Saturday, April 30, 2011
"2 plus 2 always makes a 5" - Radiohead
In year 8 I was isolated away in the 8-2 Maths Class. I sat up the front by myself because I had no friends in that gathering of social awkwardness and thought myself much too cool to make any. On the plus side it gave me a chance to focus on the mathematics at hand and as I strolled into class late one afternoon the teacher looked up and said congratulations. The class, too, looked at me with some sense of awe. Apparently I had scored 99% on the recent test and, along with Nina Cheung, I had achieved the highest mark. The ego boost that this gave me was, needless to say, quite exhilarating. I scoured through the test and found my dropped mark - I wrote ‘cm’ on the wrong line of an equation – and from that point on I set out to score a 100% mark.
Despite my efforts, within two years my maths test average had fallen from around 96% to about 90%. Was maths harder or me dumber, lazier? Unable to accept fault I found another connection. It was for a test in year 9 or 10. I thought I aced it; I had it this time. I told all around me that it was easy and I was pretty confident of the mark. It came back. The class averaged 95% and I got 89%! I was more than a little shattered. Not only for the shitty mark, not only for my confidence heading in but more for the fact that I talked myself up to all and sundry and then fell flat on my face. I learned from that day that the secret to success was not hard work and self belief, but the ability to keep your mouth shut until you have achieved your goal so you don’t jinx yourself before the fact.
It is probably some form of irony that in my attempt to score a perfect mark in a maths test – mathematics being lord and subject of logic land – I resorted to a blind faith in voodoo. But I couldn’t help myself; it happened in too many other areas for me to ignore. The more confident and vocal I would get about the Roosters chances of winning a certain game, the less likely it was that they won; the more aware and promotional I grew about my skill set in cricket, the sooner I got hit for six. I mean how many times have you started a new work out regime and stuck to it for 3-4 days and then you tell your friend about how great you are feeling and how you plan to increase the reps and sets every day and then a week later your friend comes up and says he was inspired by you to start working out – been doing it for a week straight - and you sheepishly reply that you gave up a week ago.
Perhaps it is the weight of expectation. As a solitary warrior you are only out to impress yourself and you are driven by your inner monologue for reasons that no one else needs to hear. But when you tell someone else then you start to feel their expectations ringing through your head and your drive is distracted or distorted. You start doing it to meet their expectations not your own lest they judge you for failure. Maybe you exaggerated your efforts or expressed lofty dreams that were better left cradled in the womb of your ambition. Do you think Dr Frankenstein went around telling the world he was halfway to God while he was digging up graves in the middle of the night? No he stayed in the dark isolation of near insanity festering over his creation until he finally brought it to life. Sure it turned out to be a murderous monster to which he never laid claim, but he got the job done without seeking any advance on recognition for his toil.
Probably the point where this belief of mine switched from sidelined superstition to full blown philosophy was during my trip to South America. While the memories of those 8 and half months fade into ghosts of my coming of age I still remember quite vividly the plans I had to write a screenplay. Sadly instead of converting my pages and pages of plotlines and character developments I wrote more about how excited I am to write a screenplay to my friends and fellow travelers than I did actual writing of any screenplay. Needless to say the whole project fell apart. It happened again about midway through my blogging life I decided to write a short story for the blog. It was long and ambitious and I told a few people about how the key to creative writing was to make sure you finish what you start. I mentioned my work in progress story as an example. Two months later, stalling furiously with throw away blogs I eventually canned the story. Then I further proved my theory right by writing a five part story. This time I posted the first part one day before finishing the last part. So it was complete before I had a chance to jinx myself and it turned out swell.
So for some reason my next move was to challenge this belief head on. I have started my most ambitious project yet and while about half of it is already on this blog or on the other Word file I have opened up adjacent to this one, the second half of it remains floating at the top of my brain like debris from the wreckage of a brainstorm which needs to be collected, dried and carved into a thousand little puzzle pieces and I am here chipping away in between shifts at Stranded Island Bank. So maybe I have just put the final hex on this jinx by letting you in on my plans but I never did get 100% and sometimes close enough isn’t good enough and all or nothing is at least something.
- Eden (while listening to Hail to the Thief – Radiohead)