I’ve been thinking a lot about effort these days. I am naturally okay at some stuff, acceptably decent at other things, and for the most part can skate by without too much worry. So when I tell my kids they should try their best, regardless of the outcome, I have to admit I feel like a hypocrite.
When I was in university, I barely studied. There were a few classes I pretty much skipped for whole semesters and I still managed to swing average marks, thanks to multiple choice exams and lucky guessing. I graduated with a lackluster GPA, but I was fine with that, since at least I graduated.
At work it was much the same. The boredom, in addition to being systematically underpaid, gave me the perfect excuse to only exert the bare minimum. Promotions weren’t really a priority since the workload doubled but the money didn’t. It was just a job, I said, not my calling, and my particular profession wasn’t about to risk or save lives.
Looking back, I can’t really remember a time where I gave 100% of my energy and effort to anything. I recently told a friend that the only time I’d ever given all of myself to something was when I was in labor with Thing 1 (Thing 2’s birth was much easier), and to be fair, I didn’t really have any choice since the baby had to get out of there somehow. I probably give about 40% in my daily life, 60% when I feel somewhat accomplished.
It’s a gray, dusty feeling.
I think about people who excel in their fields, who give everything they have to what they do until there’s nothing left, and then they get up the next day and do it again. I marvel at their passion to strive for greatness, their determination to improve, and their endurance that sees them through. Perhaps they exhaust themselves and are never satisfied with the results, but it’s definitely not from lack of trying.
Could I ever do the same, or has the remainder of my effort, unused for so long, atrophied to the point where 40% is all I have left to give? I see where my “good enough” attitude has brought me thus far in life, and while I have nothing to complain about, I also have nothing that burns within me besides fleeting infatuations with hobbies, ideas, or people whom I don’t really ever have to know.
Yes, I am held back by fear of failure. I am held back by laziness. I am held back by my love of comfort and hatred of conflict. But perhaps my dissatisfaction with my own mediocrity has finally grown greater than my fear and laziness and comfort. I know I should make a move, do something completely, even if I fall on my face doing it. The idea is terrifying but not entirely unwelcome. What happens after that could be bright and amazing, or it could be dark and terrible. Either way, it will be better than dusty gray.