Thursday, March 30, 2017

80 Percenter

This year marks my first year of teaching high school English, and I'd say it isn't going horribly. Right now we're working on a type of personal essay called "This I Believe" in which you write about something you...believe in. You can find hundreds of examples here. I've been writing alongside my students, so I thought I'd share it because I never blog anymore. (You'll find out why in the essay.)

When I was a kid, I used to dream that I’d make it into the Olympics.  Actually no, I didn’t just dream--I expected to go to the Olympics.  When discussing my bright future to any half-amused adult, I’d say something like, “Either I’ll go for soccer, or running, but I’m not sure yet.”  It wasn’t a matter of if I’d go to the Olympics, but in which sport I was to compete.  
Although I give props to my five-year-old self for such confidence and optimism, eventually I grew up and realized that I wasn’t going to make it to the Olympics for soccer or running.  In fact, I was never on varsity for cross country and didn’t even try out for the high school soccer team.  To some people, this may categorize me as a failure, but I quickly accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be the best at anything; instead, I was simply above average at a handful of things.
Although I continued through life picking up quite a few hobbies and skills, I never mastered them.  In some ways I loved being a “Jack of all Trades,” but it also kind of bothered me that I was never the best.  And then one day, on our way to the Uintas for a camping trip, I was sitting in the back seat of my friend’s Subaru Forester flipping through a Patagonia catalogue.  The magazine was mostly filled with pricey outdoor clothing that I’d never be able to afford, but on one page there was a quote from Yvon Chouinard that caught my attention: “I've always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach about an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession that doesn't appeal to me. Once I reach 80 percent level, I like to go off and do something totally different.” Keep in mind, Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia said this; if he wasn’t afraid to admit that he was only 80% proficient at his hobbies, why should I be?
And that’s when I started to think of all the different sports and hobbies I had obsessed over until I reached that 80%.  At some point in my life, my thoughts and free time had been consumed by triathlons, drawing, lacrosse, piano, Dance Dance Revolution, P90X, longboarding, road biking, salsa dancing, drumming, roller skating, Crossfit, YouTube, skiing, and blogging. I never “threw myself passionately” into these activities to be the best--I immersed myself because it was a fun challenge.
I take my hat off to those who dedicate their lives to reach that 100% proficiency; the amount of talent, hard work, dedication, and sacrifice amazes me.  And yet, I don’t really envy them anymore. It would’ve been cool to go to the Olympics for soccer, but then I wouldn’t have had the time to make sub-par YouTube videos or hit the local skating rink every Friday night to show off my moves.  And that’s why I am okay with being an 80 percenter.  Because I believe that at 80 percent I can live life at 100 percent.

Now I will attach a few pictures of me doing some of those things I mentioned. Because pictures make it more interesting.

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Proof I did a triathlon.
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