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This marine mammal won’t work on standard unleaded.

Monday the 23rd of January, in year 2012 of the common era. This should be fun: the notes read “Boring. Gym.”, and that is all. I can’t remember much about the minutiae, you may be pleased to know. I couldn’t earlier in the week when I wrote the notes, either. We can assume it wasn’t a thrilling day.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wasn’t in a good mood for the first half of the week. And yes, there was a reason for it. But when I’m in a bad mood I tend to lose all enthusiasm to do anything, and everything takes even longer than it would normally (and I’m pretty slow to start with), which then puts me in a worse mood because I haven’t done anything either entertaining or worthwhile. And so on. It’s a lot of fun.

Something that particularly got to me was listening to the Bastion soundtrack and realising that I’d never do anything that good. Not music, specifically, but in general; I’m not particularly good at anything.

Which isn’t the same as being rubbish. I am awful at some things; my skill at literary analysis is, as yet, undiscovered. Subtext might as well just be the opposite of superscript, to my mind. Foreign languages are completely beyond my ken; I can’t remember the vocabulary, I struggle with the grammar because I was never taught any in a language I knew, and foreigners pronounce all their words wrong so they can’t understand me even if I know what to say*. And humans? I’m rubbish at humans.

But at many things I’m OK, and very occasionally I’m almost proficient. I might even go so far as to say I’m better at most things than most people. Unfortunately, this is because almost everyone is utterly hopeless at almost everything, rather than any particular ability on my part; being able to strum along to Yellow Submarine probably makes me better at playing the guitar than three quarters of the population, but I’m still shit at playing the guitar. And that’s the thing: I’m sort of vaguely competent at a lot of things, and can reach that stage pretty quickly, but can’t hold a candle to anyone who’s actually any good at a specific task. And that’s even true of the things I’m reasonable at; I’m probably best at programming, but I’ve known plenty of people who’re an awful lot better. To the point where I can merely look on in awe at their genius.

I suppose the problem is practice. It’s generally thought that it takes about ten thousand hours to get really good at something (and they have to be hours spent doing challenging things, not just repetition), and I doubt I’m ever going to put that much effort into anything; I am lazy, easily distracted, and once I think I’ve just about sussed how something more-or-less works I get bored with it and move on to something else.

The 10,000 hours thing is quite a depressing bit of knowledge: work out how long you’re likely to live, and how much of your time is taken up by other stuff you have to do. How many things could you possibly become an expert at in the time you have left? And then you will die and it will have all been for naught.

* “Aceptan ustedes cheques de viajero?”, I ask the Spanish bank teller (or words to that effect; that’s what Google Translate says I might have said). She looks at me blankly. I put on my best telephone voice, and repeat the question.
“Do you speak English?”, she replies.


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