment for me. It also didn’t help that my university is notoriously high strung. See this list for more info. My alma mater is number 1 on the list…

I got my very first “D” during my first semester of university and I also quickly realised that there was always going to be someone who was going to be infinitely “better” than me in almost every aspect of my existence.

As a non-competitive person, I figured, it was best if I didn’t try to become competitive for grades. I just had to make sure I didn’t fail any classes. In other words, it was best if I lowered my standards and became an average student.

Arguably, it was a daft attitude to have and I never really accepted the fact that it was the path to mediocrity until now. I remember when I was vacationing in Prague earlier this year, I was having a conversation with an Australian guy who asked me about my weaknesses and I told him that I don’t push myself hard enough when it comes to academics I just aim for the basic goal (i.e just pass).

As an undergraduate, my professors often times told me that I was smart and needed to expose my knowledge with my class. I barely spoke during class discussions as I always believed someone will say whatever I had to say in a very concise and intelligent manner.

Some of my professors used to call me out in class to give my opinions about certain issues especially after they have read my essays and knew that I can articulate myself very well on paper. They hammered me hard during my final year and surprisingly, my final year was the only year I made the Dean’s list for both fall and spring semesters.

Interestingly, I can’t bring myself to write a cover letter for job applications…

The question I have been asking myself all night is it that if I don’t accept mediocrity in other aspects of my life, why did I accept it in my own academic journey?

Everyone keeps saying I should start thinking about getting a Ph.D. My mum says I should get my Ph.D before I turn 30. She says if I don’t have a stable job by June 2014, I should start looking into Ph.D’s.

I don’t even know what I will be studying for my Ph.D and I really need a break from academia to really figure out what I want to do with my life.

While I have learned to live with no regrets, I wonder how different my life would have been if I didn’t settle for mediocrity and pushed harder during my first year as undergraduate.

I reckon I will never know…

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2 thoughts on “On Mediocrity

    • Hi Ken,

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I’ve actually been living abroad. I completed my degree in London and will be returning back to the US very soon.

      I also spent part of my third year of college studying in Switzerland. I have also been fortunate to have the opportunity to reside in 5 different countries.

      While I would love to find a job that interests me, the reality of paying back my student loans is something I cannot ignore, thus I have to be pragmatic.

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