You Don’t Have to Win

This Kurt Vonnegut quote just grabbed me this morning. I’ve felt so frustrated this past week. The overthrow of the government in Peru, the attacks on our democracy by a sitting president in the US. And I’ve been struggling with outlining the plot for my next book. My hero suffers from a need to do everything perfectly. This archeologist could have been speaking to her.

Kurt Vonnegut: When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.

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