The Road To Improvement

The spring 2017 semester has been tumultuous for a myriad of reasons. Reflecting on the past few months, I can only come to the conclusion that the disorderly disposition of my life has coaxed me into a refreshing state of novelty.

First, I will start by saying that I have struggled with school for as long as I can remember. I could delve into a lengthy tirade about the education system, and how its qualities were and are non-befitting of my nature. However, I will digress on that point, because I accept that I am largely to blame for my negative schooling experience. I have always been praised as an intelligent kid, and I personally find this description to be self evident. The area in which I have struggled is in procrastination and motivation.

I have never felt inclined to blame solely myself. I’m sick of that. So I changed it.

This semester, I made it my goal to focus on self improvement. I succeeded. I put effort into my assignments. I put effort into cutting unhealthy habits and replacing them with more beneficial alternatives. I put effort into getting off my ass and going back to the gym after a long period of absence. I went for runs. I slept full nights of sleep. I ate hearty meals. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.

Of course, that is not to say that I have chiseled my personality into a paragon. There are many things that I disappointed myself with. I haven’t been social enough, despite leaving my house more often. I didn’t put enough work into some of my classes, in particular, this one. My blog has remained inactive and devoid of content. I failed to reach my goal of writing every day, even though I wrote more than I ever have in my life. I still don’t eat as much as my body requires me to. I didn’t play my songs at open mike nights as often as I wanted. I failed to finally get through Catch-22.

Which leads me to the point, the most important thing I learned all semester, if not all year: Self improvement will never, ever end. Not until the day you die.

There is no limit to how much you can build on yourself. Being alive is too multi-faceted to be able to say to yourself, “That’s it, I’m as great as I can ever be”.

I am reminded of a time about three or four years ago when one of my dad’s friends turned 50 years old. She had known me since I was born, and so, naturally, I was brought along to the ensuing party. There were a few people that I knew, although most I didn’t, and there were a meager amount of children. Save for my brother, I was the only one around my age. And so, naturally, I latched on to one of the acoustic guitars that were being passed around.

I attracted the attention of one man, probably in his 30s, and whose name I don’t remember. He recognized one of the more obscure songs I was playing, a soundtrack form an old video game called Diablo, and approached me. We started talking about games, and guitars, and then we jammed together. I had to admit, he was a pretty damn good shredder, and I told him just that.

I asked him how long he had been playing, and he said about 15 years or so.

Then he said something that will forever stick in my mind.

“After about 5 years of practicing, you sort of reach this point where you never get better anymore.”

Perhaps he was attempting to offer some kind of malformed, forlorn mentorship. I felt sad for him, not because I could never know the experiences he had which caused him to reach this conclusion, but because he was right.

He will never get better.

But it’s not because he has reached his limit. It’s because he’s resigned to stagnation.

Maybe, I’m still too young, and too oblivious. But there is nothing more depressing to me as the thought of me becoming that man. There will always be something to improve on, whether it’s chord theory, finger picking, fretting, or songwriting; or health, or education, or wisdom, or social habits, or happiness.

Maybe, I am just too young. Maybe I am ignorant. But if ignorance means never giving up, then perhaps I will be blissful for the rest of my life.