© David Kyle Choe (Asheville)

Second Place


Edit: I did not write this piece fishing for compliments. It’s simply an honest attempt at self-reflection. But thank you for the kind words ;)

My parents are moving out of my childhood home of 15+ years. A couple weeks ago I was rummaging through boxes of my old stuff and stumbled upon a jewel. It was a bounded book, but not a real book, just some printer paper held together by those plastic folders with a transparent cover you get from Walmart. This book is titled “David Choe 2006”. It is designed in Word Art with each letter a different photo of something that represented me.

D- a tennis racket.

A- some pills (I thought I wanted to become a bio-medical engineer back then, go figure.)

V- the poster for Big Mama’s House 2.

I- hula girls.

D- some musical notes.

A work of art. 13 pages of all things David Choe, circa 2006. There’s a lot of gold in this book, but the one shining star is found on page 4. The page is titled “My Accomplishments”. The following is an excerpt from that chapter.

“Everybody has their own accomplishments; something that they are proud of and that they think is worthy of recognition. I too have my share of accomplishments, however the one accomplishment I treasure the most is getting second place in a tennis tournament.”

I grew up knowing exceedingly well that I was average. It pains me to admit this, but I really did deserve that second place trophy. It was just right. The baby bear’s porridge. Sometimes I was funny, but not the funniest. I was neither handsome nor ugly. I was smart but not brilliant. I was just, average.

If you know me at all, you know that I am pretty critical, especially of mediocrity. I can go on and on about it. Wondering aloud how someone could have the audacity to put something so wretched out in the world, effectively punishing us — we, who have to suffer through its shameful existence. You’ll also know that I come off as pretty confident. Maybe fearless. Maybe arrogant.

But it’s all such a paradox. I point out mediocrity and put out confidence in the hopes that I’ll be seen as something I’m not: great. I don’t think I’ve fooled anyone. I’m pretty sure my friends and family know that I’m not the smartest, the most talented, the wealthiest, the funniest, the kindest person, the best and yet, they stick around.

Something many people don’t know about me is that I hate mirrors. If there are mirrors around, I usually avoid eye contact. Isn’t that crazy? The one person I can’t bear to look at is myself. It physically pains me. I have force my hand to move my head to turn in order to look into a mirror.

I’m scared of what I’ll see.

I’m scared I’ll see the mediocrity oozing out of my pores and the average stuck in my teeth.

But then there are the times when I’m caught off guard. Maybe I catch a glimpse of myself in a building’s glass facade or see my reflection in my darkened phone screen and oddly my heart doesn’t sink. It’s actually not that bad. I’m not that bad.

The gap between average and good is a mountain side. And yet, average isn’t an irreversible curse that destines you or me to a life of shameful hopelessness. Average is malleable. It requires input. It requires work and effort. But it’s possible to change.

One foot in front of the other. The only way out of average and into good.