When do we finally get to declare, like Popeye, “I yam what I yam?” When do we finally come to peace with the way we’re put together and stop wishing we were different? When do we fully grow into who we were meant to be? I don’t know about you, but most every day, I’m walking back and forth through the swinging gate of self-doubt and self-acceptance.
I was thinking this weekend at the World Music Rehearsal of all the things I wish I could do or be that I can’t. Things like speak six languages, master the snare drum roll, play tabla, play Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu, really get the Bulgarian bagpipe ornaments, speak English in different accents, play a convincing jazz piano solo, be handy around the house and comfortable in the garden… well, the list is quite long. The healthy part of self-doubt is the way it pushes you forward, keeps you moving and occasionally reaps rewards (I’m hopeless with the English accents and handyman stuff, but I’m getting closer in the jazz piano and even Chopin realm). Maybe people completely content with who they are have set the bar too low.
It’s the conversation between the doubt and the confidence that keeps things interesting, but truth be told, I’m ready to enjoy a bit more of the confidence side. Whenever I see a multi-faceted flowing and colorful Orff class (like the kind my colleagues Sofia and James often teach) or hear a great piano player and even watch someone graciously host a dinner party, I find myself thinking, “Dang! Why can’t I do that?!!” If it’s close to my reach, it sets me thinking about how I might approach it, but I often need to be stern with myself and remind myself that I can only do it in my style, with my voice, with my way of thinking, however short it falls of what I hope it might be. There simply is no other choice.
I keep coming back to Suzuki-Roshi’s brilliant quote that covers both the desire to improve and the affirmation of who we are. No one has said it better:
“You are perfect as you are. But we could all stand a little improvement.”