I was never particularly athletic growing up. Once I reached high school and there were less physically demanding alternatives to P.E., I abandoned sports altogether. I would not do anything requiring any significant level of physical activity for decades until I took up running. I did play a little basketball and baseball in middle school. The problem is I was just not any good at it.
The bottom line is I did not have the discipline to get good at it. But I often wonder if I had no passion because I was inherently unskilled or because the competitive nature of sports did not capture me the way it did others. I always saw it as a chore and quite literally dreaded any time I was on a field or court.
But there were things I did enjoy.
As a kid, I could spend hours playing with my hand puppets, drawing, air guitar, or taking my G.I Joe’s — the original 12-inch models — and my other action figures on adventures. Those things captured my attention and imagination like nothing else. I always gravitated toward creative expression as a child.
Then a shift happened.
My guess is it was in high school. No more time for “nonsense” and “hobbies.” It’s time to get serious about life and figure out a “real vocation” at which to make a living. Somehow, I got convinced to go to college and study accounting, then go to law school.
Anyone that knows me will immediately collapse to the floor in hysterical laughter at the thought of me studying accounting. It makes as much sense as putting a hippo on a stage to dance ballet.
True, I eventually switched majors to Communications, but I never lost that nagging sense of needing to focus on a “real job” to earn my keep. What if the reason I never really succeeded at practical matters of life — work, finances, domestic pursuits — is because I was funding them by doing things that did not captivate me? I was never good at sports because I had no discipline to practice. I had no discipline to practice because I didn’t care about it. What if that same dynamic has been at play for a good portion of my adult life?
I have a lifelong pattern of doing things to make others happy or because of my perception of how “adulting” needs to appear. Over and over, I can look back on my life and count the ways I went down paths because I allowed myself to believe it was what I was supposed to do. After all, these are the things responsible adults do to succeed. The irony is that in doing those things, I never really succeeded and have been fairly mediocre at most everything I’ve done.
What do I do now at this stage of my life?
I have only two options.
One, I give in as I always have and spend the last half of my life as I spent the first: doing what I’m “supposed to do” and continue to swim in and accept mediocrity.
Or two, I embrace the notion that it is never too late to begin again. I devote the second half of my life to building what I have always dreamed of building: a life of creative expression and wonder; as a colleague recently put it, a life marked by a child-like approach.
I will take the latter because, frankly, the former has kind of sucked. While not an abject failure, it was pretty plain vanilla. I don’t want plain vanilla. I want Lick‘s Goat Cheese, Thyme, and Honey ice cream or Max & Mina‘s Pink Lemonade Pop Rocks or Bi-Rite‘s Balsamic Strawberry.
I have spent far too long staring at my bellybutton over this. The time for moving forward has come, and if the last five years have taught me nothing else, it’s that I do have what it takes to do this.
Scary? Hell yes it is. But not anywhere close to being as scary as spending the last half of my life as I did the first half.
3 thoughts on “In Remembrance of Plain Vanilla”
Rey, I’ve been thinking about this very thing lately. I’m absolutely frightened about doing what wanted to do my whole life. And at my age, it’s difficult to begin all over again. At least, that’s the lie that I keep telling myself.
Two books I would highly recommend, both by Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way and It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again.
Stepping out onto a different path is terrifying and liberating. Have courage and don’t forget to be kind while you walk into a new future!