You can’t always be what you want–but that’s okay

To paraphrase a Stones’ favorite, you can’t always be what you want.  I’m sorry but the imagesidea that one can be anything one wants if one just tries hard enough is just no true or realistic.  Perhaps we need to rethink this.

I love figure skating.  I watched the nationals all last weekend.  One of the skaters said, “Everyone should figure skate,” and that reminded me why I don’t.  Why, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never, ever be a figure skaters.

imagesA friend and I took lessons when we were young, back when Kansas City still had an ice rink.  My friend did very well, being promoted week after week to higher level classes, learning to twirl and do elementary jumps.  Meanwhile, I didn’t.  I continued to slog around the ice and I couldn’t figure out why I was stuck in the beginners class.  I followed directions.  I did everything the instructor said.  I worked hard in the hope of being able to fly over the ice in a graceful position but never looked like the picture on the left.

Many years later, I discovered my problem, why I was doomed to remain forever in the beginners class:  I have terrible joints.  My ankles were so weak I couldn’t straighten them.  They bent inward which made me more of an on-your-ankles skater instead than a figure skater.  Actually, I skated both on my ankles and on the edges of the blades, lumbering along, trying so hard to do better and never succeeding.  No, never.

And this is why I know that, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater. Not even with the best coach in the world, I won’t.

There are people who tell children, “You can be whatever you want to be if you try hard enough.”  Well, no, they can’t and it’s mean to tell anyone such a completely ridiculous and untrue statement.  No mater how hard I try, I’ll never be a figure skater unless the federation puts in a new category to fit my style of skating.  And I’ll never represent my country in any sport in an international athletic  competition.  Those of you who know me recognize the truth in those words.

Some other realities: 1) No matter how hard she tried, a woman hasn’t been able to imagesbecome president. Shirley Chisholm can attest to that.

2) Until 2008, no matter how hard a black man tried, he couldn’t be elected president either.

3)  No matter how hard I try, I will never be abble to tell the difference between the word “shutter” and “shudder” without checking the dictionary.  Nor can I tell the difference b and a  d  when I’m spelling even though all my teachers told me if I tried hard, I could do that.  I am dyslexic.  Some things are mentally impossible for me.

My point is that people do not succeed in every effort and need to know that’s not the endimagesof the world. Kids, especially, need to understand this.  I awakened to this new truth many years ago after reading a magazine article.  The thesis of the article was that a spider could not make a lemon meringue pie no matter how hard that spider tried.

I am not espousing the opposite point of view that no matter how much you try, you’re going to fail. That’s really depressing.

Could we come to a middle point?  Perhaps “If you want something, work hard because you’re not going to get it if you don’t try but you many not succeed and that’s okay.”  Long and unwieldy, I know.  Maybe you could help me phrase this in a jazzier, more interesting way.

imagesAnd maybe we can stop filling children’s heads with the thought a thin boy’s going to be a heavy-weight boxer if he tries hard enough or a girl will play center for the Louisville Cardinal’s men’s basketball team.  There are other goals, good goals.  Any thoughts on this?  I’d love to hear them.

5 thoughts on “You can’t always be what you want–but that’s okay

  1. Baseball, could hit but not catch, really have to do both. I was a great managing editor but not a good proofing editor, thank heavens one of my associate editors was a great editor, catching every mistake. I’ve done many things, because I’m not afraid to fail, and can learn quickly but most importantly I’m willing to share credit with subordinates, colleagues, volunteers and other historians. So, bottom line, if you have interest, passion, go for it, you may find a fit, perhaps not the one you first thought of, but in the same general area you may succeed beyond your original dream.

  2. I think that what you’re saying is the truth behind the phrase, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Which, to my mind, is an exceptionally encouraging way to look at it.

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