Friday, September 16, 2005


Boy am I threatened by it, knee-buckled by it, roiling with envy at it. For some reason I believe it is what I am to be. And I know it is what I am not. As exceptional as I might be. One in a hundred is not one in a million. It upsets me. I've had to come to terms with and let go of several juvenile fantasies later in life than you might expect.

1. I will be neither Air Force pilot nor astronaut
2. I will not play professional baseball
3. I am not now and will not suddenly become a genius

I don't know why this should be so hard to accept. It's not as if geniuses are renowned for being especially happy. And that's if they happen to be renowned. If we're to believe the wisdom of our culture, there are many more geniuses, toiling in obscurity, unrecognized as the prophets they are, and brimming with vitriol at not being renowned. Even renown is known to be a generally unhappy experience.

When I nurtured this fantasy of genius, that things did not come easily was a constant frustration. So not much came at all. Now I understand I have to work (some things can be slow in coming to a self-presumed genius), which has been a surprisingly satisfying experience.

So, no Grand Unified Theories, no As I Lay Dying, no OK Computer from me.

I am not endorsing mediocrity, but an understanding that perfection is unattainable, and even undesirable.


vacuous said...

I think that the smarter a person is, the less inclined to label himself (or herself) a genius. It's an old chestnut, but the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

beckett said...

True enough. It's another matter to shake free the heretofore only vaguely perceived expectation one has of oneself. First it must be identified, and then delicately dropped.

vacuous said...

Believe you me, I know it. I tend to build up a lot of anger and hatred when I have a subconscious (or conscious) self-expectation which continually fails to be borne out. A prime example of that concerns my present job. I really wanted to get a job at a place like Cornell or University of California, and when I ended up at Tennessee I began to build up a lot of resentment. I started drinking again, and in general being very negative. (This was one root cause of my inexcusable behavior at your wedding.) I have since accepted the many positives that have arisen as a result of my situation, and am no longer carrying around all the resentment. This was catalyzed by the emotional trauma from the death of our Grandmother, as well as attendance at AA meetings. The thing I am currently struggling with is, now that I don't have unreasonable expectations, how do I make sure that I am not setting the bar too low? I shouldn't expect too much, but I also shouldn't expect too little. It's a line I need to figure out how to walk.

beckett said...
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beckett said...

It's ironic that a sense that one hasn't gotten what one is entitled to can lead to a rejection of much more that's positive.

On the flip side, I have many times sabatoged my own chances of success by not preparing in advance, by getting drunk the night before, by undermining my own confidence.

So, on the one hand, I have harbored an expectation of greatness, and on the other, have actively denied myself success.