I’ve been wondering why I don’t write more about work. It’s odd, considering how much time I spend either at the office or meeting with students or driving to and from work-related events in the ever-increasing Austin traffic. It’s not like I don’t have anything to say (because Lord knows I definitely have things to say), but I think there’s a reason why I don’t like to write about work.
It’s because I don’t think I’m very good at my job.
This was hard for me to admit at first, especially considering how much I wanted this job. In college I would dream about going off to change the world and impacting lives. But when the dream was actually in front of me, the world started to look a lot bigger and I started to feel a lot smaller and impacting lives became a little fuzzy in the light of my own inadequacies. I started to realize I wasn’t really the person I thought I was.
Which is fine, really. My identity is not in my work (I remind myself on a minute-by-minute basis), but coming to terms with my shortcomings was a weird feeling, not unlike disillusionment. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, I really do. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve met people who’ve impacted my life. It’s just that I’m, well, a little mediocre.
And mediocrity’s not such a bad thing, I’ve discovered. It’s not always the same thing as inadequacy, and it’s not the same as sitting around feeling sorry for myself, not believing I’m capable of greatness.
Because what is greatness anyway.I used to wonder if thinking I was mediocre was limiting me from reaching my full potential, but actually it helped me realize it’s not really about me. Which has been freeing, actually.
I have a student who loves to write. Two, actually. Sisters.
Loving to write doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at it, nor does it mean that you do it often (I know this better than anyone I think). It’s more like, who you are, I guess. How you identify yourself.
It helps you deal with pain too, I think. One sister told me she can’t drive past the hospital where her grandmother died without falling into tears. She said it’s like a reflex almost, and she can’t help herself. What is that like, I wonder.
She told me her sister tries to numbs herself from the pain. TV, she said, and games on her phone. So when I met with her sister, I thought I might say something to help. I started to ramble, too loudly and too quickly. Writing is a type of art therapy, it can help you process your pain. Writing can help you have an outlet…my voice trailed off. I handed her a pen and a piece of paper. Write a letter to yourself from the summer, I said. Write down your thoughts.
I didn’t know if it would actually help, but I wanted her to do it. I wanted her to write. She picked up the pen, and I stared out the window where the window pane was starting to frost and the ice was beginning to stick. She wrote furiously for 10 minutes, and I worked on other things on my computer. When she was done I told her she could keep the letter. She got her stuff and walked away.
I don’t even know if it helped. It would have helped me, I know that much. It has helped me, in the past.
I might regret writing this, a couple months or a couple minutes from now. But for now, I think mediocrity’s okay. In all honesty it’s not an easy job, and I guess it’s okay that I don’t really have it figured out.