This post was originally published on the now-retired Make & Meaning blog on December 11th, 2009.
Paul recently wrote about his desire to drop-kick commenters who say “Great tutorial! I could never do that.” The same kind of self-deprecating denial often follows phrases like, “Great photo!” “Great project!” and “Great post!” Like Paul, I’ve spent many an hour fantasizing about going all Buffy on these commenters’ heads.
In all honesty, people’s tendency to respond to an inspiring event, object or article by immediately concluding they could never do such a thing is one of the odd phenomena that keep me working in this field. I simply love to kick people in their collective patooty. Paul pretty much summed up all the reasons why we feel this way.
There’s a little bit of a difference between us, though, and it’s one that makes me smile – people’s different ways of getting to the same place can just be so interesting.
Paul wrote this at the end of his post:
“One of my favorite bloggers, Hugh MacLeod put up a great illustration on his blog the other day. It was a drawing of a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan ‘die trying’. In two words, this perfectly encapsulates the philosophy of my life.”
The summer I turned twenty-one I worked at Eastern Mountain Sports, an outdoors store. I wasn’t really into “the outdoors” but working there sure beat folding jeans or pushing smelly lotion on teenagers. Plus, most of my coworkers really were into the outdoors and I learned a lot from them. They were fun to spend the day with, wondering aloud if the youth pastor sales guy would sell a kayak during our shift.
One day the assistant manager and one of the guys decided they were going to go rock climbing at a world-famous climbing site a few hours away and they invited me to go with them. I’d been rock climbing a whopping once, and that was in a gymnasium. I didn’t have shoes or gear, but they said they didn’t care. I was very, very intimidated by all this. I’m usually very uncomfortable not knowing anything about what I’m supposed to do in a situation. And I’m a klutz. And I was awkward around cute guys (these were good-looking dudes). I really, really wanted to find an excuse for why I couldn’t go.
I don’t know what was up with me that summer; maybe over those two months I did some serious growing up. One day I just stopped wearing a watch – that was a big, freeing, wonderful change. Another change was that, to my great surprise, I said, “Sure, I’ll go rock climbing with you at the Gunks. I’ll meet you at the store at seven tomorrow morning.”
I don’t actually remember if I climbed. I think I tried a bit, but without good shoes it was sort of a bust. I have other vivid memories from that day, though. The weather was stunning. There was a crazy friendly black lab named Sara. And I remember sitting between the two guys in the cab of the assistant manager’s pickup truck, my hair flying around from the wind rushing through the open windows, and feeling happy and free. No anxieties, no self-consciousness, no worries. I didn’t care where we were or where we were going. I had said yes. They kept asking me what I wanted and I kept saying whatever. It was the first time in my life I was told I was laid back.
My own major life philosophy came out of that day. It’s not that I’ll die trying – it’s that I’ll try anything once. I don’t feel any pressure anymore to be good at something I’ve never done, or even to enjoy doing it. But save for a few things I’m especially uncomfortable with*, my answer is usually, “sure, why not?”
And I’ve never, ever regretted it.
And seriously? With making stuff? What’s the consequence? Certainly not a broken head or a busted ankle.
(* Most of the things I’m especially uncomfortable with are those for which I find the actual risk of death unreasonable or unwarranted.)
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