|Love this t-shirt|
The reason I'm writing at this exact moment is I was perusing the Art of Manliness blog and read this article. Up until the last week I have really been struggling with my place here in India, my desire to go home and camp whenever I want to, and just the promising career path that is spiraling ahead of me. One I'm not sure I want to continue on. I saw this cartoon last week and it resonated more loudly than it should have, which means I'm not really where I should be. There are a lot of things that have contributed to my current state of the doldrums. I have whined about them enough on other articles. Today I want to whine about my perceived inability to finish things I start. I come from a family that has, in many ways, turned starting things into a fine art. I feel like I have even further magnified this trait. I'm a dreamer, I get exited about something new on a weekly or daily basis. I will obsess about planning something up until 5 minutes into the practical application step and then fizzle out. The marathon, my camping supply company, my motorcycle/cafe shoppe, making bedrolls for the upcoming camping trip, my writing, my music: these are simply the current projects in this nebulous state. The historical list is stunningly long. When talking about writing with a friend a few weeks ago she asked if I was afraid of success. I have no idea what that means.
I have always been afraid of good old fashion failure and it has been my MO in the past to attempt to flee when the opportunity for failure presents itself. The stronger my hope of success the more quickly and distant I run from the possibility of calamity. Somehow I scored a super hot wife and wonderful children during the past 10 years, of which I am supremely grateful, but my fear of failure and my flee survival instinct are still very strong when it comes to personal achievements. Let me spell out a more humiliating example. I always enjoyed the idea of math. I was bored by math because it came easily for me, but I really wanted to learn the crazy complex stuff. Then came 7th grade. I had a C in math because I never did my homework. I still tested well but I felt then, and still do to some degree, that homework is for the people that don't understand the concept yet. So along came our algebra readiness test. I scored either 2nd highest in my Team (which was a subdivision of teachers for a block of students) or 2nd highest in the school, I don't recall which. My math teacher, however, would not allow me to move onto algebra because I had a C. Of course I was afraid of almost everything so I didn't say anything to her but my imaginary conversation went something along the lines of, "Of course I have a C. Your course is boring, the homework ridiculous, and I don't need to do it." Being that it was 7th grade there was more colorful language and several profound observations about her ability to teach as well as completely assumed facts about her age and personal life, but that is not necessary for the narrative. Here I was a science and math junky, planning on going to medical school, and I wrote off mathematics and just assumed I was a history/literature guy.
For the rest of my academic career I was a year behind in math in relation to almost all of my friends. I never worked on math homework outside of class time again, and skated by with C's until I was no longer required to take math. This prevented me from taking advanced biology, AP physics, Calculus, and all sorts of other classes I would have really enjoyed, because I wasn't a math guy. Maybe this doesn't resonate with anyone out there but I threw away hours of learning something I would have really enjoyed because one woman made a decision that I was unwilling to contest. I felt like something was stolen from me and I never fought to get it back. I don't know what has haunted me the most over the years: the fact that I was academically and personally lazy all those years and I could have achieved so much more (and could continue to achieve much more) if I only changed that; or the fact that it was another addition to the long list of things I wish I had fought for but didn't. A lot of the things I gave up on probably were for the best. Had I bounced back with enthusiasm from my knee injury in high school I may have been an even more arrogant bastard than I was already. Had I actually learned math and aced my SATs I probably would have lived a completely different life than I do now. Had I not been so afraid of girls and actually dated in High School I may have never ended up with my beautiful wife of almost 10 years, which would not have in any way been worth the ego boost at the time. But all of these defeats I have allowed to define who I am.
In the AOM article referenced above it talks about people with external and internal locus of control. I think in a lot of departments of my life I have that internal locus. I have been driven and successful in the workplace and I have done and seen good things happen in my life. One of my major weaknesses, however, is that when something becomes important to me I don't complete it. Not because I lack the ability or personal gumption to see it through (which is usually my excuse de'jour). Often I do not complete what I put my hands to because I become so emotionally tied to its success that it is easier to walk away and imagine the what ifs than to stay the course and risk the possibility of failure.
I had put the marathon to the back of my mind up until last week and I began to hear about my various friends who had participated in and completed the race. My usual response is self-abasing sarcasm which unfortunately has been disarmed from me in my current cultural context. So what does a man do when he is faced with his failure to stick with it, cowboy up, and do something big and yet can't make fun of himself and make a public spectacle of his failure? I don't know. All week I haven't known.
In about a month a group of us are going to ride our motorcycles and go on a 1 night camping trip. Some of us have camped a lot, some not at all, and the weight of everyone's enjoyment and happiness had weighed heavily on my shoulders. A lot of us need this trip. Several of us use the outdoors to re-center ourselves and we have been stripped of that by our particular geographical position. Many of us are here professionally and have very little quality social interaction with other men. And like I said before, I need a win. Tents are ridiculously expensive here and as a few of the guys strike me as at least aspiring to be rough-and-tumble, I'm going to try and design and manufacture (or have manufactured) sleeping rolls for the trip. I need something masculine liked sleeping under the stars in waxed canvas next to a smoldering fire after days of sitting in a cubicle unable to even do the work that I am required to do. I have spent some significant time obsession over the fine details of the project and now that I am on the verge to proceed with the creation of them, to manifest the dream; every fiber of my being is screaming to just give up and get some blue tarps for the guys.
I have had too many urges to quit the last few months. I have really struggled to get back in the grove here in Asia after my US trip. I haven't wanted to write, and what I have written has reinforced my perceptions. After the Stephen Pottersworth Part II post's dismal reception I almost just shut the blog down, or at least wrote it off as something I'd get back to later. For better or for worse failure is not currently an option. I just can't take it emotionally or psychologically. I'm tired of just calling myself a dreamer because I'm too afraid to risk people hating what I make. I am writing this blog because I am going to at least attempt to continue even though I don't want to. And maybe next week I'll even go for a run.