I have never been exceptional at anything. I look back over my childhood at attempts at sports, band, UIL contest participation, etc. When I view these ventures, I realize how mediocre that I actually was, and I suppose, to some extent, remain to be. It’s not as though I view it, necessarily, with some malcontent. Rather I see it as an observation of the inevitable verity.
I remember my attempts at little league baseball. In Pampa, Texas, the whole program is sponsored by the Optimist club. (I know given the topic, for me pessimist would likely be a better moniker.) I was the catcher in Tee-ball! I was given the responsibility of watching from behind the tee to make sure that somehow a hit off of a tee didn't go foul. Also, when you’re dealing with five and six-year olds, there aren't a whole lot of attempts at beating the ball home from third. "Catcher" in tee-ball is the position they give the kid that they have to play because the rules require it. I was that kid. I was the one who was only on the field because the rules of the club required that I play at least some portion of the game.
I moved into the higher leagues, and the trend remained true. I remember I was chosen as bat-boy at the all-star game because I had “good hustle” and "made every practice.” In case you’re wondering, this was a nice way of saying I stunk at the game, but I did deserve some recognition for either ignoring this fact or being to dumb to know it. During the regular season, I played right field, of course. Right field in little-league, like catcher in Tee-ball, is where they stick the kid whose forced onto the field by the “rules”. My attempts at basketball, tennis, swimming, and even FFA (yes you read it right, FFA, I couldn’t even show hogs effectively), were not unlike my initial experience playing baseball with the Optimists.
I was speaking with my Brother-in-law recently concerning our childhood, and even some of our current interests. In doing so, we reminisced over our time in the Pampa High School Band. Josh, who is quite talented both in the musical and theatrical arts, even studying the latter at Texas Tech, served as the drum major his junior and senior year. I on the other hand, was the only trombone player to graduate in 1998. When the next school year started, Mr. Collins, the director, in his first speech to the Trombones of that year said “Well at least we didn’t loose anything.” I will gladly admit that I was not the best of trombone players, and I don’t doubt that there really was nothing missing after I left. The reality of this truth is only underscored by the director’s observation.
I even now look at my own attempts at playing the guitar. I can string a few chords together, and finger pick a little. Yet, I’m nowhere near the player that most people would be after playing for four years. I’ll not be playing in any Willie Nelson tribute bands anytime soon. And, I don’t play by ear at all.
I don’t recount these things with an attempt to encourage sadness, or beg for condolence. I don’t want either. It’s just that there comes a time when one needs to embrace reality. I’ve never been outstanding at anything. In general I’ve been average, sometimes a little above, sometimes a little below, but average just the same.
As I noted, it’s not so much a complaint but rather an embracing of the clear corporality and tangibility of such truth.
To help in illustrating my point, consider the following poem entitled “Something and Nothing” written by Sophie Hannah:
Something and Nothing
If you had known how little
you would have had to give
to drum into this brittle
hope the desire to live
would you have changed the venue,
your greeting or your tone
or planned things better when you
knew we’d have hours alone
and if you heard a hollow
voice spit these ill-advised
questions, would nothing follow?
I wouldn’t be surprised.
(First published in Poetry Review, Winter 2004/2005)
Hannah, seems to capture quite well my sentiment. Even given the chance at better preparation, and if given the knowledge of needed questions, I probably wouldn’t have changed any of it. I doubt I would possess the ability to make those changes.
So what’s the reason? is it all mentality? Are some people mediocre because we repress or depress the inklings of greatness? Or, is it that most people must be average in order to provide a bell curve for life?
I openly accept the fact that I don’t inspire great confidence in people. I know that my life will not be recorded in history textbooks as one who changed the course of the world. I resign myself to the knowledge that someday I will die, and what will be left of me on this earth is the memories of those who knew me. Then, within 100 years , I will simply be a name on a family tree and a fading inscription on an old gravestone somewhere. I suppose that should bother me, but for some reason, it doesn't.