Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dabbling Through Life

Having become a NASCAR fan at my advanced age, the quality I see, and envy, most among the top drivers is that they knew practically from the cradle what they wanted from life. They began racing bikes or motorcycles or go-karts or whatever before they ever started school. They loved racing and had an aptitude for it and then spent their entire lives focusing on the goal of achieving success in their sport. And even if they didn't reach the pinnacle of their profession, they found joy in anticipating the next race.

You see this same single-minded devotion in other athletes, as well as actors and artists and writers. You find it in doctors and soldiers and lawyers and in corporate executives - the ones who found their mission.

There's nothing I've ever done that made me say, "this is it, this is what I want to spend my life doing". I dabbled around with various occupations. I liked law enforcement and hated insurance. Sometimes I enjoyed bartending when the place was full and the band was rocking but serving coffee in greasy spoons sucked. I actually got off on the sights and sounds and smells of factories where people produced actual things and not just paperwork but on the other  hand, doing a 1,000 an hour of anything is monotony personified. I got bored with the minutia of selling real estate.

In NASCAR, my driver, Jimmie Johnson, is known as a "closer". He puts himself in position to snag the win even if he might not have had the dominant car that day. He spends 500 patient miles trying to make his way to the front. He works diligently to improve on the tracks that are his weakest. He closes the deal.

I'm not a closer. I'm a starter. I go great guns at the beginning of any endeavor or enthusiasm. I'm creative about coming up with terrific ideas to get any program off the ground but once it's in place and flourishing, my interest wanes and someone else has to take up the load for maintaining it.

I'm a spring personality. My early garden is beautiful. I plant and mulch and fertilize and water clear through May. Maybe even into June. Then my interest fades. The weeds take over. I let God handle the watering. By fall, the garden is an old crone - missing teeth and scraggly hair and too much rouge on her cheeks.

When I was a little kid, you could tell what I was like by the paint-by-number pictures I painted. They were perfect at the top, with every color sharply delineated. By the bottom, when I was hurrying just to get the damn thing finished, the shades of color all melted together in a glob.

Same with painting a room. Each wall becomes a little messier as I go. By the last one, there are flecks of paint on the floor, the woodwork, the light plate and my hair.

When I cook, I mix my ingredients carefully, then burn the finished product because I tend to use "high" more than any other setting.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation (which I tend to believe), if I could wish for anything it would be to find my passion early enough to spend my life living it.