an inch deep and a mile wide

I’ve never been that good at anything.

Maybe that’s not quite fair. I’ve been okay at a lot of things, but I’ve never been really super amazing good at anything. I got good but not great grades in high school and college. I was a pretty good dancer, but not good enough to make a living doing it. I sang in choir, but no one is lining up to sign me to a label. I’m a lot better at knowing what I’m supposed to do on a soccer field than actually doing it. I go for runs, but I’m not fast and if I saw myself running down the road, I’d probably take pity. I still play clarinet, but even in my community band the talent of some of the other players amazes me. I write in this blog, but it hasn’t elicited any offers of employment in the field. (Not yet, anyway).

I know a lot of people who are really super awesome at what they do. I cringe at the phrase “creative types” being restricted to traditional arts as I pretty strongly believe that creativity is required in just about every type of profession in some form or another. That said, it takes a lot of passion and patience to go all in on an art as your profession. Clearly, I haven’t done that either, and frankly, I’m not really good enough at anything to go all in on it. I’ll stick to enjoying and supporting the creativity of those who have decided and managed to do that and keep dabbling in whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. If anyone manages to find a glass-blowing class in KC, please let me know because I have been searching high and low and NO ONE SEEMS TO WANT TO TEACH ME HOW TO BLOW GLASS.

What’s the point of this? I recently started at a Crossfit gym and it’s making all of these thoughts bubble up again. I only go twice a week, so I’m clearly not as “hard core” as a lot of the people you see in the photos or the Crossfit Games. Does that make me less of a Crossfitter? I’m training for a triathlon, but it’s not an Ironman, so does that make me less of a triathlete? I run, but I don’t have an interest in anything longer than a half marathon, so does that make me less of a runner? I’m working on an MPA, but don’t have a desire to be a City Manager, so does that make me less of a public administrator? I have an engineering degree, but am not on any kind of track to ever get my PE, so does that make me less of an engineer? I have an atmospheric science degree, but no longer forecast the weather for a living, so does that make me less of a meteorologist?

It’s really easy to get down a rabbit hole when you’re surrounded by amazing people who have a more singular focus on something at which they excel. For me, it also means that I have a tendency to feel like I don’t quite fit with a lot of groups. I hosted a going away party for a friend who played for the symphony a couple years ago, and some of the most talented musicians and artists in KC were present – and I felt so out of my league, I relied on some liquid courage to make it through the night.

In a recent conversation with a friend who moved from East Coast to West Coast a couple years ago and is still struggling to find a niche, we talked about my blog post on my move to KC and how he appreciated and understood the ideas in it.  I had plenty of time to reflect on that conversation since it took place in the middle of a multi-hour delay at the airport on my way back to KC after holiday travels and realized what had changed for me since I moved to KC.

It isn’t the activities I’m interested in, or the type of people I like to hang out with. It isn’t my profession or goals, though those have changed along with it.

It’s confidence.

Confidence in knowing that what I’m doing is what I want to be doing.  Confidence in my ability to be just as happy running slow, having the lowest weight total in a Crossfit class, missing the goal wide right during a soccer game and not sight-reading each piece of music in band right the first time. I’ve finally learned to not compare myself to what others are achieving and focus on my own self-improvement and enjoying the activities. I took an intro fencing class about a year ago and was out of town for the last class, so I made it up in a mid-level class with people who competed in the sport. While I’d like to say I held my own, for the most part they kicked my ass. A few years ago, that might have discouraged me to the point of never wanting to do it again – instead, it just inspired me to work harder because it showed me where I could head with more practice. I enjoy the activities I do more, I appreciate the people I’m doing them with more, and most importantly, it has allowed me to celebrate others’ accomplishments without feeling bad about not being able to do it myself. 1:30 half marathon? Strong work, friend! Grab a bottle of water and kick your feet up while I plod my way to the finish. Your work was selected to be in a show at a gallery space? Amazing! When’s the opening and when can I buy you a drink? It just feels so much better this way.

It may sound like I’ve just accepted defeat in not excelling at anything myself. Actually, it’s meant that I appreciate my own achievements more than I ever used to. I love playing soccer when I’m not worried about the fact that I’m probably going to screw up several times over the course of a game. Going for a run is much more satisfying now that I don’t beat myself up when I have to slow down or walk for a bit. And yes, I will look like an idiot when I try to do a handstand pushup, but at least I’m trying!

And if you’re still reading at this point, maybe that offer for a freelance writing gig will make its way to me any day now. 😉

“Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition – in having put forth the best within you.” (Henry J. Kaiser)

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