As a child I was always one step ahead of the curve because my parents encouraged me to learn things on my own. I was frequently abandoned at the local library for hours and left to wander the books. I devoured anything that piqued my interest. Dinosaurs, space, chess, machines, animals, comic books, whatever. Thus, in school, I felt I was smarter than others and I got a pretty big head about it. In fact, the school denied me skipping a grade because they thought my ego was big enough as it was.
Eventually school catches up to you. Well, it did for me around high school where there a bunch of people way smarter than me and I had to work to keep my good grades. I never worked hard enough to be near the top but always enough to stay ahead of the curve. My motto was the definition of efficiency: minimum in, maximum out. It's one I still live by today.
In CEGEP, I let school slide by as I developed a social life and learned a rough approximation of how to behave in public (with much tutoring from my wife-to-be). I was in the middle of the curve, perhaps a step ahead but falling to dead center.
In University, I did enough to stay near the top. I was interested but never able/willing to excel. What I found easy, I put aside. What I found difficult, I wrestled with. I find to this day that I will ace difficult challenges but fail miserably at simple tasks because I don't put in any effort at all.
For grad school, I sank. Fast. I squeaked by. I did manage to get a recommendation to the Dean's List for my thesis. How? I have no clue. I don't think I deserved it. I grabbed the diploma, ran for the door and hoped no one tackled me on the way out.
When I entered the job market, I worked fairly hard. I wanted to do well and I applied myself. I did very well and for my first 18 months I was one of the best workers. Once I realised how crappy the product was, how terribly the business was being run and how little effect one way or another I was personally having on the company, I just started coasting. They noticed and when it came time for the axe to fall, I wasn't first on the list but I was far from last.
I've been doing improv for years now. I've gotten a lot better and I have my own ideas of good and bad improv. I feel I'm a lot better than the average but by no means very strong. I have a lot of weaknesses and I see other people do things I wish I could do.
I'm now trying to write a novel. I can string together the occasional sentence and bon mot but I don't even show up on my own radar of good writing with the draft I have now. I can't imagine how much further I have to go before I dare show this to a professional. It's a long way.
I can play video games, draw, photograph, play soccer or hockey or Magic:tG. These are things I feel I can do with some confidence. However, I know deep down that I'm really not very good at them. At best, I'm mediocre and at worst, I'm awful.
I dabble. I understand that. Jack of all trades, Master of none. I desperately want to be very good at something but I fear I don't have it in me. I don't possess that obsession/drive to focus intensely on a single aspect of my life and hone it to pure perfection. I keep hoping to find a natural talent that I can just automatically be good at. Life doesn't work that way. Skill comes from use, practice, mistakes, all of these things mixed with a natural facility will lead someone to excel. I just don't have the patience for it. I want to divide my time to taste everything that comes my way. I guess I decided long ago to spend little bit of time in a lot of places instead of the inverse.
I'm learning to be comfortable with it. I will not abandon my pleasures because I'm not the best or even near the best. I need to understand that better than average is actually pretty good and that if I really do want to excel that badly, it's attainable if I'm willing to earn it.
I'm not great, but that's ok.