Boredom warning: This post will contain an average of the use of the personal pronoun 'I' more than once a line.
A few days ago on Eagleton Notes I posted about the mediocrity of many of my achievements. One of the one's I didn't mention but which is the one that most often reminds me of my lack of ability is my inability to whistle. Not, I hasten to add, for lack of trying nor lack of other people trying to teach me. I have stood (or sat) on many occasions trying to work out a way to fold my tongue or put two fingers into my mouth and emit that piercing sound that would alert the very souls in Hades to my presence. But all to no avail.
I was, I have to confess, touched and amused at the comments on my previous post. As the comments came in I and I re-read what I had written I realised that it might have looked as though I was either being falsely modest (definitely not, I am very proud of my modesty) or fishing for compliments (which I was not, truly).
After doing well enough in the Eleven Plus to get to my first choice at one of the most sought after Grammar Schools in Liverpool, I suddenly realised that I didn't take after my Mother who both loved academia and excelled at it. I disliked school and I definitely didn't excel academically. I have absolutely no ability to perform in exams - for example I was first (or thereabouts) in class in English Literature throughout school but I fluffed the GCE in the subject (but that's an entire topic on its own). I never got less than alpha or alpha plus for my written work at Uni (except occasionally in Economics I seem to recall) but I only managed the most mediocre of degrees. It was the same when I did post-grad.
Why am I telling you this? I'm not quite sure but it started out because readers' comments on my original post made me realise that I believe that I really do understand my own worth. I realised many years ago that I am by no means stupid but neither am I particularly bright academically. Apart from anything else to achieve in academe one needs two qualities (at least): a reasonably analytical mind and a good memory. I have the former but I lack the latter.
Had I completed my law degree and pursued my Bar studies I would have made a perfectly acceptable living as a hack barrister on the Northern Circuit. I have met too many Queen's Counsel in my career to realise that there are many brains far sharper than mine and for some reason in that field (as in the field of music when I realised early on that I would never be able to play the piano well enough to satisfy my own targets) I decided that if I could not be amongst the best then I would rather choose to do something else.
I could go on but by now I'm sure you will have been able to fill in the blanks on the canvas.
So I really was not being falsely modest when I said what I did. I really do not mind being average and had I used that word instead of mediocre I suspect not a single person would have felt the need to comment and yet mediocre is only a more derogatory form of that word when applied in the context in which I used it.
Of course academic and material achievement is not everything in this life and different people measure success by different criteria.
If, for example, one believes that the ultimate goal in life is happiness then my achievements are above average. It may have taken me most of my life to get here but I suspect that I'm luckier than many.
For that I am very thankful.