Gillian Reynolds: Exceptionally Unexceptional

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Gillian Reynolds is exceptionally unexceptional at everything she tries. But she’s learned how exceptional that can be.

I bake decent sweets, 75% of them actually come out correct. I play music and sing songs with my dad and cousin, but I miss notes and mess up lyrics. I try keeping plants in my room, hoping to have inherited my mother’s green thumb genes, yet every plant I have ever had has died. I write for my school newspaper, but I have the worst spelling that any teacher has ever seen. I play field hockey, on junior varsity. I’ve tried pottery and came out with a lopsided vase.

For as long as I can remember I have loved trying new things. Through middle school, I tried just about every activity I could get my hands on and hoped for something interesting every day. Until I got older. That excitement of trying new activities became taken over by the fact that I was supposed to start excelling at one hobby, instead of having many. The reality I ended up left with shined an unappealing light on the fact that I was decent at a lot of things, but not exceptional at one thing.

I watched my peers grow up, finding their passions and uncovering exactly who they wanted to be, while I stood, stuck in a body that couldn’t seem to figure out who she was. I felt constantly ashamed and embarrassed, I was supposed to be amazing at something that I could pursue, that could take me to college and beyond, but when I looked at my life, all I saw were started projects left unfinished. For every accomplishment a friend or family member made, a tangle of jealousy blasted up inside of me, yearning to have just one thing to myself.

As a high school student, constant pressure made me forget to live, forget to experience my youth. I was consumed by the lie that I should work only on my future instead of live in the present. When the thought of having to be above everyone else dominates your mind, you forget about the small things that make your life your own. The weekends I spend reading books in my room, learning to love the comfort of being alone. The new recipes I try, just for the fun of it. The late nights at my best friends' houses where we order takeout and passionately rant about every subject we could think of. My brother and I making each other laugh so hard, we can’t look at each other, for the fear that we may never catch our breath. Those are the things I live for.


I may never excel at one thing, but these experiences are what make my life worth living, and remind me that being ok at a lot of things is better than my life being taken over by the idea that I am only meant to be great at one thing. I am simple, I live for what I love. And loving something doesn’t mean I have to be exceptional at it. I get to be exceptionally average at everything.

With a Perspective, I'm Gillian Reynolds.

Gillian Reynolds is a junior at Redwood High School in Larkspur.