I feel like everything I write needs to come with a disclaimer. I value words, and their meanings. That doesn’t always mean I am as accurate as I want to be, but I value accuracy. I’m a grammar nazi. I got upset when I discovered that I was misusing the word nauseous. (Mostly we mean to say nauseated. Thanks to Vince Gilligan on the Breaking Bad Insider podcast for adding that to my life.) I don’t like that I mispronounced bruschetta for years. (It is, in fact, a hard K sound.)
So when I use words like FAT, SLOW and QUIT, I am interested in accuracy, not judgment. And I will admit, I let judgment seep in from time to time, but mostly I want to call something what it is. I don’t go for top-shelf five-syllable superlatives every time I can. Blame my recovering hipsterism, or my affinity for Louis CK. “how can you describe a basket of chicken wings as amazing? You just set yourself up verbally for a ____ life! What can possibly compete?” IF you want to see the full-on, very vulgar, very explicit version of this, by all means, check out the audio. But you were warned. (Drop out before 4:45 or so to really avoid the high octane CK.)
Anyway, (there’s another one: there is no S in that word. This is a habit I am trying to break in my 1st grader.)
I value honesty and accuracy.
My kids have enjoyed two summer competition shows the last couple of years. One is American Ninja Warrior. The other is America’s Got Talent. There is a stark difference between these shows. On ANW, you either make the course or you don’t. People cheer wildly. When someone falls, there is an audible “aaawww” then some polite “good effort” type clapping, and the next competitor goes at it. Everyone’s duly impressed.
But on the Talent show, there are multiple problems, that reflect a societal shift. The one that really gets me, seems to get worse every year. The live audience, whether by choice, or by coaxing from the producers, turns into a large room of brainless automatons. Why do I say this? I say this because the same scenario plays out almost every single time the judges speak.
Typical scenario: an act has gone through the preliminary auditions, and has been selected in Las Vegas to continue on. The Vegas auditions have no crowd, just judges. Then they move to the live shows in NYC. By now, the judges, and the viewing audience have seen hundreds of acts. Only one is going to win, only 10-12 make the finals.
Here’s where my head explodes. A judge will critique an act with something like this: “we loved you, your talent is clear. But tonight wasn’t your best performance, and I just don’t see this being a million dollar Vegas headliner.”
The crowd reacts as if the judges just shot a puppy in the face. The booing swells.The vilification of of the judge begins. It’s as predictable as professional wrestling. My take away from this is not positive. I see a culture where so long as someone gets on the stage, we have to worship every move they make, and every single perfomance must be rated as the best of all time! Anything short, and it’s you’re so mean.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it. It’s not like that show is targeted for high intelligence or anything, it’s a popular lowest common denominator talent show. I’ve enjoyed it for what it is, and I have seen some really innovative things happen there. But as I don’t watch other shows like it, Dancing with the Stars, etc…. I don’t know if this is the common pattern. Is that how all reality competition is? Anything less than perfect praise is evil?
GET TO THE POINT
Putting my fitness goals into a blog, and on facebook, I’ve made the increasingly questionable choice to invite “viewers” so to speak. Social media may look like a blessing to extroverts, but it may in fact be a poison.
I had a friend that posted the best thing I ever saw on Facebook, about a month ago. I’m paraphrasing, and hopefully I get it right. I want to apologize for using facebook to just brag about the good stuff in my life. I feel like it’s not an honest portrayal of my life, and I hope no one gets that idea from this medium.
I immediately thought of this sketch from Portlandia.
I refuse to crop out the sadness.
Saturday I came home from a disappointing morning, and posted this Facebook update.
In the interest of being truthful, and not just using facebook for “hooray me!” crap, I guess I should let the internet know that I am in fact, a quitter. Not due to injury, or some outside circumstance, or even exhaustion. Just a quitter. As in, “this is too hard, so I am not finishing, taking the road back and officially being a DNF.” Trail running is full of wonderful people. But I am not one who belongs on a trail course. Too much fear and instability. I have to shift my goals into more achievable avenues. I’m not cut out for some things.
I am not surprised, but my friends came to comfort me, and that’s great. But it was clear that my use of the words quit and quitter were really bothersome to many.
I call it what it is. I do so for a reason. Several really, the first of which is that I value honesty. But the optimism inside me that won’t ever die, says that I will beat these fears some day, and I want to remember when I couldn’t. I pay attention to a lot of really hardcore inspirational athletes, and some of them set up way too much all-or-nothing expectation in the stuff they put out in social media. stuff like this:
I’m not quitting my pursuits. But I quit for that day. It is what it is, and I call it what it is. I am definitely retiring from technical trail running. Whether that is short term or permanent remains to be seen.
I did some minor research with the help of ultra runners on the BT board. I still feel like I am called to the longer races some day, and to trails, but just not to the death defying stuff I saw on Saturday. Well, as it turns out, there are organized ultras that don’t require the perfect balance of a mountain goat after all! And, as long as I’m reaching big, my fanboy obsession with Badwater may be the direction I want to go. It’s all on a road. You know, a 135 mile road run through Death Valley in July. Not very technical at all.
So to be fair to the person whose wall I stole the above photo from, I also saw this on her wall a day later. And I think it is a more helpful sentiment for me. Because my goals are not things I can achieve right now. They wouldn’t be goals otherwise.
The doughboy to ironman project is about just this: becoming the guy who can do something he once before never thought possible. That doesn’t happen overnight. That doesn’t happen with a perfect linear progression either. And sometimes, a person quits. It doesn’t have to be permanent. But calling it what it is, I believe, is necessary to get past it. Saturday I made a conscious choice. It wasn’t the only one I’ve made in this journey. It was one of many. It is part of who I am, and it will help shape my resolve and goals going forward.
Come on, would you really want to read the story of a guy who just did everything easily, who just spoke the words and made it happen? Or, to once again borrow from one of the most cliched and ovequoted movies ever (yet still I love it),