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The Virtue of Being Average

by Liz Flaherty

I'm coming clean. It's said that confession is good for the soul — plus it's a novelty in this day of not admitting to anything. Makes me feel all sanctimonious and Marmee-like. So here goes.

I am not a leader.

Umm, felt good. I'll say it again, louder and longer. I'm a follower with absolutely no aspirations to lead.

I have never dreamed of gathering obscene wealth or dining at restaurants where cute guys park your car and paparazzi snap pictures of you as you walk past. I've never longed to be a CEO or a member of any other profession that has initials as its description.

If I'm helping at a seminar or conference, I'm the one making sure the speakers have fresh water and directing people to the coffee urn and the nearest bathroom. I'm never the one smiling out over the crowd and saying, "Can everyone hear me?" I don't want to be heard.

I play Jeopardy along with the TV show at home — badly — but the idea of actually going on television for any purpose makes me turn pale and fumble for my Zoloft.

The last time I had jury duty, I was elected to be the foreperson based on my being the only one who had served before. I explained that all this meant was that I knew where the bathroom and the coffeepot were, but the other jurors seemed to think that was sufficient knowledge .I hope those people are never around when conference speakers are hired; they might recommend me!

When I was in high school, I was always a third-row member of pep club, never a cheerleader. In physical education class, the bane of my existence, I warmed the bench in basketball, was the 27th batter in baseball, and the only time I ever got a volleyball over the net was when the hard-as-a-rock ball bounced off my nose and I thought it was broken. The nose, that is, not the ball. If I'd gone away to camp to improve my skills the way young scholars and student athletes do now, I'd have ended up being the tent monitor because I was too lackadaisical to excel at anything else.

While I admire excellence and do on occasion strive for it, I'm more often happy with good-enough. My husband — whose leadership qualities I hesitate to acknowledge just in case he takes it upon himself to lead me — thinks if you're going to do something, you should do it right or not at all. Having been raised by a mother who ironed everything, I became an adult who can survive years at a time without opening up the ironing board. However, if I'm wearing a jumper or a vest, I will break down and iron the collar and sleeves of the blouse I wear underneath. It looks … you know … okay. My husband considers this beyond laziness and well into slovenliness, so I let him iron my blouses whenever he wants to.

I am — dare I say it? — incredibly average, to the point that I've never been able to buy my clothes off the clearance racks because my size is average, too. When I gained the requisite 20 pounds and two sizes after I stopped smoking, so did everyone else.

And you know what?; I don't mind being average. A friend suggests that this is because I don't want the responsibility of excellence. I don't want to be the idea person, the trouble-shooter, the Moses of the workplace. She's right.

But at the end of the day, when all the ideas are presented and the games played and the conferences over, everyone needs the bathroom and a cup of coffee. They need to sit and unwind without worrying whether there are wrinkles in their blouses. They need to just be average.

So, the bathroom's just down the hall there and the coffee's fresh.

Cream? I'll be glad to get you some. That's what people like me are for, and it's not bad at all.

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