I’ve always preferred to be alone when I write, so I will carry my laptop down by our creek or out on the porch. Sometimes in bed. But I was feeling uncharacteristically non-hermit-like, so I plopped down with my computer in the corner chair in Don’s home office.
It’s a bright, cheery place. Orange walls. Hardwood floor. An old slab of cement — repurposed from a high school chemistry lab — serves as his desk. The shelves are filled with robots, rayguns and rockets — and gobs of old movies. Mostly B-science fiction.
He was busy putting the finishing touches on some logos he was creating, so we would both work for a while and then talk, work and then talk.
Somehow the subject rolled around to a houseguest we had a few weeks earlier — a now-23-year-old man I’ve known since he was an infant. Once upon a time, we were across-the-street neighbors. He and Celeste were inseparable as children, and they looked and behaved so much alike people often assumed they were siblings.
She’s had many interesting friends over the years, but Jordan was, far and away, the most colorful.
Just as they were nearing middle school, he moved out of state. Although there have been lulls in their communication, Celeste and Jordan always pick right back up where they last left off.
Still, five years had passed since I’d seen him myself, so prior to his visit, I worried aloud to Don about how different Jordan might be.
“He’ll be just like he was, only more so,” Don said.
I didn’t give too much thought to that statement until Jordan was at our house and I was working on my computer as he and Celeste prepared to go out. Deeply involved in what I was doing, I sensed movement nearby and looked up. Jordan was standing beside me. He smiled and then burst into song, a full-volume rendition of 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?”
“And I say, hey, yay, yay, yay. I said hey. What’s going on?”
So many times, when Jordan was a child, he would do that very same thing. I’d glance up and find this little person with a giant voice standing beside me, preparing to sing.
Jordan is as he was. Only more so.
“Back when we were fresh out of college,” Don said, “a friend, David Fish, and I went to D.C. I remember David telling me about a conversation he had with a pastor there. The preacher had asked where he saw himself in 10 or 20 years. ‘Who will you be?’
“But as David was talking, the pastor began shaking his head, no. David said, ‘I think I know the answer to who I’ll be better than you.’
“The pastor said, ‘No. You’ll be exactly who you are now, only more so.’”
Don didn’t know exactly what it was David had been telling the pastor he was planning to be or why he disagreed, but the nut of it seemed to be that David was envisioning a direction that didn’t fit who he was.
Imagine a snowman making plans to lounge in the sun. No matter how much that snowman might believe there’s Coppertone in his future, it’s not a smart fit.
Much like that pastor, I believe we mostly are who we are from the start. That isn’t to say the seed is planted in stone, with only a single pre-determined direction to go, but that most of us have limitations that preclude certain outcomes, regardless of how much we might want them to be.
So often these days, we hear assertions of “Anything is possible if you just believe in yourself!” But for most of us, that simply isn’t the case. No amount of self-confidence is going to make me a Steelers quarterback or statistics professor or skydiving instructor. I’m not bent that direction. Never was.
Equally unlikely would be for me, a rather extreme introvert, to anticipate success in a field that requires schmoozing or public speaking or aggression of any sort. I could be trained to do those things, but they don’t fit who I am.
Just because some insist it’s possible for us to have it all, truth be told, we can’t. Figuring out what our limitations are and accepting them — and working within them — isn’t a defeatist way of thinking, but a kindness to our selves.