The challenge

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I want to write about a subject of some difficulty to process and confess.

I’ve been thinking about how I ascribe value to the things that I do. If something is hard, I assign it greater value. If something comes easy, I assign it less. Therefore, when a task or job or skill comes naturally for me, I tend to shrug off its worth. Oh, that was easy, that was nothing.

I respond to success by accepting or seeking out tasks of greater difficulty. I readily take on challenges. I choose to do the things that will be hard precisely because they will be hard. I take on this work in order to improve underused or underdeveloped skills, and to force myself out of my comfort zone. I choose it on the premise that it’s healthy for the ego and the soul to attempt and practice activities, tasks, or jobs that expose inner flaws, that force one to confront fears, that are therefore in many ways gut-wrenchingly difficult. Any accomplishment that comes out of such a frightening and challenging place is, frankly, astonishing and wonderful.

But I’m beginning to question the wisdom, at this time in my life, of this approach.

I’m beginning to wonder whether by tackling tasks of great challenge and difficulty, tasks that do not necessarily align with my natural talents, I’m unconsciously selling myself short. Rather than resting and calling myself to go more deeply into that which comes (superficially) easily, am I displaying a kind of boredom and restlessness, a mind that demands constant stimulation, even in negative form?

I seem to be good at writing fiction. Storytelling comes easy to me, more easy than anything else I’ve ever tried, always has, as far back as I can remember. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s what I need to focus on, strictly, as a life-long cause, as a hard-earned practice.

Just because something comes easy doesn’t mean it’s not hard, that’s what I’m beginning to perceive, to glimpse, ever so dimly. In fact, it may be the more difficult path because it comes easy, because I fail to value it, because ease can lead to boredom, because by delving deeper into a natural-born talent I risk discovering my limits. And that’s bloody terrifying, way scarier than failing at something I already know I’m not particularly good at.

It seems that the challenge that’s before us is not always the most obvious.

xo, Carrie

Thought of the day: on light
In Toronto, anonymous hotel room

8 Comments

  1. Goodness Carrie, I could have written this (although not as well). I recently wrote an essay that began like this: ‘”Why,” a friend once asked me, “Do you like doing so many things that you are no good at?”’
    I wrote at length but I am still not sure I arrived at a satisfying conclusion.

    Reply
    • And … are you going to keep doing these things, Chris?

      Reply
    • I read Rebecca’s piece, too, Kerry. And it’s not exactly what I’m talking about here, as she was focusing on hobbies, and I’m reflecting more on work that I choose to take on. I fully intend to continue to pursue hobbies that challenge me and allow me to fail/succeed in a myriad of ways (i.e. swimming, running, yoga, canning, baking, ukulele-playing, soccer coaching, etc.). What I’m talking about is my professional life, where I push myself to try to expand my marketable skills by taking on pretty much any job that comes my way (and I think in part I do this out of fear that I will be broke if I don’t maintain a wide variety of marketable skills). Some of these jobs, while indirectly related to my work, I’m patently terrible at. I need to find some boundaries around this, and not assume that just because it’s difficult I should be doing it, as a kind of eternal self-improvement project.

      Reply
      • I just thought these were both posts that situated the question of why we do the things we do in ways that were quite insightful to me. So thanks for that.

        Reply
        • Hi Kerry, I apologize for the defensive tone of my original comment. This has been a long fall and I’ll confess that I’ve observed in myself a discomfort or fear of being misinterpreted that seems to be waxing rather than waning, and that manifests in defensive positioning, as if I were under attack. I suspect it’s the result of being on or out there, presenting my work in public, and aware that its reception will not always be kind or positive, which, while I can and do accept this facet of the job — and the fact of its privilege, too — seems to have worn on my psyche in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Again, I apologize. You are absolutely right, there are many different perspectives and ways of approaching this rather enormous question! (And I continue to ponder why I do what I do, on all levels, in all aspects of my life.)

          Reply

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