100%?

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.

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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.

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Beyond The Scene

I’ve rewritten this blog entry about six times. Each time I have tried to approach it in an intelligent, culturally enlightening, perhaps even moving way, but these attempts have felt false and deviate from what I want to express.

I am currently experiencing a strange sort of happiness that has nothing to do with the state of the world, my job situation, my marriage, my family, my friends, or anything particularly significant in my life. I’m not on medication, I haven’t had any self-realizations, nor have I won the lottery or had any spiritual visitations.

My friends, I have recently become head-over-heels obsessed with the K-pop group BTS.

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I’ve finally fully embraced my Korean roots, though probably not the way my parents would have chosen. 20-year-old, even 30-year-old me would never have believed it, but at 40, I’m fangirling over BTS like I’ve never fangirled before. It is juvenile, it is ridiculous, and it is extremely refreshing. Judge me if you want- I really don’t care. It’s that intense.

I’ll spare you the pages and pages of gushing I could produce about how much I love BTS. I will say that listening to their music has had all sorts of beneficial side effects in my life. I’m fairly sure it’s triggering dopamine release in my brain because I’m in a good mood, I have stopped boredom-snacking, I have a ton of energy, I’m exercising more regularly, and most unexpectedly, it’s even pushed me to write. The majority of my writing has been motivated by dissatisfaction, a deep-seated need to complain, incredible alarm and then depression about the world at large, and more often than not, anger. I don’t necessarily show this in my writing all the time (and yeah, it’s been a while, so I haven’t shown it at all recently), but the fuel that feeds my words is generally of a darker variety. The fact that I’m even writing anything right now is weird to me.

I should mention that I’m driving my husband up the wall a little bit. BTS plays all day, everyday, in the car, in the kitchen, while I’m working, while I’m exercising- everywhere. He’s kept his complaints to a minimum, though, because BTS also gives me the energy to deep-clean all the grossest parts of the house. We both win.

Am I saying you should listen to BTS, too? Well, sure, but that’s not exactly my point. What works for me might not work for you. Besides, the novelty of this will wear off eventually, I’m certain, and the woes of the world will find their way back on my radar. However, this emotional oasis that I’m currently experiencing is most welcome, and I guess it’s a reminder to me that I still have the ability to be happy. However fleeting, and however it manifests, happiness can find its way anywhere. Even through K-pop.

 

 

Sam and Ella, or Lessons Unlearned

[Warning: There is no inner-realization, finding of one’s self, or character building in this blog entry. It is just a recounting of some uneventful happenings. No wisdom is passed on. No truths are discovered. You should probably stop reading now.]

I don’t think life lessons usually get learned unless someone has experienced loss or suffering. Obviously, we learn the biggest lessons when we miss great opportunities, when someone close to us dies, or when we make huge mistakes. If we survive, we tend to emerge somewhat damaged but significantly wiser. Our hindsight and regret help shape our future decisions and allow us to grow as individuals.

But what about the little lessons? There are loads of bite-sized morals that we learn every day, and yet we repeat the same mistakes over and over again. For example:

  • Eating too much Halloween candy will make me sick
  • Not rinsing the blender right after use will make it impossible to clean
  • Drinking water right before bed means waking up in the middle of the night to pee
  • Facebook arguments lead nowhere and only make me miserable
  • Etc., ad nauseum, and on and on, et al,  ibid., x1000000000000000.

This weekend I went grocery shopping and somehow managed to forget one bag in the trunk of my car overnight. I didn’t worry too much, though, since the bag contained cereal, gluten-free bread, and canned tuna.

Oh, and one family-sized package of deli roast turkey.

The weather’s been rather cool recently, holding steady in the single digits (Celsius) during the day, and dipping below freezing at night. That’s almost like a refrigerator. Normally, I wouldn’t have given it another thought, except that the next morning the temperature had risen to 11, and by the time I discovered the missing bag, it had gotten up to a balmy 15. Any sane person would have thrown that package of turkey out right away, so of course I opened it up, peeled off a slice, ate it, and waited.


Nothing happened. 24 hours later, I was still fine. I have since eaten a sandwich containing the same turkey slices, and so far, so good. (We’ll see if I have to edit this later.)

I do NOT recommend that you try this the next time you leave perishables out by mistake. I know better than to do what I did. I’d completely freak out if I saw either of my kids try it. I fully deserve to have food poisoning right now, and yet I’ve been spared the agonies of a good bout of gastro thanks to dumb luck and possibly some unpronounceable preservative ingredients.

Everything I know about hygiene, bacteria, health risks, not to mention my own disgust with cooties and germs, ought to have been enough to make me throw it away, and yet my unwillingness to get rid of a brand-new, family-sized (that’s at least twice the normal size, y’all) unopened food product led to me making a risky decision that fortunately turned out okay. Will I be so lucky next time?

Wait, “next time”? I’m doing this again, am I? I think we all know that the answer to that is probably. If this ever happens in the future, I’ll most likely do the same thing until the day I actually get salmonella and find myself on the “Both Ends” diet. Then perhaps I’ll have learned my lesson and rethink my frugal ways. Until then, who knows what other crazy food risks I’ll take? I’ve got some questionable Brie and Coutances in my fridge. If cheese is already a mold, is moldy cheese really that bad?

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. (Sort of.)