Sunday, October 2, 2016

Olive Garden vs. Ego

I'm not sure if I am too exhausted to live up to my potential or if, in fact, I am deluded about the scope of my potential and have, in fact, reached it. In which case, that should be a relief. Right? Job well done, time to head off to Happy Hour. But what if my potential is far less impressive than I originally assumed? What if my potential is the necessary adequate by which extraordinary is measured? What if I am Olive Garden?

Olive Garden's not bad. It's right there between Sbarro and Bertuccis. It's affordable. It can be found in Times Square. It's portions are generous, it's breadsticks addictive, its soup bottomless. There's usually a waiting list to get in. The first time people try it, they usually become instant fans. Olive Garden is a decent, serviceable, reliable choice.

But it's no Trattoria Eccellente Della Giornata with its tin ceiling, farmhouse tables, locally sourced food and made fresh daily crusty bread served with rosemary infused olive oil accented by a single drop of squid ink.

I find myself constantly at odds with two passionately peddled lifestyle theories:
  1. Follow your bliss
  2. Be happy where you are
To strive or to settle. Should I be happy to be Olive Garden or should I strive to have squid ink in my olive oil?

Let's begin this earth shattering query with an anecdote.

Occasionally my dad would show up at my bus stop and drive my sister and I to school, an unanticipated perk of divorce. As we got out of the car for another day of high school he would send us on our way by saying "Brilliance will be adequate." It was his charming wordsmithy way of telling us to work hard and that he believed in us. It planted the seed that perhaps brilliance was within our grasp. And I would finally like to take the time to say to him: thank you and no thank you.

At what point must I accept the truth that my reach exceeds my grasp? That my brilliance is not as brilliant as I thought? That my breadsticks are actually pretty generic. And how do I assuage the shame of not being brilliant?

By getting the fuck over myself.

Who cares if my breadsticks are critically acclaimed? Nobody but my inner Narcissus. My god, the time I've wasted pondering my own worth is an abomination. The reality is, that at which I've truly excelled has been that which has engaged my curiosity, and has driven me not to achievement and mastery but to simply know more about this particular wondrous breadstick of the moment. The comparative paradox the nature of labels of excellence presents is not so much incentive or validation nor is it a helpful way to order the universe into palatable and unpalatable breadsticks; it is an unwieldy motivator which clouds intention and sours achievement until there is no breadstick good enough, no olive oil inky enough, and no trattoria hip enough.

And let us not forget that even having the opportunity to follow one's bliss is an absurd privilege enjoyed by a lucky few. It is not a given that your bliss will pay your bills or help your kid with homework or a crappy 7th grade social hazing, or ease the pain of an ailing loved one, or cover the cost of your insurance deductible. Bliss must occasionally take a back seat to life.

If you are lucky enough in the wee small minutes of reflection afforded to you before you drift off to sleep, the question remains, which lifestyle theory to adopt? Both. Follow your bliss in the present moment fully and dimensionally until it leads you to the next moment with fascination rather than agenda. And if your bliss is more Olive Garden than Trattoria, more Sbarro than Olive Garden, more DiGiorno than Sbarro, than so be it and bravo. Your unique engagement with the world is not only good enough, it is vital because it has left its inky mark to engage the next diner which could lead to a result more brilliant than a single ego could possibly envision.

So if you'll excuse me now, I have an inexplicable craving for breadsticks.

Olive Garden out.