In defence of mediocrity

It’s fine for your life to be collapsing around you

Cambridge Cambridge University mathmo maths Mediocrity Students the tab

At Cambridge you learn pretty quickly that, at best, you’re mediocre.

I, like many other people I’ve met here, went to a school where I was top of the class without much effort and where praise grew as easily as fresh grass in the summer. But after I got here in Michaelmas, everything suddenly changed. There were hundreds of people better than me, I was struggling to keep up with the work, I didn’t feel like I was understanding my course at all.

But this, to some degree, I had expected – my academic mediocrity was hardly surprising. In the end, I was taken aback much more by how utterly mediocre I was socially.

Let me back up a bit. I knew a fair few mathmos before I came down, and – well, most of the time you could cut the social awkwardness with a knife. This gave me some faint hope that at Cambridge, I would finally feel like I fitted in socially – and knowing mathmos, my competition hardly seemed that stiff.

I swear every mathmo has a childhood photo like this

But when I did eventually get to Cambridge, I was really quite disheartened. It seemed like every other person was on a university sports team already, or was already well-known around Cambridge, or just much more confident than me. And of course, they all seemed to be doing well with their degrees.

In short, both academically and socially I felt really behind the curve. If the peak was on King’s Parade, I felt like I was languishing out by Homerton front gate. Nothing was yet absolutely disastrous – no, my life would more-or-less hold together for a good fortnight or so. But still there seemed not a single aspect of my life that wasn’t dull, quotidian, mediocre.

By now barely a term has passed. I’ve not magically become an academic god; I’ve not suddenly become a half-blue. But I’ve realised one thing: it’s fine to be mediocre. Statistically, most people are.

Wow, they made a TV show about my life

So often people tend to feel like they have to be somehow amazing to be worth anything in Cambridge. Still, one hears people say that all you need from Cambridge is ‘a wife, a blue and a first’. But so what if you’re not in a relationship? So what if you’re not doing any sports? So what if you’re happy with scraping that 2:1?

Let’s be honest here: the workload at Cambridge can easily make life miserable enough as it is. There is absolutely no reason to impose arbitrary standards on how interesting your life is – all it will serve to do is to make you more unhappy, more stressed and it will do fuck all good for you.

Don’t spend too much time here unless you really enjoy mental breakdowns

Just remember: anyone who got into Cambridge is fucking legendary at what they do. You don’t need to judge your self-worth by other people in Cambridge, any more than you would fret about Andy Murray being better at tennis than you. Make sure you take Cambridge for what it is: and make sure you have an absolute blast of it.

There is nothing wrong with mediocrity – stop worrying and enjoy yourself. You’re doing great. Trust me.