The Mediocre Myth, a Narrative Poem

Updated on August 28, 2019
Mark Tulin profile image

Besides writing poems about personal narratives, Mark enjoys exploring a variety of topics from surfing to juicy grandma kisses.

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Recreating Our Own Stories

We are often victims of people‘s stories. Too often, family or friends define us, and their distorted view has stuck to us like an unwanted mole on our cheek.

Looking back over my early years, I can name several people who attempted to define me. For instance, the guidance counselor in my high school saw me in a way that was anything but flattering based on my numbers from an SAT exam. He didn’t know me from Adam but formed a judgment that I had a hard time shaking. He felt he was Nostradamus, predicting my future. The guidance counselor saw me as a pitiful student who probably wouldn't make it in college so he suggested that I get into my father's produce business (which wasn't a bad thing for my father but not something that I wanted).

Well, of course, I proved the counselor wrong. I ended up with several advanced degrees from very prestigious universities, no thanks to him.

We don't have to live by people's narratives. They are just stories to pigeonhole or label us. If we buy into them, we could forever limit or restrict our potential.

Enjoy The Mediocre Myth and its video.


The Mediocre Myth, by Mark Tulin

For much of my life,

I saw myself as average.

I flunked second grade.

The guidance counselor said

my SAT scores indicated

a poor college aptitude

and I’d be better off doing manual labor.


I clung to the myth of being mediocre.

Stayed underemployed longer than I should.

Married a woman supposedly much brighter.

Our daughter didn’t get her brains

from me, I was repeatedly told.

I was just the provider.


For years, I denied how smart I was.

I bought into the whole story

that I was a slow learner.

That it wasn’t me who had the Mensa DNA.

It wasn’t me who was gifted and super creative.

It was those special people

who went to Stanford and MIT.


So, with time and several advanced degrees,

I constructed a more flattering narrative.

Stopped walking with my head down

and an attitude of resignation.

I took pride in my intellectual side.

Put to sleep the average myth.

I finally elevated myself.

The Mediocre Myth Video

Questions & Answers

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      • Pria Dinesh profile image

        Priya Dinesh 

        7 days ago from Bangalore

        That's lovely little coincidence, mine too!

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        7 days ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Priya. That’s one of my favorite quotes!!

      • Pria Dinesh profile image

        Priya Dinesh 

        7 days ago from Bangalore

        Haha, I'm so sorry MARK! But as Shakespeare rightly said, "What's in a name?" :)

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        7 days ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thanks, Priya. I guess people want to call me Tim. Tim is a great name, one of the very best in fact, but I’m Mark. If this goes on any longer, I’ll strongly consider changing it. :)

      • Pria Dinesh profile image

        Priya Dinesh 

        7 days ago from Bangalore

        What a powerful message your poem coveys Tim, way to go! Brilliant work :)

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        2 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Like you, Genna, I love the word possibilities. And we all have them.

      • Genna East profile image

        Genna East 

        2 weeks ago from Massachusetts, USA

        Hi Mark...

        Your courage, determination and inner faith are examples for us all. We each have such possibilities! :-) (I love that word.) It upsets me when guidance counselors seek to slot and pigeonhole students (and others do this as well), as if we were easy, two-sentence notations, forced into a box of index cards. Such attitudes are the products of a lazy mind. Kudos, Mark.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thank you, Brenda. I hear that a lot. A mother comparing the son to a bad father and vice versa. We have to be more mindful of what we say to children, especially during times of stress or anger.

      • Brenda Arledge profile image

        BRENDA ARLEDGE 

        3 weeks ago from Washington Court House

        It is so sad that society, as well as families, do this to us as kids.

        I remember hearing a mother tell her son he would be just like his father, who was in prison.

        Each one of us is unique and deserve to become our own person.

        Way to overcome.

        Great write.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thank you, Lora. I think I confused you with my last remark on Tim's comment of my poem. But Mark Tulin wrote the poem, The Mediocre Myth (I've done this a couple of times as well and always felt embarrassed).

        Lora, you are so right that tests don't measure a person's intelligence or determination or heart. They are used, once again, to label us and put us in a bucket.

        Also, Einstein was dyslexic. Thomas Edison's teachers said he was too dumb to learn anything. Walt Disney dropped out of school at 16.

      • Lora Hollings profile image

        Lora Hollings 

        3 weeks ago

        Tim, I love the message of your poem! How true these words resonate with me and I'm sure so many people out there. We are worth so much more than a test score and these tests rarely reflect the real measure of intelligence of a person. And they certainly can't measure determination which probably counts for success in achieving your goals and doing well in life much more than anything else. Many people who've gone on to accomplish great feats such as scientists, inventors, and writers were labeled incorrectly even as below average. In the end, it is the message that we feed ourselves, our love for something, and our persistence which really outweighs anything else and especially others' opinions! Thank you for this wonderful poem with an uplifting message.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Great comment as always, Tim. Let me highlight one of your points:

        “The research tends to suggest minorities, women, and other mistreated groups probably experience this phenomenon since birth, especially during the early years of school.”

        It just speaks to the fact that we have to stop letting influential people define us and pursue our own dreams and ambitions. But first we have to become aware of this dynamic.

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        3 weeks ago from U.S.A.

        This is a great story and poem for inspiration, Mark. Once people realize they have the power to write their own scripts, those who felt the desire to place them in minor roles tend to back away, understanding they are not the directors of your production, your life. Adler would say something like that.

        You are the star of your life, and some don't want it to shine.

        The research tends to suggest minorities, women, and other mistreated groups probably experience this phenomenon since birth, especially during the early years of school.

        I'm glad your poem inspires us to continue in spite of the obstacles. Resiliency is well noted among groups who have to achieve when those around us tell us it's not possible; great poets and storytellers come from such people. A brilliant and relevant work, Mark. May your talents always keep us focused. Respectfully, Tim

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Wow, Lorna, never realized the lacking in themselves part. Maybe there is something unconscious going on for those people who have a need to define others. Perhaps they are jealous and don’t want others to have the freedom to choose when they didn’t.

      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        3 weeks ago

        I feel that the people who define us do so due to something that is lacking in themselves. Sadly young minds are easy to manipulate and those definitions cause us to waste so much time trying to live up to their mediocre label. This wonderful poem highlights your story of struggle and success, a truly inspirational read.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Sounds like you came up with a good story, Dana, and you overcame someone else’s misguided narrative. Yes, and we’re not stupid when we make mistakes. We’re courageous.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        John, we have to listen with our heart and take others with a grain of salt. I remember the movie, The Graduate, and how everyone was telling Benjamin what to do. One guy recommended going into plastics. Elaine seemed like a much better choice. :)

      • Dana Tate profile image

        Dana Tate 

        3 weeks ago from LOS ANGELES

        I was made to feel like I wouldn't amount to anything. So, I set out to prove everyone wrong. I wouldn't allow myself to fail and if I did I was my worst critic.

        It took me years to understand where that seed was planted and uproot it. Now, I know it's okay to make mistakes; that's how we learn and grow.

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        3 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

        A wonderful poem and video, Mark. You make very good points, we are often shaped by others false perceptions...teachers, guidance counselors, even patents. One guidance Counselor told me I would be suited to selling real estate. I’m not sure if that would have been good or bad, but I never followed his advice. Well done to overcome what you did.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Thank you, Ruby Jean.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        3 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

        Good for you! I like your poetry.

      • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

        Mark Tulin 

        3 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        Fredrick, much thanks.

      • Fredrickvanek profile image

        Fredrick Vanek 

        3 weeks ago from New York

        Well done. Both the poem and your success.

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