At summer camp when I was ten, I won a lot of medals. It was a big deal at the time and all the girls used to keep track of how many we all had to see who was in the lead. A medal meant you were eligible for the grand prize at the end of the summer in whichever category you medaled in. Basically, if you were a decent canoe-er, you’d be recognized for your talent and then the best canoe-er at the end of the summer would win the final canoe-ing award. Simple.
So when I was young, these many medals implied that I was well-rounded, generally athletic, and could carry a tune. I was proud of my faux-gold prizes (completely oblivious to how ridiculous I looked with them all dangling around my puny neck) and felt a burst of pride when others commented on how many I earned over the course of camp.
At the end of each summer though, my medals never seemed to lead to anything more. After two consecutive years of above-average medaling, I failed to earn a single one of the coveted “best” trophies. I felt robbed.
Today, I feel like not much has changed. There are lots of things I enjoy. I like reading and baking and running. I love playing guitar and singing and writing. I’m well-rounded, sure, but I’m not spectacular at any of these things, and my hobbies are just small ways to pass the time.
Running, for example, is the perfect way to stay in shape, meet people, and make friends with those who share a similar interest. But, my snail-like pace and inability to actually make it up a hill force me to stick to my solitary running routine every morning. In addition, I don’t have any burning desire to run a marathon and races in general feel like an imposition with their early morning arrival times and other unfortunate characteristics (port-a-potties, lack of parking, crowds, etc). Real runners want to race. They want the challenge and the personal satisfaction. They want to share their passion with others. I just don’t have the drive.
Ditto with guitar. Sure, I can play some basic chords and write cheesy lyrics a-la-taylor swift, but I’ll never be good enough (nor would I want to practice enough) to try out my music at an open mic night. Or even play live for people at all. The thought terrifies me.
This concerns me because it makes me feel like everything I do is a waste. Like, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound? If I’m good but not great at a bunch of things, are they even worthwhile talents to possess?
Sometimes I wish I’d focused on one thing – dedicated myself to an interest or a hobby when I was younger and really just run with it – so that today, I’d have something to show for my effort. If I’m not the smartest, or the prettiest, or the funniest, I’d like to at least be awesome at something.
Or maybe I’m just still figuring out what I have to offer the world. I guess that’s allowed.