The fragility of ego

As I write for a living at my day job and in my spare time, much of what I write is something other people review and criticize, accept or reject. I’ve submitted a few articles recently to places which seem to neither be accepting or rejecting them. This is irritating. How hard is it to at least tell someone, “Thanks but no thanks,” when they’ve bothered to send you a detailed query or an actual article? I think the ego of certain institutions makes them think they don’t need to bother with politeness. We don’t want your stuff, so much so that we won’t even bother answering. This damages the ego a little, but is “par the course” as my grandma used to say

As an actor on my nights and weekends, I’m also presenting something for critique, unless I am reading my own work out loud for people’s enjoyment and entertainment (and hoping it will be both). I read a number of pieces other people had written at Dark Room last week, and got a lot of positive and encouraging feedback. I took part in a table read of a new play last night and got some more good feedback. This is good for the ego.

Sometimes I feel I’m better at one than the other. Which thing I’m better at tends to change in ways I’m not expecting, at unplanned times. The ever-changing nature of feedback makes you never really sure whether you’re actually good at something or just lucky enough to get it right occasionally, like the proverbial broken clock that’s still right twice a day.

I once got feedback on something I wrote that was rejected without having been read past the first couple of sentences, because I described a thing as being extremely popular and the reader had never heard of the thing I was describing.

This actually does not mean the thing is not popular.

I was able to finally get out for a long (for me) run this past weekend. It was a better run than I’ve had in months, and though I was really struggling with pain the next day, here I am two days later and I feel almost back to normal, whatever my level of normal is. I can’t really run at the level and distance I want to, but I can keep my hand in. Like I do with acting. And writing.

It’s interesting being a jack of all trades. I’ve always been “pretty good” at a number of things, but there’s never been one, shining, blaring horn of plenty that I was better at than any other particular thing. I like doing some things more than others, but that doesn’t mean I’m any good at them. I love running, for example, but am really mediocre at it if you consider levels of actual runners who are good. I’m not fast. I can’t go extremely long distances. But once and awhile, I do ok. I got a medal for 3rd place in my age class at a run this summer, and that’s something. I will never win. I’m not good enough to win. That’s also ok. Everyone is not a winner.

I try to explain to my son when he talks about other kids’ grades on tests in a competitive fashion that it’s good to want to try to do your best, but no one person is first or best all the time, and in a group, someone always has to be last, and that doesn’t mean they’re terrible, it’s just that in that particular moment doing that particular thing, they were last. Tests are momentary snapshots measuring your ability. Well, unless you have a math teacher like I did in school, who sat everyone in class in the order of how well they did on their tests, with the best students up front and the losers who did the worst trading the last three seats between them after every test score was handed back. Guess which one I was? This is a really shitty thing for the ego and a shitty thing to do to school-aged kids.

It’s going to be 71 today, probably for the last time until several months from now. I hope to get outside and read and sit in the sun, and not have to think about how I measure up with anyone. Sometimes you just really want something you can count on. I guess all I can count on is how much things change.

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