I’m putting together some borrowed gear for climbing. It’s a big rack. I’ve been playing a lot of ping pong for exercise. I’m a decent defensive player, able to dig for balls that appear to be hopeless. I have a couple pretty good serves, and can occasionally get in a good slam, though it’s not reliable yet.
So when I heard there was a ping pong tournament at the local climbing gym I got all excited. The prize was a $180 pass for 10 visits. Most young people are too busy playing video games and don’t pursue ball sports. And if they are athletic, I figured they’d focus on climbing, at the expense of ball sports.
The first young guy I played had a little talent but clearly didn’t spend a lot of time at pong. Then I sat out and watched 3 games with people who I thought I could beat…or at least equal.
When my turn came again I was matched with a 23 year old guy who held his paddle with the penhold grip. If that wasn’t scary enough, the way he was bouncing on his feet like a boxer sealed the deal. From the very first time his ball came over the net I knew I was in serious trouble. Every ball had a wicked spin. They’d float over the net headed south, but after the bounce they’d head east, or west, or any direction but the original vector.
I lost 8 to 11 and went home in a bad mood. I mean, really, what was I thinking? I’m 64 and I went to tournament in a climbing gym full of people in their 20’s. It was inevitable that I would loose. Pick any activity, and no matter how good you are, there is always going to be someone better. Add in the factor of age, and it just happens more often.
While I was stewing in my bad mood I got to thinking about all the things at which I am mediocre. Here is my list. I have mediocre skill at the following:
- rock climbing
- backcountry skiing
- downhill skiing
- ping pong
- chromatic harmonica
- landscape, still-life, seascape painting
- operating an industrial sewing machine
- operating a printing press
- studio lighting
- electrical wiring
And here is my list of things at which I consider myself to be talented:
- parenting…kids turned out great!
- blues harp
- teaching ( I was awarded tenure…until my program closed)
- Photoshop and Illustrator
- portrait painting
- life planning (our house and cars are paid off)
- marriage…though Sue might disagree?
- inventing, designing and trouble shooting…I make things
- social skills, I can get along with anyone.
After a couple days of thinking about it I came around to the realization that being a jack of all trades, master of none means I am quite good at one thing that isn’t on either list:
I am really good at having fun! The fact that I am mediocre at an activity doesn’t stop me from enjoying it. That long list of things at which I am mediocre represents a lot of time…a lifetime really…of trying different things…and focusing in on the fun ones.