Good But Not Great

There is a scene in the classic Three Men & a Little Lady when the devilish trio of Selleck, Danson, and Guttenberg host a party reminiscent of their earlier years and Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle pumps through the most glorious late-eighties/early-nineties stereo. I’ve never been one to hide my love for the (admittedly) not-great movie, mostly in part to my childhood obsession with Tom Selleck as Peter Mitchell and the absolutely perfect soundtrack. Which is probably why I hear Back in the Saddle in my head whenever I find myself returning to familiar task, such as this space. Hello world. It’s me, Karen. Again.

Back in the fourth grade I was tested for the gifted and talented program at my elementary school. While my grades and class participation showcased my enthusiasm for learning, the results of the standardized test were painfully clear – I was not deemed intelligent enough for the program. I would test again the following year with similar results. By the time I entered middle school and moved across the country I knew my place – comfortably nested in the good but not great category within my honors classes. Later on, the PSATs and SATs would serve as a painful reminder that I just wasn’t as smart as I yearned to be. My scores were good but not great. I learned in college that I knew enough win bar trivia nights but often failed to fully grasp complicated philosophical theories that I found difficult to correlate with a modern worldview. Same with graduate school. Simply put, I was good but not great.

I stopped writing because I convinced myself that I was good but not great. That no matter how much joy the act of stringing words together brought me, it wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit because there were other (more worthwhile) things I should be doing. I’m back in the saddle because I finally grew tired of constantly berating myself for having an idea. I’m tired of routinely talking myself out of grandiose plans. And I’m tired of thinking I’m good but not great.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a metallic-based lacquer so the repair is viewed as part of the history of the object, rather than something to disguise. This philosophy resonates with me because I’m currently in the process of figuring out how to glue back together the jagged pieces of my professional side – a task that has proven quite difficult as the demands of my husband’s military career has only grown greater with promotion and the fact that we will likely never live in one place for more than two years. There is a lot of gold woven throughout my resume and there is a lot of gold woven throughout my life. And now that I am back in the saddle, I need to realize that I’m not just good – I’m great. So let’s see where this ride takes me, for the only thing worse would be to not get on at all.


4 thoughts on “Good But Not Great

  1. You are an amazing person, and I wish you much luck piecing your professional life back together, though I’m sure you will need none of that luck. I’ve always enjoyed reading your witty and reflective writings, and believe that you really do SHINE at communicating. So my suggestion is to start there … 🙂 Cheers!

  2. I’ve only ever heard you referred to as “great”. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about how our brains really take in and focus on the negative (fears, etc) so much faster and more easily than the positive. So true!

  3. I love this and can really relate to it as well. The wit and insight you have is among the great-EST I’ve ever encountered, and since you find joy in your beautiful writing, I am so glad you are coming back to it. I hope that the perfect opportunity will come to you soon. Resume-writing is so hard, but if anyone can make it shine, even with the holes created by the military spouse lifestyle, it is you!

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