Today I felt so frozen with indecision and anxiety that I just shut down. I crawled into my bed, the possibilities for my future whirling around my head, and realized that I just can’t do everything I want to do. I just can’t.
I want to do so many things, after all! I want to direct movies, go on tour as a musician, start a non-profit, run for office, plan amazing queer dance parties, write a series of novels, go traveling, be a baker of tiny cupcakes, be a scientist on a boat floating through Antarctica. In all my dreams, I am super good at what I do. In fact, I exceptionally wonderful. I’m some sort of Natalie Portman-style wunderkind, writing beautiful poetry and feeding adorable vegan cupcakes to my crew of Arctic explorers as we circumnavigate the globe.
I’ve been a chronic dabbler my whole life, trying out every hobby and taking the most unrelated smattering of classes I can, searching for the perfect subjects for myself. And everything gives their own pleasures – the bubbly jubilance of dancing, the hard-won satisfaction of writing, the cool thrill of puzzling out a math problem. It’s great to try things out, and I’ve had a lot of fun.
It famously takes about 10,000 hours to get really good at something. And like all Plucky Young Things, I want to be really good at something! Life is hazy and directionless and difficult sometimes. If I’m going to slog through all that, I at least want my struggles to build towards something. I don’t wake up in the morning and think “gosh! how can I make myself even more milquetoast today?” Life is hard enough without the guilt of your wasted potential hanging around your head like a murky, smelly fog.
Some people are naturally really excellent at everything. You know the type, those intuitive geniuses? They treats new concepts like a Rubic’s cube: they turn it between their hands while staring intently and murmuring “hmm…. I see…” for about two minutes and then toss it on the table, solved.
That’s not me. Nope. I’m the two-steps-behind student. I’m the one who gets hit in the first 25 seconds of the dodgeball game. I’m not naturally good at anything. If I’m going to make myself good at something, I’m going to have to basically slam my head against the books for multiple hours a day, for weeks on weeks on weeks. Then I might manage to get a vague feel for it. And I still have to exert massive amounts of effort in order to get any sort of finesse. This means that I have to be careful how I spend my time. I know I can go after something wonderful – the goal of learning to write powerfully and beautifully, for example – with everything I’ve got. But I don’t have time to pursue all my other dreams with equal gusto.
I propose a sort of Triage system for dreams. I will allocate time carefully. I like writing. It seems to be my primary interest right now. So I will spend a good amount of time on that. The nice bit about writing is that it allows me a lot of flights of fancy. If I can’t pilot a boat to Antarctica, I can write about it. The other things I like to do will receive attention, but necessarily less attention, since I do not plan to pursue them as a lifestyle. This time that I’m spending on writing is time spent well, because with each clunky sentence and stillborn idea, I get a little closer to getting better at something that I care ab0ut. I want to one day write something beautiful. Until then, I will try again and again. That’s all I can do.