July 5, 2012

I am just below “good” in everything that I do. Writing,sketching, photography, music, quizzing, learning….and I am repeatedly told, “You can do so much better at x, y, z…why don’t you realize your potential?”

This is not, but seems to me as if it is, a value judgement. I think there are two kinds of people, the Achievers and the Non-A’s. The Achievers always want to excel at what they do, and this often means that they concentrate on one field, or a few fields, of endeavour.

I realize that to them, the Non-Achiever is a strange, mysterious creature. This being can be very good at something. Why then, does s/he not become so, and strain every sinew to do so? Why be fair when one can be good, why be good when one can be excellent?

As someone who has taken up several interests somewhat later than usual (only in the Indian context, I must add…I find that in the country I am visiting now, there seems to be no “age” qualification for anything.) I must say that I do not feel I have too much time before what is left of my learning abilities begins to wane and wither. Therefore, I like to learn things to the point where I am just stretching myself, and leave myself between a degree of comfort and a degree of discomfort that enables (sometimes) further learning.

Another reason I have for not “achieving” is the fact that I will never, ever, be the top-of-the-tree in anything I do, because by nature, I lack the competitive, “killing” edge that is needed for this. Perhaps, in this, I am guilty of hedonism, because I believe that when the joy goes out of whatever I do, I will slowly, but surely, stop doing it. And my joy in things remains intact as long as I am not feverishly working on improving things.

The third reason for my being an NA is that this way, I get to indulge (yes, right word) in a lot of different pursuits. If I want to go to Origami classes, I do. Esperanto? Japanese? I like learning languages. A lecture on the history of the Delmar Loop through its architecture? Having walked through the neighbourhoods, I am very interested.

The internet meshed well with my love of reaching out to people, and made me learn how to communicate online. I was very lucky to have had friends who literally held my hand through my slow learning procedure (further retarded by a bad, erratic memory.) I still take a lot of help from all the techies I know.

I started digital photography only because I could hit the delete button, and there would be no wads of unsightly photographs in my cupboards. I enjoy documenting and sharing what I see, and feel no compulsion to get the perfect photograph. A long time ago, I took the sensible advice that Noella d’Sa gave me…not to get into post-processing. This allows me to post my photos as soon as possible, and when the freshness of the experience is still with me. Post-processing, to me, is the equivalent of the pain of waiting for the entire roll of film to finish, and then getting it back (or someone else’s roll!) from the colour laboratory (perhaps all over-exposed, too.)

The last reason why I remain at “amateur” status always is…I am not able to figure out my “potential”. How far must I go on a path to realize my potential? I have had a happy life, and don’t feel unfulfilled. Since I am not ambitious, I am like the fisherman who, after having sold his morning catch to the people around, lazes on the sands, and doesn’t think of expanding and diversifying into a schooner and then a fishing empire….

I realize, however, that my way of life is incomprehensible to some people, and when, inevitably, I hear the “You are good, but why don’t you realize your potential?” question, I look at the speaker, tell myself, “Here’s an A!” and smile to myself. I am happy in my bumbling mediocrity, you see…no, dear Achiever….you actually don’t see!