sundry contemplation of my travels

Continuing my last post: I think I must acknowledge that a significant reason I never try my hardest is because I enjoy not knowing my limitations. If you don't know what your limitations are, you don't have to acknowledge that you have any. Thus I am able to go through life with the firmly held belief that if I had really wanted to I could have done X or Y or Z, where X, Y and Z are whatever truly amazing feat catches my fancy that day.

Of course, there are areas where even I must acknowledge that I could never have excelled. For example, I could not make a living as a Mary Kay saleswoman. I also could not be a professional golfer, tennis player, figure skater, or really any other type of athlete. I could not have a job that required me to drive one of those big rig trucks. Or really any job involving driving. I do not think I am cut out for teaching children. High school I probably could do. But not alternative high school students who don't know how to read, like in Push (aka the Precious book, which incidentally I don't see how it could have been made into a movie without losing much of what made it great). Anything that requires patiently dealing with people who are slow to grasp things or have limited understanding I could not do. Actually anything that requires patience period. I tried learning computer programming once and had to rule that out too. I had perfect scores on everything going into the final, and then I hit a brick wall. I could not have completed that final -- I think you had to set up a sort of web site arcade that kept track of high scores on a game or something -- to save my life, in the improbable event that a web arcade would save my life. I could not be a chef. Or a waitress. Or anything else that requires being on your feet all day. I once had a job as a security guard at a museum and had to periodically find an empty gallery to squat down and rest in. I also once had a job as a receptionist and was fired because I couldn't get the hang of the phone system and kept hanging up on customers. But I wouldn't rule out receptionist entirely. I think I might be able to handle answering phones now.

On the other hand, I think younger versions of myself might be very surprised that I became a lawyer, and might have thought I wouldn't be any good at it. When in fact I am very good indeed. But not as good as I could be.


like a duck

I swam the long distance events in high school -- 500 and 200 yard free. I wasn't bad. I wasn't that good, either. I will say with all immodesty that I have a beautiful stroke. It is strong and efficient. I sliced through the water with grace. Just not with speed. Slowly my arm cleaved the water, and slowly it pushed down and through and around in a patient, carefree arc. Like I was strolling through the park, nice and easy. The coach would pace up and down, covering his mouth and chin with his hand, shaking his head. Why won't she move her arms faster? I could have, no doubt. But my beautiful stroke was so strong and efficient that I really didn't have to. I'd keep an eye on the other swimmers and keep pace with them (I was not in a terribly competitive league, so this worked), and then kick it up a little higher for the last lap to try and close in on the win. Which sometimes happened and sometimes didn't, but it didn't bother me a whole lot, as long as I made a decent showing.

That image of my coach pacing in frustration as I leisurely stroked through the water has been in my head a lot lately. It seems like a paradigm for me. I haven't had to try very hard to do pretty well, so I haven't bothered. Frankly, I'm not entirely convinced it's a bad thing. Life is too short. It should be enjoyed. But I wonder if this sort of thing, never really reaching my full potential, contributes to my dissatisfaction in some way. Would I feel more happy and fulfilled if I were trying my hardest? I'm not sure I'm capable of trying my hardest at this point. It's seems too ingrained.

I've been thinking about this in relation to Nugget, too. I don't care if he is "successful," as long as he's happy, but if people who strive are happier, then maybe I should want him to strive. How do you raise a kid who strives, particularly when he's likely to inherit my ability to get by without trying too hard? It seems to me that the problem started when I was in school and not being sufficiently challenged. How do you make sure your kid is challenged without pushing your kid so hard you take away his childhood? I had such a marvelous childhood, I really want him to have that. I worry that kids seem to grow up so fast these days. You wouldn't believe how long it took me to grow up. But that's another story. Sometimes I think "unschooling"--a type of home schooling where you let your kid do nothing until he gets so bored he starts to find learning interesting, and then follows his own interests to learn about the world--might be an answer to this. The thing is, the one time I realy do try is when I'm interested. I think that sort of lack of discipline is part of the problem.

Speaking of discipline though, I should get back to my brief.


to show virtue her own feature

(after watching the rest of the new Emma on PBS)

A: Do you like Emma?
T: The character?
A: Yes.
T: … she generally has a good heart but she’s completely blind to her own faults, and she’s a total snob.
A: When I reread Emma last week it struck me that the reason I’ve always disliked her so much is that she reminds me of me.
T: (laughs uproariously)
A: Do you think we’re alike?
T: Uh … (still laughing)
A: ?
T: I’m afraid to say …
A: ?
T: In some respects, yes.
A: Blindness to faults and snobbery?
T: More the former …
A: Yes … If I had any faults I would be blind to them.