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FXXK WRITING: CAUTIONARY TALE 9 – THE DOOM OF MEDIOCRITY

Clearing out the office, you unpack old report cards from public school. A memory twitches about those days. And now, it is empirically validated. You were nothing special.

 

At your best, average, and sometimes not that good. Math, often. Spelling, always. You found basic tasks like tying shoes and complicated ones like literacy challenging. Behavioral ticks that have never changed were on display – you rush over things, make “careless errors,” and get frustrated and upset when you don’t know things you think you should know. The remedy is always the same- spend summers doing homework to catch up to the basics.

 

There is nothing gripping here. Only worry. In fact, your subtext is fear that you will indeed become special. Just the wrong kind.

 

Yet, a positive flinch upset the metrics – you sure did enjoy storytime! That sincere comment is all a teacher has left when there is nothing compelling to add. The “STEM” equivalent would be “boy he likes computers!” A crumb of hope flicked at a worried parent.

 

This would be the time in any other article where the author would slam all those teachers who thought he was stupid, mediocre, or below0average, and then make a big list of their hard earned bona fides. Or their would be a soliquiey to “Story” (whose capitalization you find pretentious and precious) and how it “saved” you.

 

But what stands out to you now, reaching the meridian of existence, are the constant echoes. Spelling is still a mortal enemy (you will always write “now” as “know” with every first draft, including this one). You still rush over things. You absolutely hate your own ignorance and you can be merciless regarding your own failings.

 

You look back and see the appeal of stories where people are chosen. People that, it turns out, really are a king, or Jedi, or the only one who can walk into Mordor and save the world. You saw them in your own world. Best in class. Best in sport. Best in anything.

 

Public school didn’t chose you to be anything but second-class.

 

And the echo got deeper: how much these experiences made you hate destiny, aristocracy, arrogance, but at the same time forced you to find an identity outside of high graded, team victories, popularity. And that it hardened around fools, comedians, punks, idiots, the doomed but captivating, the clown who didn’t give a shit, who scorned perfection denied him, and a love of trash people hated.

 

School made you a loser.

 

You would make being a loser heroic. And stories? They would be your weapon.

 

Jason S. Ridler

Jason RidlerJason S. Ridler is a writer, historian, and actor. He is the author of The Brimstone Files, and his latest historical work Mavericks of War was called a “visceral read that is also an important piece of scholarship” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Rhodes. He is a Teaching Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and teaches creative writing at Google, Youtube, and for private clients.

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