I was bemoaning to a friend about how difficult small tasks are for me. Now, be forewarned, what follows will sound completely ridiculous to anyone who has ever encountered any kind of actual difficulties in their lives. I was going on about how completing an essay for class was just some unattainable herculean task. I’d prefer to wake up Saturday and go hiking rather than think about allocating my time so that I’ll be able to complete some assignment that gets me one step closer to a degree. Any responsibility feels like work. I asked him to speculate about what in the hell my problem is. Why do I have such great abilities yet lack the motivation that would give me the drive to actually capitalize on them? I go a few steps to demonstrate my abilities to myself and others, but then I stop there. Production. Work. Tasks. Responsibility. I loathe the idea that I ought to do something I don’t wish to except for the sake of something else. My activities ought to be for the sake of themselves. Like playing the guitar alone in a room. Not to practice. Not to entertain. But just to play.

Actually working to learn how to play the guitar doesn’t fall into the equation. But you know what? I already know how to play. And besides, learning new things isn’t work if it’s done with passion.

Perhaps, at my young age, I have performed the work needed so that I may now practice the activities that bring me happiness. My abilities in mathematics, logic, writing and music have all been labored on endlessly throughout my youth. Now, since I lack the drive to further them, it must be time to relish them. Or so I’m guessing.

My friend called me a ‘Quintessential Underachiever’. I don’t know whether to think of that as a negative label or not. It first strikes me as an untactful compliment. Because, when I think of the opposite, the ‘Quintessential Achiever’, I think of some blindly ambitious man after wealth, fame and recognition. Things that are difficult to gain and when one finally does achieve them he often is no better off than the man who hasn’t.

Doing less than I am capable of is one of my goals. But it’s difficult not to feel a touch guilty about it while surrounded by a society that asks for everything you have. But when I look again at what such efforts might get me I’m reminded of something Thoreau put quite succinctly, “The community has no bribe that will tempt a wise man.”

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