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Somewhat Mountainous

Untitled, 1955 by Agnes Martin

In the past year, I’ve made significant gains towards creating the work-life balance I’ve always desired. I’ve let go of a lot of problematic notions from my youth around work, status, and ‘What I Should Be Doing’, instead, focusing on the things that bring me personal and professional joy.

And yet.

Some days I feel completely flummoxed.

By flummoxed, I mean mediocre.

There are thousands upon thousands of pithy quotes heavily promoted across our social media feeds, warning us about the dangers of being average. One particularly volatile post informed me that ‘a life of mediocrity is a waste of life.


The truth is, most days I feel distinctly average. I find myself questioning if what I’m doing is adding any value. Mediocre has been a word that has pranced merrily all over my cranial folds for the past month or so. It gleefully tap dances when I’m pitching, editing, or proof-reading a submission. And don’t get me started on the all-out rave-for-one it instigates when a rejection slip lands in my inbox or student in class rolls their eyes at me (if you've entered a high school classroom in recent years, you'll know I should probably be thankful that's all they did).

When words get stuck like this, I like to look them up. For me, uncovering their meaning and definitions helps to remove some of their power. When I looked up mediocre, this is what greeted me:

Mediocre. Adjective. Of only average quality; not very good.


Then I delved a little deeper. Mediocre, it turns out, has its origins in Latin:

  • Medius, meaning middle.

  • Ocris, meaning rugged mountain.

Rugged mountain? A little unexpected. Combined the two words become mediocris, literally translated to somewhat mountainous.

What a re-framing of mind!

Instead of seeing myself at the bottom of the pile, rinsed out and washed up, I am now envisioning myself as half-way up. In the middle ground. There may be a way to go, steps to take, lessons to learn, but the distance is mountable.

Sometimes, all we need do to put restless feelings aside is name them. Properly.

Instead of feeling ‘not very good’, I am now feeling ‘somewhat mountainous’.

I hope, if you are reading this and also feeling stuck in a bubble of average, it helps you to re-frame things too.


Every month I send out a snippet of what I've been ruminating on and learning from. Join me if you'd like:


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