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.

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