My posting the other day was the first time I've ever clearly articulated by belief, or lack of non-belief, that I'd one day manifest some kind of superpower. I'd only embarassingly recently reached the conclusion in my own head anyway, and I'd tried to make it clear to Girlygirl, but I think with limited success.
The same night I posted that info, I went out with a pal of mine (I'll call him Sparky--I think he'll go for that) for a boys' night out. We do this on occasion, as it gives us an opportunity to talk manly things like machining and motors and stuff. We also are extremely manly when it comes to dining and drinking on these trips--they're far too often on a school night, but we usually edge right up to the Beer Of Ultimate Regret anyway. We've crossed that line too, but usually only on a weekend. This extreme manliness is undoubtedly a way to cover for the terribly girly practice we have of helping each other sort of the stress in our lives. It works for us, though, and we both enjoy the time and each other's insights*.
Anyway, we were talking and I mentioned the whole superpowers thing. I then remembered how I reached my conclusions on that, and found it interesting. Let me e'splain. No, it's too much--let me sum up.***
OK, no, let me e'splain. Sparky and I both have a lot of hobbies. I haven't got as many as he does, I don't think, but we both have more than we have free time. Not too long ago, I was having major issues with this fact, wanting to give up one of the hobbies or something. Eventually, though, I figured out something about it all.
I've always wanted to be special, notorious, or otherwise rise above the crowd. I think it's probably a need for outside affirmation or something, and mostly it's been an unconscious thing. I grew up reading comic books, with the obvious theme of being different, and usually superior in one way or another. I also grew up obsessed with music, and since this was the 70s, I was heavily influenced by Rock Stars (and all the capital letters imply). I moved right on into the 80s, where a lot of our culture was about fame and influence--where successful bankers and brokers could be like Rock Stars. At the college I attended, if you weren't rich, you weren't anybody. I learned my lessons well, I think.
I've played guitar for many years, and have dabbled in various kinds of art, and have also been doing the odd woodworking project here and there. I like to try new sports, and have done well, or at least shown aptitude in swimming, cycling and martial arts. In my darker moments, though, I've thrown them all over for some small reason or other. I quit my band when I heard a couple of my acquaintances' (who were making a living at music) bands--there was just no way I was ever going to be able to play that kind of music, so why bother at all? I mostly stopped swimming in college because there was no way in hell I'd make the school team (with umpteen consecutive national championships in a still-running streak, there were a lot of good swimmers who couldn't make the team).****
Years later, I was back at the quitting point with guitar playing--I knew I wasn't likely to have the time or inclination toward poverty and suffering to become a professional, so I couldn't see the point in going on.
I don't know if I'm making my case all that well here, but the point is that I had a tendency to look at most everything I did in terms of whether or not I could be among the best at whatever it was. If I knew I couldn't be a Rock Star, then I didn't see much point in playing guitar at all. If I wasn't going to win national championships, why swim? I applied this same standard to everything I did, even if I didn't quit over it later--hell, I probably still do, to some extent. I often came back to the old hobbies, especially my favorites, but it didn't take long for me to wash out again. Needless to say, this was all unconscious--I didn't have a handle on why I gave up--I'd hardly ever outright failed (or even done badly) at any of these things.
But last time around, when I was looking at my hobbies and thinking I'd need to quit one of them, something clicked. I was suddenly able to see what I'd been doing all these years. I had this expectation that if you didn't want to make the sacrifices and show the drive to be Number One, there was no point in doing the thing at all. If I wasn't going to make it on a national stage, I wasn't going to be satisfied. I also realized that even I
didn't actually believe that. I really am
satisfied with just doing a good job and trying hard. The fitness benefits and fun of cycling are enough for me--I really don't feel a need to be Lance Armstrong. The trouble was, I'd been laboring under some deep-seated, and outmoded, belief that I DID want to be Lance Armstrong, that I MUST want to be Lance Armstrong. Well, if I accepted that, even though I knew better, then it was easy to see that I'd never reach that bar, so why try? For a number of years, I accepted that I MUST want more than I actually did--that it was unacceptable to be willing to take what I could get based on the amount of effort I was willing to put in, and be happy with that. I think I believed I really wanted to be a professional "whatever," back somewhere in my head, even though I'd never have said it out loud.
Needless to say, it was weird to discover that I had, in fact, been like a slave driver screaming, "faster, faster," when the whole time I was also the slave, saying, "fuck, isn't this good enough? I'm too tired to go faster today. Let's be happy with this speed."
Once I made the discovery, though, it was a major thing. Once I became aware of the slave driver, I could banish him from my head. I did NOT need to be Lance. I just want to be faster than Sparky, which seems like an attainable, but sufficiently challenging goal. I do NOT need to be Stevie Ray Vaughan (especially the dead part), but rather I could be really happy if I just played guitar more often, and maybe tried my hand at recording some stuff. I have known for some time that I have no interest in trading my quality, high-paying job for the uncertainty of being any kind of professional athlete or artist, so I've also known that I was never going to put in the time or effort to be more than a hobbyist with most anything I do. But now the slave driver knows it too.
Once that was figured out, it suddenly became possible to do hobbies like most people do--work on one of them when I feel like it, perhaps go on a jag where all I do with my free time is woodworking or cycling, and occasionally just veg in front of the mighty Tivo. And I can do all of these things without feeling guilty that I'm ruining my chances of being a well-known professional-level artisan in the disciplines I'm currently NOT working on.
And (this is where we tie the superheroes back in) once I had let go of the useless professional athlete, great artist, Rock Star beliefs, it suddenly occurred to me that, on top of all those crazy ideas, I'd also held the exact same belief about being a superhero. If the fact that I couldn't differentiate between the ability to fly or be invulnerable and the ability to write music to thrill the masses wasn't proof enough that the slave driver was fucked in the head, nothing was. And no way was I keeping a dopey idea like that in my head.
So now I know I'll never be Spider-Man or Colossus or anything, but I also know that on any given day I could really take it to Sparky and murder him on the big hill on our regular training ride, or build an end table that stands up without wobbling, and those things are about as good.
*The most trenchant of our insights, and our most powerful weapon, is simply saying shit out loud. Generally speaking, even if you can't hear yourself sounding like an idiot, you can pick up from the facial expressions of your tablemate that you're not making sense. It works a treat, though it's substantially less effective in writing**, so I don't know you can help yourself this way. Maybe.
**(woo hoo! internal footnoting within footnotes!)Witness the Transvestite Executif posting of a couple of weeks ago. A lot of that is just bullshit. There's some truth there, but the reason I haven't been promoted is because I keep managing to get all the work done myself--I don't have any flunkies, so display no management skills. Luckily, I'm getting a flunky soon--the job ad runs on Sunday.
***Bonus points for knowing the reference!
****I also quit motorcycle racing, but I'm here to tell you that I quit that because I was afraid of getting killed out there. If I go fast on the track, I'll do it during a controlled track day, thanks very much, not out there with a bunch of 19-year-olds who don't care if they live or die, so long as they're in front.
Bonus Track: You will probably not notice that I changed the color of the annotations. Apparently on some PCs (fucking PCs!), the grey color I'd spec'd was showing up as dayglo green and as such was totally unreadable. So hopefully this one will be a little more consistent across platforms and browers, without diminishing the joy of trying to read grey type on a babyshit background.