2015: beginning mediocrity

As I said, I’ve always enjoyed Julia’s end of year posts but haven’t found that the questions worked for me. Likewise, I like the idea of planning for the year to come but find that the resolutions model doesn’t work for me. Likewise, I like Ju’s yearly theme (process here) but I’m not sure it would suit me every year.

But for 2015, it seems somewhat closer than resolutions do. It feels like this year has a theme along the lines of Awakening or Beginning.

This goes with some external changes. The biggest one is that as my elder child starts school, the end of the time that I have small children in my household is in sight. It’s not close as such: my younger child doesn’t start for four more years. But it is there, it’s a thing that is coming. Early in the year, the start of school and some changes in my daycare arrangements mean some changes in the amount of work I can do, with bigger changes coming this year. With the end of my PhD in 2012 and (briefly) 2013, and the forthcoming end of small-child-parenting, but a continuation of work, I suppose it makes sense that a lot of what springs to mind is beginnings outside of work. What is my life going to contain as my children grow away from me and into themselves?

Another odd emerging theme is Mediocrity, which I intend as value-neutral thus: I have had a tendency as an adult to do either things that I’m really good at (for obvious reasons) or really bad at (less clear why, but it was presented to me as a teen as essentially penance for having things that I’m good at, so possibly that). And it occurs to me that what I’m still failing to do is things that I’m OK at but not motivated to be exceptional at. And it leads to an inaccurate identity. Specifically, despite the fact that I take oodles of photographs, and have spent some time on self-education about photography and that there’s a small audience (family) who like my photographs, I don’t describe myself as a photographer, let alone as an artist. (When I said this to Andrew, he also observed that I do a lot of writing but don’t seem to call myself a writer, let alone an artist.) But while I have no aspirations whatsoever to be a professional photographer, and I think any professional writing I do will always be in service of some other job description or goal, that’s not actually a reason to not call myself an artist. Believing I’m an artist (writer, photog) doesn’t imply either professional or exceptional.

I have some thoughts about things to explore on these themes, although I suspect that the real projects are yet to emerge.

Music. The above exactly describes my former musicianship: I’m reasonable at it, I’m neither terrible nor exceptional. So naturally I’ve never played music as an adult.

I end up getting stuck on which instrument to play, since I can’t see having time for ALL THE AMAZING INSTRUMENTS. Obviously, the perfect is the enemy of the good here. Likely candidates are recorder (because I used to play it well), voice, guitar and keyboard (those because they’re useful for popular music).

Calligraphy. Given what a fidgeter I am, it’s always puzzled me that I’ve never taken up knitting or crochet (or smoking). I eventually determined that it’s because I don’t have any use for the end results. I don’t wear scarves or jumpers in anything like the volume needed to create or sustain a serious crafting habit, nor do I know many other people who would welcome them as gifts. (In the smoking case, you can probably guess at the reasons I don’t do it.) Calligraphy seems like a meditative craft where I wouldn’t feel nearly as much guilt about discarding most of my output sooner or later.

In keeping with the theme of mediocrity, I need to remind myself that this is a JFDI thing: I don’t need to take classes or go through some kind of apprenticeship, I can just buy some pens or brushes and do it.

Language learning. I think 2015 is less likely to have time for this one. It has the same problem as music; I get a bit stuck on choosing the “right” language to learn. I think there’s three real candidates: Spanish and Latin, because I’ve studied them both to an elementary level in the past (a few thousand words of vocabulary, a couple of regular verb tenses), and Latvian because my husband and children are (as of just a few weeks ago) Latvian citizens. (The whole idea of what it means or should mean for them to be Latvian when we don’t speak the language nor live in the culture is puzzling me.)

It also only belatedly occurred to me that I can pick and choose my language proficiency if I want to. Obviously conversing with native speakers on a wide range of topics is a common goal of language learning and one of the more useful ones, but it’s also a frankly intimidating one. If I want to be able to read the language without speaking it, or be able to talk about its linguistics without either reading or speaking it, or have those as intermediate goals, those are OK goals too. I don’t have to do all the things, all the time.