Monday 28 May 2012


Why is the world so obsessed with averages? Averages are so, well, average. Yet they are all around us.  People seem to live their lives by them like some kind of mystical guide to all things...what's the average height, weight, IQ, age, chance of x or y. They've even got their own law!

The irony being that we're all holding ourselves up to these averages, which by their very nature don't actually exist as real examples.

If you take a load of pretty coloured paints, and mix them all up in a big bucket, you end up with some kind of nondescript munge coloured plop. A munge coloured plop that doesn't actually exist as a standalone paint colour. That's what averages are for me.

Except the nice pretty paints don't go around berating themselves because they're different to the munge coloured plop. They continue to celebrate their uniqueness. Well, I expect they would if they weren't inanimate paints. But you get the point.

It starts even before we're born. Our due date is based on the average pregnancy and on our mum's average cycle. As soon as we're born we're compared to the average weight and size and then our mums are harassed by health visitors if we happen to fall outside of the magic averages or if we end up on the wrong place on the magic averages chart. She must be feeding us too much/too little/wrong. Heaven forbid we're just following our own little growth plan and not the one on their stupid chart.

At school, all the hundreds of individual children who pass through and who sit tests and exams are boiled down into one big melting pot to give us an average grade, an average pass mark. Fall under the curve and you're a bit of a thicko, above it and you're a geek. Average is the place to be safe.

and boring.

Science is obsessed with averages too.  There are even at least three different sorts of average to play with. Everything has to be plotted on a graph so a nice neat curvy line can be drawn roughly through as many dots as possible.  Nevermind about all the dots the line doesn't pass through. They must be anomalies, little weirdinesses we don't need to worry about.

Don't we!?

Surely it's these weirdinesses that are the interesting bit?

Personally, I am not concerned with averages. Or being average. I don't understand the point. If we're going to strive to something or compare ourselves against something, why not choose excellence rather than average?

At work I have been given two different bits of advice by different people. The first was to try to care less about stuff. The second was not to live every day like it was a performance review.


Firstly, why would I want to care less about things? Ok, I get it, caring too much about stupid little things that you can't change isn't helpful and that's probably what the advice was really. But suggesting that somebody like me try to care less is like asking Monet to leave off the water lilies for a bit. Ain't gonna happen.

Secondly, why on earth wouldn't I want to give every day my utmost? Why are there a million and one quotes about dance like nobody's watching and all that jazz if the way to get the best out of life was to just sort of mosey on through giving an average performance every average day? Sorry, but if I get hit by a bus (or any number of other quite average ways to cark it), I want to pass on knowing I gave it my best shot. Every day.

I don't understand why striving for anything other than average is not only not commended, but in many situations is actually criticised.

So, I have a message for all the propagators of average:

My name is Emma While, and I am not average. I am a high achiever, get over it. What's more, I've decided I'm no longer going to apologise or be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of my non-averageness. Instead I am proud.

And anybody who doesn't like it can just average off.

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