Whelmed – traditionally it means to be engulfed or submerged, although nowadays overwhelmed has taken to that meaning more enthusiatically. And of course there’s underwhelmed, which leaves you feeling something doesn’t meet your expectations. So where does that leave whelmed?
Well, in the words of the pop culture classic 10 Things I Hate About You, Chastity asks “I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you just be whelmed?” To which Bianca replies, “I think you can be in Europe.”
Well, everyone, I think we’re in Europe. Whelmed is now the perfect word to describe the average – that place between the excitement of the over and the disappointment of the under. Whelmed is that place where we get out of bed in the morning, do our daily chores and tasks and go to bed that night without any particular sense of accomplishment or loss – and then do it all again tomorrow. It’s that floating in an endless sea with no end or beginning that we can see. It is that living day to day and not much noticing it. It’s not happiness, it’s not depression – but it is that normal place we live in, not realising how normal it is until something goes wrong (or goes really right).
Is it bad to be whelmed? To be fair to middling? To feel the day is tolerable? Or your life adequate? Well, that is up to the individual. Some of us cling to normal as we would to a life-raft. That normal keeps us safe from the dramas, the ups and downs and the adventures life can throw at us. However, despite this, it is a typical human condition to want more than you actually have. Subconsciously we want to be like the young Bilbo Baggins – safe in his hobbit home, where everything has its place and adventures are for someone else – but that little voice in our head wants to be the Bilbo Baggins who went off to steal a hoard of gold from a dragon…or win Gold Lotto. This, I think, is whelming, where you get that unsettling feeling that despite everything you do, life is passing you by.
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