Glitter and Guttertrash

Not really resisting the descent into urban gardening madness

Friday, November 26, 2010

So many things I don't know

There's this girl who runs away a lot.

She's very good at endings, and sort of good at beginnings, and pretty much rubbish at the bits in between.

She's pretty smart (she's always heard) but feels like an idiot, like she doesn't get it, that there is a cosmic It that is beyond her getting, that living is making shit up fast enough to speed along without ever getting It, without ever having read the manual, it's about passing the exam all the time when you never even glanced over the notes.

And life for her is like this thing that happened a lot in highschool, where there were some things that came so easy: standing up in front of a class to present a talk, except she hadn't done the research and had barely glanced at the assignment topic before she walked in to present, but her brain (easily distracted) stores a thousand cross-referenced details easily summoned into something like a compelling argument, with a grin and an emotion and some inspiring peak to end on, and she wouldn't just pass, she'd get A's.

And walking out she'd wonder, did she think less of herself for scamming it like that? Did she think less of all of them, the students and the teachers, for not seeing through her? Or was that just it, was that just success, these things that came easily and meant nothing and said nothing?

And ten years later, is that still success? Rattling and breezing your way through life on the path of least resistance and least effort and constant, surprising success, and the constant, wearing questioning of if it's you or them you judge most harshly for letting you get away with it?

My friend's a florist, I've written about her before. One day recently we were driving in her car and I was basking in the radiance of her success, of where her passion's taken her. I felt the threads of envy in me, envying her passion, envying that she had a thing that could direct her somewhere and give her- gifted, talented girl to whom success in other fields came easily- something a little difficult to do, and strive for, and succeed at. She's been a lot of other things before she became a florist, and we talked about that. We talked about the things that come easy, and the restlessness with them, and I saw that she had stepped beyond those and decided to do something else. I envied her.

I don't mean anything by this, except to take note of this progression. A few years ago I noticed that I was learning how to learn for the first time in my life. That for the first time in my life I was learning that in order to learn, you must first be really bad at something, and that being bad at it is the necessary first stage of actually learning how to do it. I realised that I have rarely learned anything at all, because so many things are so easy for me, and the risks of turning my attention to anything that starts off being hard have seemed so high, that I have been content to succeed at things that aren't success at all- just, a kind of meaningless on-going. The career I have when I'm desperately trying not to have a career, for example. It's one of the gifts the world is willing to grant a person with a vault of educational and circumstantial privilege supporting them, and I haven't earned it, I take it for granted, and I go nowhere with it.

So I learned, in short order, how to ride a bicycle (by first acknowledging that I did not know how to ride a bicycle, and that I would be bad at riding a bicycle as a necessary pre-cursor to being good at riding a bicycle). I learned about vegetable gardening, and karate, and how to swim across an open bay. I learned a little bit of driving cars, a little bit of speaking German, a little bit of organising an autonomous festival. Eventually, I learned a little bit of actually showing up to my jobs, a little bit about caring about my work, a little bit of doing more than taking these free gifts for granted.

And now the vistas ahead hold something like a piece of knowledge: that the things that come easily are not necessarily the things I ought to be doing. That ease is not, perhaps, the best indicator of a thing worth my time and effort.

Because another thing happened this year, which is that a lot of people I know died, and even more people in my not-very-extended community died. It was a rash of deaths, a relentless hammering of names and circumstances and gaps and losses- all different, all unrelated- all shining people I have loved. And I'm not even 30 yet (not even nearly-30) but I have a chronic illness that will almost certainly shorten my life, and a lot of my friends have died this year, and I know something like life is not forever. There isn't endless time. And maybe there's not actually enough time to coast, the way I've been doing for my entire life to date. Maybe coasting, maybe ease, isn't actually the best way to use up this short bank of years I'm granted.

I'm still stewing on these thoughts, still wondering what they mean. Still wondering if this Summer->Summer hemisphere-switching life is like being on hold all the time, and if I really have time for that. And if I don't, what do I have time for? If the things that come easy and effortless aren't the right things to do, then what ARE?


  • At 6:45 PM, Anonymous Soilman said…

    Acute, painful stab of self-recognition. The trouble with easy is... it's so goddamned easy. It's like too much booze, drugs, or empty sex. It should feel good, but it doesn't. Not when the glow has gone.


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