That Feeling of Potential (pt. 3)

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(This is part 2 of a series. For part 1, read this, and for part 2, read this)

The only problem is now, as an adult, I, like many other adults, feel a compulsion to measure of one’s progress with things, especially as it pertains to that idea of ‘practice’. Why do we do this? Because we need to quantify our efforts, and we need to do this constantly, lest we forget what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This is what an adult does that is different than a child: an adult measures. Exactly how cool, and exactly how fun—these are required values that need to be entered before proceeding can even be considered.

“Grownups love figures. When you talk to them about a new friend, they never ask questions about essential matters. They never say to you: ‘What does his voice sound like? What games does he prefer? Does he collect butterflies?’ They ask you: ‘How old is he? How many brothers does he have? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father earn?'”
–from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

But children are different. A child tries, sometimes just for the halibut. Because gotta try. You gotta.

Again, what else do you have?

What else, indeed. Things these days are, admittedly, different. And that’s being charitable. Most available energy is spent not looking, hawk-eyed, into the distance, exploring potential. most energy is spent molded into a defensive posture, squatting, like a catcher. Detect, protect, defend. Detect, protect, defend. All the while, squatting: this is the real posture adulthood. Because when an adult is threatened, the adult stops measuring and assumes this defensive posture, a posture many adults remain in for years, if not the rest of their lives. Then, failing that—sudden running. Then peering. Quietly peering, observing through peep holes, to make sure that really is the FedEx man, and not home invaders. Not cops. Not auditors. And not just the emptiness that is to fill out the time after the knocking subsides.

Strangely, these hiding and dodging behaviors mimic the actions of video game avatars, though the collateral hefted along at every risk is now very different. Very real. The fear isn’t of looming opportunity cost regarding the risk of an eight quarter investment versus a pack of Big League Chew, it’s the indelicate pulse of insecurity-pain at the thought that what might be occurring pertains not to inspiration but to vain indulgence; or worse yet, a real pulse of chronic pain, a red semaphore of genetic predetermination, of impending futility. But we just smile, like we know that this is all normal. We’re not special; none of this is unique. Waiting for doctor’s phone calls, test results, lab results, rejections, prognoses, frustration, remediation. Wiping down surfaces. Cleaning up the mess of petty failure.

Well, I suppose at the end of the day it’s still how I use my time. Same as it ever was.

So I smile. Like I know.

And I measure. Because I’m an adult now, and that’s what we do.

But I feel a conspicuous weight in my pockets, so I stop my ritual of fastidious self-repair, and I take a look. I see the substance for what it is: Eight quarters.


Turns out they’re still there, in my pocket. They’re just heavier than I remember.

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