If you’re ever playing baseball against my team you should try to hit the ball in my direction because
I probably won’t catch it and
If I do catch it I probably won’t be able to throw it very far or
In the right direction
This is because when I was a kid nobody taught me how to throw a ball. Or catch a ball. Or dribble a ball, or stop a ball from hitting me in the face, or any of the things people do with balls. I guess my Dad was pretty busy and my brothers…well, I guess my brothers kind of dropped the ball on teaching me ball skills, but that’s okay. I don’t hold it against them. Nonetheless, whenever I tried to join a team that did things with balls, I was rejected.
When I tried out for Little League they told me I had to go to “Ball School” first, to develop some basic skills. “Ball School” turned out to be a bunch of kids in diapers with giant plastic bats and beach balls. I abstained, and that was the end of my baseball career.
I tried out for the football team in Junior High, but it was pretty half-hearted because I was already into punk rock and, anyway, I really sucked at football and it turned out they didn’t have any spots for that particular skill set. And that was the end of my football career.
I did make it on to a hockey team when I was 9 or 10, but it was D level, the catch-all for the homeschooled kids and the differently-abled kids and the kids with an unusual assortment of limbs. (Before we go any further rest assured that I mean no disrespect to the homeschooled, the differently abled, or those with an unusual assortment of limbs. I love everybody just exactly the same. I’m joking but I’m serious. But if your goal is to do sportsing and to get more scores then there is a certain ideal human configuration that will get you there quickly. If your goal is just to show up – which is a perfectly laudable goal – then any human configuration will do. But it seems silly to expect or desire that every human configuration will be equally efficient at achieving every possible goal.)
To give you an idea how low the expectations were on this particular squad, our star centre, who actually seemed to know something about hockey, had a debilitating lung condition that caused him to puke after every breakaway. Which is kind of a sad image but also a testament to the human spirit because the kid never gave up—I remember him puking all the time.
I was a big kid and quite obviously knew nothing about hockey so my coach put me on defence and advised me to just run into anyone from the other team whenever they had the puck. Since I was a poor skater, I could only ever achieve this if I happened to catch the poor bastard between the net and the boards, which I managed to do fairly often, my opponents’ skills being scarcely better than my own. I don’t imagine you’re allowed to just run into 9-year-old kids willy-nilly anymore, but you could back then, and I quickly gained the reputation of being a bit of a bruiser and even drew some boos when I skated onto the ice. Being a gentle soul, I took no pleasure in being despised.
After a year or two of this charade I got tired of getting up in the frozen darkness and told my Dad I wanted to quit. He didn’t seem to mind. Though he had come to every practice and game I imagine he was no more enthused about it than I was. And that was the end of my sportsing career. I regret it sometimes. It looks like fun. And I would like to to teach some skills to my kids but I can’t. But I bet they’ll be okay.
Still, part of the reason I never got any better at sports was the excruciating embarrassment I felt whenever I had to play sports in front of people. Maybe it’s different now—kids seem to be nerdier than when I was growing up. But I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to be good at everything the first time I tried it. Because I might’ve tried more things.
Many people seem to have picked up the idea that they should be perfect at everything the first time they try it. They’re afraid to fail because they feel it’s a judgement on them, like they’re bad or weak or stupid. I don’t know where this idea comes from. It might be related to the success porn that has arisen in lockstep with the goddamned Internet (along with porn porn.) The owners of donut shops no longer compete with the other donut shops in town: they compete with every donut shop in the world. You no longer just have to teach your children to use a toilet and prevent them from dying, you have to feel bad about not making them a life-sized cardboard pirate ship with cannons that shoot bean bags like those people on YouTube did, showing you how much fun they had and how magical their kid’s life must be. Or maybe I just dreamed that.
It’s all well and good to do your best and to want good things & shit, but it seems people are just punishing themselves for not being Taylor Swift or Peter Thiel, for not being somebody who has a company building the Death Star. We’re cruel to ourselves in a way we’d never be to another person, as if we asked to be born or chose our parents or the number of limbs we’d be born with. We act as if this person we are is separate from everything else and unchangeable, as if we are uniquely, specially bad and undeserving.
It’s odd how we feel bad about the things we can’t do. I guess it has an evolutionary purpose, compelling us to improve so that we can get a date and maybe pass on our DNA. But despite my abysmal sporting career I’ve got quite a little passel of kids so screw you, Evolutionary Struggle for Supremacy!
How to feel better about everything you do
Stop fixating on achievement. Just do the work.
Don't expect achievement to make you happy on its own. Look at Kurt Cobain. And Judy Garland and Macbeth and Richard Cory.
Don't let the necessity of making a living crush your dreams. You have to make a living but that doesn't mean you can't work towards universal peace and understanding. Or whatever other weird thing gets your mojo working.
Try lots of different things. Follow enthusiasm. Life is for living: creativity is life in action.
Tell your embarrassment to fuck right off you. Who gives a fuck what people think? Most of them are just as afraid as you are. Help them by providing a brave example!
And, seriously, who gives a fuck what people think?