Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crabs In The Bucket

A single crab in a lidless bucket is bound to escape. Yet when more than one share a bucket, none can get out. If one crab elevates itself above all, the others will grab this crab and drag it back down to share the common fate of the rest. So it is with people. Some find themselves in a family or circle of friends that will pull them down if they strive to better themselves. Don't let crabs discourage you. Find people outside the bucket who will pull you up and out.

I heard that story many years ago, and it has stuck with me since. So many people, even if their intentions are well-meaning, pull us back down in the bucket of despair. They tell us we're not good enough, or that we shouldn't follow such "non-academic" pursuits as writing, art, or music. My own father, who I love dearly, and who I'm sure only had my best interests at heart, dissuaded me from following my true path when I was just a kid.

See, I was always a writer. I was always meant to write stories. I was more artistic and enjoyed classes that had to do with music, art, and writing. But my dad wanted me to be an academic. I was to be a chemist, or an engineer, or a scientist. So, I studied. And studied. And studied. I became what my school called a five-year math student, doubling up math classes in preparation for my inevitable trip to Purdue to study mechanical engineering. I took Physics, Calculus, Trigonometry, and Honors English. Physics was actually kind of fun. And one course of study in Trig was awesome. But it was Honors English that I really liked, even though back then I didn't fully realize it. However, I had to really WORK at these academic classes. I lugged home a mountain of textbooks and suffered through hours of homework every night. And I mean, SUFFERED. This stuff just didn't come easily to me.

Long story short: I suffered ulcers, depression (not clinical), severe tension, and by my sophomore year, I had burned out. All I wanted to do when I got home was turn on my radio, pull out my notebooks and pens, and write. Write, write, write. Story after story.

If my parents had been paying attention, they would have identified my future right away, but they weren't. My mom was too busy focusing on herself, and my dad didn't want me to waste my time on a dream. He wanted me to get a "real job." And a real job was one you hated but did, anyway. His idea of a real job was  one that paid really well. That was the only qualification.

The trouble with that is that I wasn't cut out for a "real job." I was so burned out by my senior year that my straight As had dropped to straight Cs and one D. Purdue didn't happen, either, but I had to drop Calculus only a few weeks into the term because I was failing. You can't be an engineer if you can't do Calculus (I later went on to ace Calculus in community college, but by then I had given up the idea of becoming an engineer).

The point is, watch out for the crabs in your bucket. Even ones with good intentions will pull you down. Break out of the bucket and find new crabs who will elevate you and support you to succeed. And, hey, we weren't all cut out for "real jobs." We can't all be academics and engineers. Some of us need to add beauty and entertainment to the world. That's what I was made to do with my writing. I know that now, and even though it took over a decade for me to finally pull myself out of my crab bucket, I did. You can, too.

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