Is it better to strive to be the person you want to be, or to like the person you are now?  For most of my life I’ve had a vision of the person I could become, the musician I could become, the writer I could become.  I have faced an enormous dissatisfaction with myself as I compared the difference between what I currently was and what I believed I could be.

I sometimes worry that my blog is not focused enough.  Really successful bloggers seem to settle on one issue and talk about that.  I’m all over the place.  Perhaps not coincidentally, I also have trouble focusing my eyes. 

If you’ve read my articles, you know that when I improved my depth perception I became able to think more clearly and for longer periods of time.  I’m hoping that, by learning how to find focus in my eyes, I can transfer that focus to my work.  So what have I learned about seeing?

A Small Act of Kindness


Once a guy named Joe did me a kindness.  I’d like to thank him, but I can’t anymore.  So I’m going to tell you this story instead.

I am transitioning from a steady, reliable job at Atlanta Public Schools into a more fluid freelance life.  There are several things that make me anxious about this choice.  The main one is I am very afraid of losing all my money.


There are times when I find myself profoundly lonely, and no amount of communication or reassurance from anyone could help.  My sense of my separation with the world is so strong it’s like being on an island.  The only thing that makes me feel better in those times is to work on a creative project, a story, a poem, a piece of music.


There’s a picture of Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his album Darkness on the Edge of Town which shows him staring at the camera with a particularly intense expression on his face.  I recognize myself in that picture. 

When I was just starting out as a pianist, nothing terrified me more than looking up while I was playing.  In classical I kept my gaze down, and in jazz and rock I could never even glance at the other players without losing it.  Many years later, having learned to look up and out, I thought I had discovered all the benefits, but last week I discovered another one, possibly the most important.



Once, in my twenties, playing at a coffeehouse in front of my friends, I took care of my nervousness by reassuring them at the beginning that it was okay for them to talk during my performance.  When they talked so much they didn’t hear me, I very much regretted my choice!  I had mistakenly created an interaction where I was seen as a very amateur player, not worth listening to. 


I wasn’t an amateur player.  But once I told the audience I was, there was little I could do to change it.  First impressions aren’t correct…they’re just enduring.




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How do you feel about uncertainty?  Today I caught the end of an interview with George Saunders, the author of the acclaimed book Lincoln at the Bardo.  He said something that struck me right across my forehead.

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One of the more challenging quotes I ever ran across is “You are not defeated when you lose. You are defeated when you quit.” (Paolo Coelho)  That always struck me as a painful truth: that defeat would be something I would choose rather than something that happens to me.  But I have a better reason to stick with something than avoidance of defeat.


It doesn’t matter how good you are at something when you arrive, what matters is how good you are when you leave. 

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