I am coming to terms with the fact that I am not as talented as I imagined myself to be, and driven by this realization to engage even more.
Growing up I was the one that everyone pointed to as the talented kid, the smart kid, the one with promise who would make his mark on the world. Out of arrogance and fear too, I turned my back on the paths that seemed to be the most promising for me. That was too easy, I said to myself. Lets set my ambition higher, and look at the long game. I have spent decades since scrabbling about in the dark not really doing anything but taking myself too seriously.
Over time I have gradually found the courage to strip away the pretense, and face who I am now rather than what I might be, or what my 'inner reserves' suggest I promise to be capable of achieving. I am now old or at least not young which I might as well consider old and I am unimpressive, not good at much of anything at all. It is freeing to accept this, because it does not matter.
Your IQ, your talent, your promise is nothing. It is what you do that matters. I have a lot to do. And I need to engage more intensely than I have in the past, because life does not last forever, and there is more to learn than I have time to learn. To learn to do. To understand. To master. I don't have the time to do it all. But whatever I do put my hand to, whatever I take the time to look into, and the ideas I have, with all of this I need to engage more than I have before.
I am thankful that I have this time in my life now to consider this, and to engage. I am privileged to have the time to consider these thoughts rather than slave away at whatever job I am obligated to fulfill (and in this economy always for a rich person's gain). I worked for others from when I was 14 until last year. Hell my own work paid for most of my college education which is one reason why it took so damn long. However the next year, which is about the limit my money will last (I cook rice and beans most days, grow whatever I can in pots or the ground here on this tiny urban plot I rent, and keep all the lights off) until I make money again, this next year I have the opportunity to engage with whatever I choose, and can do so aggressively 4 or so days a week when I am not taking care of my boys.
What the fuck are we alive for anyway, if not to push our limits, to learn, to figure out what makes us tick, and share that with others? There is so much to learn. I can barely draw. I never really applied myself with pen(cil) and paper. But last night I just tried and tried and tried. I'll scan some of these later, but the art work on this site demonstrates that I can barely make an appealing mark on a page. I am well aware how naive my art is. Still, that is not what I do this for. The point of it is to try, and to get better. And in the process you learn some other things as well that are probably only secondary or tertiary to the act of drawing. You learn about yourself, make associations with other things you know, and have ideas, make new connections that you did not make before. The same occurs when playing music, or gardening, or running, or writing code, or building furniture, or raising children, all these things that I try to do.
Self assessment is not particularly useful. It produces nothing. It has nothing to do with the work of living. Perhaps when facing a life threatening risk it is worth while to assess what you are capable of, or perhaps when trying to budget your time on a project and make a schedule. But baring those practical applications, self assessment is a waste of time, and in our society we spend too much time doing it. Or at least I do, and that's why I assert that engagement is the thing - to light a fire under my ass.
Engagement with the work trumps your assessment of how good you might be doing it. The act of trying to make the thing you imagine even with all its flaws is superior to the vision you have in your head if it never comes to fruition. The perfect story in your dreams is nothing if it is unwritten. Write it. Build it. Make it. Engage your ideas with the world.
After writing all of this I saw Jodorwsky in a video saying pretty much the same thing relative to his "failure" of Dune.
I (obviously) feel the same way as he does: "You might fail. It does not matter. Try."