A Lesson from Year 23
Today, on the eve of my 24th birthday, a quote fell into my lap that perfectly summarized where I am and where I want to be. It comes from Ira Glass, the brilliant mind behind one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life.
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” - Ira Glass
You can listen to the whole quote here.
For me, there has always been the idea that what I'm making is not good enough, most people probably think I'm just being modest; I'm honestly not. As a case study, take that semi-colon in the previous sentence and the comma in this sentence, should they really be there? I dunno...The quality of the creative work I'm putting out is not where I want it to be, if it was I'd know how to properly use punctuation. I can do better, but don't want to put in the work to get to that next level of creativity. This struggle has been true in almost everything creative that I have done and continue to do. When you hit the plateau that you can only overcome with a metric crap ton of work, that's when I switch gears and go to the next creative project. Yep, a metric crap ton is a unit of measure and is roughly equal to 264.2 gallons. Crap tons aside, I just didn't have the drive, motivation, gumption, passion, or what have you that is needed to put in the work and break through that barrier. And that's ok with me.
It's true, I'm good at a lot of things, but I'm not great at any one thing and I know I could be if I did more work and focused on it. I'm still waiting to find that special thing that I will devote all of my attention to. When I take a step back and look at the friends I choose to have around me. The athletes that live and breath their sport just to try and get to that next level. The musicians that put in more time in practice rooms than they do sleeping. The students and academics that devote their life's work to a single topic.The sacrifice, passion, and work they produce is inspiring. But it isn't for me.
At the end of the day, I'm just happy that I have something to work towards. An idea to follow. The ability to make something that makes someone else's life just a titch better, a pinch, a skosh, a femto-metric crap ton... and you thought SI units were only used in science. (for those that subscribe to the traditional system of weights and measures, the prefix femto is 10−15, a.k.a super duper teeny tiny)
Seriously though, maybe focus is overrated? There is a lot to see and do in this world. Maybe being diverse best is the best thing you can be? When it comes to my life goal, I want to be happy without taking happiness from others and contribute to this world without taking from others. When I'm dead and buried I want to know that the world is a better place because of my existence and that I did everything I could to be happy and that I did everything I could to make those around me happy.
It only took me 23 years, 364 days, and 23 hours to figure this out. At this rate I'll have the meaning of life figured out in 2067. Until then... thanks for reading.