There’s Something Important I Need to Tell You

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Jump-wings, jump, jump-wings, jump…

In tap dancing lexicon, this move is called wings. I was successful in getting a murky tap sound maybe 70% of the time, and that was only when I spread out my jumps in between the wings.

But I’ll just put it shortly — it took me months to even get to a stage where I could do it 90% of the time and without spreading them out with jumps.

And then today, something clicked.

My warm-up jumps were smooth sailing, and my feet muscles could hold me up better than usual, thanks to the 3+ miles that I hiked the day before yesterday. With a spur of energy, I jumped and then pulled back — the sound was crystal clear. I jumped again — same sound. I still can’t explain how that happened. I didn’t know. But my feet did.

I did it again and again and again, and eventually I didn’t even to insert extra jumps between my wings for a proper liftoff.

Taking a breath for a moment, I wandered off the practice floor and out onto the deck, wondering, Yo. You promised yourself you’d be beyond elated once you got the moves down. Why aren’t you feeling more celebratory?

Yes. That’s the question I ask myself every time I accomplish something difficult.

Take finishing each end of the semester, for instance. Last semester was difficult. And by the time I finally, finally, finally finished, then what? Relief? Not even. Mostly panic attacks and last-minutes worries of having forgot to submit something online. In fact, I recall it was during junior year in high school that I had soul-crushing panic attacks for two weeks straight. I could barely even sleep, and that made everything worse.

Same with languages. At the beginning of each of my languages journeys, I imagined I’d find the exact day I’d master a language, and then when I come to the realization that I’ve learned something, I can celebrate and take a vacation from learning and drink Midori or whatever the hell is left over in our wine drawer at the moment.

Not true.

In reality, by the time I accomplish something, I crave even more perfection in my craft or project. I think it was Stephen King who once said that he never considered his books truly done. He can revise them forever and forever and ….

I feel ya, my dude.

So why don’t we feel satisfied whenever we accomplish something that way we imagine we would at the beginning?

Because accomplishment isn’t a finish line but a process. Accomplishment is an infinite extension of our processes. And accomplishment is also relative. If you’re like me (or Stephen King), you are inclined to hone and perfect your tasks indefinitely. Granted, there is supposed to be a stopping point, but my mindset was never “is it good yet?” but “how can I make it better?”

I will have ingrained so much information in my head that by the time I’m using it, the accomplishment isn’t a big deal any longer.

So if you’re experience this phenomena as well, don’t settle for “accomplishments.” Instead, gage for satisfaction as you learn on a continuum.

Oh, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself once you’ve mastered something big. Next time I need to let someone know how far I’ve made it in tap, one word will let them know.