There it is. The big cliche. The one you’ve always heard about but never confronted. How could anyone be afraid of doing well? The question itself is so ridiculous. I’m not afraid of failure. Failing is surprisingly easy to do.The really good ones can fall down and pick themselves back up again, dusting off their pants as they walk away like nothing happened. Failures are harder to forget, though. For some people it becomes a lifestyle, and a lack of ambition is the ride that most people tend to take in life. No one starts out wanting to be a failure, because they tell you in school that you have to aspire to SOMETHING. The big question that you are asked from about the age of incessant chatter: What do you want to be when you grow up? When you’re a kid, it’s easy. It’s everything all at once. You want to help people one week and the next you want to be dancing for them. I suppose in the end it’s all the same thing, but my point is that once you get to a certain age, they, the askers of that question, start telling you that you have to pick SOMETHING. You can’t be a princess fireman astronaut computer hacker. Nope, you are now expected to dedicate the rest of your life to one action that you will become the very best at forever and ever.
How can I ask myself to choose?
There are some people in this world that never outgrew the stage where they wanted to do everything. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I consistently ignored high test scores and skipped grades and math to learn how to paint and draw poorly. I read Dante’s Inferno at 13 while trying to teach myself how to sing like Ronnie James Dio (this is actually true). I used my insomnia as a tool in order to teach myself how to sew. Don’t worry; my parents loved and encouraged me. I really didn’t give them much of a choice.
My biggest problem is that I have so many ideas that I often don’t know what to do with them, and I try to do them all. Like writing in this blog, for example. My parents and many of my teachers were trying to encourage me to be a writer, or to major in English or something along those lines. I wanted nothing more than to design for Donna Karan (naturally now I know better, but hey, 16). My parents wouldn’t buy me a drum kit but they conceded to a guitar, which I couldn’t play because I actually need to play left handed. My writing, like my music, like my jewelry making, like everything else, gets set into a rotation. I can’t focus on any one thing for a long period of time and I have to do something else. I know deep down in me that if I could focus on just one thing that I could get very good at it, perhaps even very great at it.
But I can’t decide, and I’m so afraid that I’ll make the wrong choice. Not that I will make the wrong choice and fail, but that I will make the wrong choice and succeed. Because success comes with so many responsibilities. So many expectations. You can’t just succeed once, or people will forget about you. Even if you succeed again you will not be welcomed with as great of enthusiasm as before. Or even scarier, if you can’t achieve further than what you’ve previously done. Because it’s not just about succeeding again. It’s about doing it better every time.
I still haven’t figured out if I have that in me.
I know there is a balance, and if I want it bad enough I will find it. I used to be fearless. Being recognized for your work is not the same as reaching the top of the tallest tree in the woods. It’s not as much fun, either. In a way the process is the same, climbing from the bottom to get to the top of something, to reach higher than others, to not be afraid to fall. I just don’t want to fall so far I can’t pick myself back up.