Food for Talk: Card 7, What have you not conquered?

22 Nov

“I’ve conquered an empire but I’ve not been able to conquer myself.” –Peter the Great 

What have you not been able to conquer?

Moving from good, to great. Breaking out of my safe box. It’s not easy to do when you’ve been coasting as long as I have! My life has been really blessed. I was born to wonderful parents in an upper-middle class home. My mom was a housewife (and from a very early age, I was taught by her to say “homemaker”–she hated the term housewife. I still catch myself saying “homemaker” even though no one cares anymore), my dad was a Navy captain. I had an older brother and sister who adored me (and still do). I even had a dog! I was not given everything I wanted (the horror!) but I was given everything I needed. I got piano lessons (until my musical prowess peaked at age 12), I read all the time, I kept myself company, I had good friends, I ate interesting food, I was naturally good in school, I was kept safe. I’ve mentioned before that my life has gone completely according to plan…until now (no plan in sight!) No major catastrophes–I went from high school to the college of my choice (University of Florida), I went straight from there to grad school for my master’s degree (Florida State), I’ve happily dated a series of interesting yet ultimately unsatisfying men, and now here I am. Rarely have I gone after anything and not gotten it (and my failures still aggravate me. Losing senior year Band Drum Major to Melissa what’s-her-name? Sonofabitch.) But have I had to ever really push myself for something I wanted? No.

I remember clearly being good in French in high school. I do accents pretty well, and I pick up things quickly. I excelled at my first semester of French I in college–loved my teacher, and he loved me. But then I got to French II, with a teacher I didn’t understand, and I hated it. And her. And she didn’t really like me either (unusual for me–teachers always loved me. Not because I was a kiss-ass, I was just really good at school and I loved to learn. Who doesn’t love a student like that?!) And to be honest–I don’t do well with people who don’t like me (or at least appreciate my company). It offends me. I’m a people-pleaser, and damn it, you will be pleased to be around me. So my mother said, reasonably–just work really hard to prove to yourself you can do it. Learn it better than she can teach you. But did I? Nah–I did just enough to get by with a B, and I didn’t learn anything at all that I can remember.

This is a theme with me–if it’s really hard, I don’t bother. My mom always loves to say how her father hated to do something poorly, so he practiced until he was good at it–bowling, bridge, gardening, swimming, etc. He was that kind of guy, a strong, taciturn, honest, hardworking fellow. I feel like I have failed in that way. I glide along in a state of comfort, never really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I think this is part of the reason I “experiment” with my dating partners–I take risks with my emotions (which I’m willing just to hand over to some poor unsuspecting fool) that I never would in the rest of my life. And it never really pays off–hmm. There’s a lesson there, I’m sure of it. Maybe if I instinctively knew they were more reliable and willing to be in a relationship with me, I wouldn’t throw myself in with such abandon.

I would love to be bolder, riskier. One of my regrets from college is that I was pretty tame. Not completely boring, but not willing to just put it all out there. And isn’t that what college is about? I feel like I’ve made up for some of that excitement after moving to Charlotte, but I’ve still got that mindset. If I don’t know what the outcome will be, I won’t do it. I don’t want to put myself in a position that makes me awkward, or uncomfortable. But that’s plainly ridiculous. I don’t think it’s necessarily that I have a problem with change, it’s that I need to have some idea of what that change will look like. But how realistic is that?

I have an opportunity to take a position in another part of the library (hopefully at some point–the budget crisis is currently having an impact) that is completely different than what I’m doing. My boss thinks I’d be a good fit, which is a wonderful reassurance. At first I rejected the idea because I didn’t think I’d like it, but then I thought–it’d be nice to have a change. I’m no longer challenged by my job as a reference/instruction librarian, and I can do it with one arm tied behind my back. But a small part of me is afraid–like, what if I’m too lazy to learn all the things I need to learn to do a good job? What if I don’t like it, and then lose my motivation to be good at my job? What if I’m unable to be quit being professionally lazy? I want to think that won’t happen, but I also don’t want to set myself up for failure and disappointment. Of course, it’s my responsibility either way, but we all know it’s easier to do a good job when you’re invested in the job you’re doing. So it’s my responsibility to invest. To work. To put in the time. To push myself. To not be satisfied with just “good enough”. It’s easy to get in that rut–I saw it in the tv I was watching, the crappy clothes I was wearing, the time I was wasting. But ultimately, just doing just enough is pretty unsatisfying. But lately I’ve been trying new things, being more active, and it’s leaving me feeling more satisfied. Maybe I’m doing something right.

What about you? Anything you’re trying to conquer? (Conquer is such a stiff, old-fashioned word. I love it!)

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