The Always In-Between

I know it's been a while since I last wrote. I'm in a much better place since the last time I wrote. This does happen from time to time, I'll slip into a mild depression and all the trappings that come with it (anger, guilt, frustration, etc.), then it's gone for a while.

However, since the last time I wrote, something positive did happen. I was able to land my first paying writing client. So far it's been everything I'd hoped it would be. I was able to get the client's vision of what the content should convey and how it should flow in just one revision. One. That totally blew me away.

There've been some changes, more like adds, rather than edits... and I enjoy doing this very much. I'd like to see if I can replicate this a few hundred more times so that I can achieve my dream of being a full time freelancer.

Now on to my topic of the day, it's about being in-between, but never being fully in, nor being fully out, either. This is based on a reflection that hit me the other day. Not sure what prompted it, but I came to the realization that I've always found myself being better than "x", but not quite good enough to be "y".

Then I took that thread and unraveled it all the way back to elementary school. Yeah, it goes back that far. So in elementary school, I was tested and it turned out I was a gifted student. What that meant was that the regular curriculum wasn't challenging me enough or holding my attention.

As a result, they put in me in a part time class that took place within my normal class day. So, three days a week, at a specific time, I'd have to leave my regular class, get on a bus, and go to another school, where other gifted kids went to this class. It wasn't quite the Xavier School, but it was a strange experience.

What I remember about it was that the class really didn't do much except let us read in small groups, do puzzles, color, or build stuff with blocks. I was in 3rd grade, so the detailed recollection is a little fuzzy. Then, after like two hours, we'd get back on the bus and go back to our respective schools, to then rejoin our regular class already in session.

This meant that any lessons missed during the time I was in the gifted class would need to be made up. And even back in the third grade, this whole thing made no sense to me. We weren't really doing anything in the gifted class except making us miss our regular class, to which we'd have to make up that work, which meant more work than the rest of the kids in my regular class.

So, I opted out. It was a badge of pride my parents could brag about, and it was something I could carry as an achievement of some sort, but for me, I just didn't want to do the extra work that came with that. Able to do more than an average student, not really down with the "Gifted" life.

Middle school was great, I just remember that being the best years of my life. Through and through, those were the years I experienced unconditional acceptance of my personality among my friends, true friendship, and just belonging. I was surrounded by friends, and always remember having fun things to do. I also remember alternating who's house we'd play at or spend the night at for a sleepover.

When high school came along, I played football. For all the years I'd played the sport, I was never considered good enough to be a starter. As much as I tried, I just wasn't able to unlock the key. So, good enough to play the sport, not really good enough to be a starting player.

On the academic side, I was never a star player there either (by choice), yet I was always being recommended for more "challenging" classes. I'd start in regular English class, and the teacher would pick up on something I said or did (I have no idea what) and recommend me for an advanced class. I was a "C" student, but not being challenged enough my teacher would say.

So on I went to Advanced English. To me, it was kinda like regular English class, and I didn't have to get on a bus to go to another school for this, either. And, after getting more Cs in Advanced English, that teacher somehow determined I wasn't being challenged enough and recommended me for Advanced Placement English. Why was this happening to me??

And, the grades I'd get in AP English? You guessed it... Cs across the board. In my AP English class, we had a writing project to do. It was to write an original short story (before I realized how much I love writing). And as a typical kid does, I procrastinated the hell out of the project. I had a great idea and premise for the story, but the teacher had one very scary caveat to the project:

One sentence fragment, anywhere in the story, would result in a zero for the project

I was like, "Oh, hell no"! So, I came up with an idea... I went up to the teacher and said, "Um, my story is going to be a fictional personal diary of someone who doesn't exist. If someone who's writing in my diary, am I really worried about my grammar?"

She had to keep from busting out laughing, as she was always very poised. Then she said, "Solely on the fact that you came up with such a creative angle for your story, grammar will not count for your submission." Ok, one obstacle down.

While the story was fictional, it was based on a time in history that was real. I did my research and interviewed people from that era so that I could write a journal as someone who was actually living in that era.

But, as I was a terminal procrastinator, I found myself hurriedly trying to finish the story during my weightlifting class just before English class. I slapped it together and turned it in. Honestly, I didn't feel proud of what I submitted, my only goal was to submit it on time. I really could have done more if I'd taken advantage of the time.

Turned out I got an A+ AND my teacher gave my story to the AP History teacher to read. What is she doing to me?? The AP History teacher found me on campus and came up to me to ask about my story. I answered her questions, and she then personally invited me to join her AP History class, and if I did, I'd be invited to be a guest speaker of the class when we got to that era I wrote about. She said that I obviously took time to really study and know the era very well.

As she was someone who was around during that period of time I wrote about, she was amazed at how accurately I was able to write about that era. So I said sure, and joined her class mid-semester. And do you know what grades I got in her class? I'm sure you know by now.

So, as I was in these advanced classes, I was good enough to not be in the regular classes, but not quite good enough (admittedly, by my own choices) to be part of the braniac crowd. You know, the ones that wore glasses, were mathletes, and always had their textbooks with them. Nope, I was a normal kid, who spoke normal English, and hung out with other kids who were the same... not wanting to be labeled or belong to any clique or particular trend of the day. We were neutral, and very level, we just hung out.

Then comes the military. On this one, I didn't really slack off per se. I wanted to be good at being a Soldier. It was my dream ever since I could talk. However, there were times I'd had opportunities to really go for the gusto, but instead, just did what I knew I did well. Doesn't mean I wasn't a risk taker, I did volunteer for combat duty when a real shooting war broke out during my time in the service, and I got my wish.

Which, if you've read some of my other posts, you'd know, I'm still paying the price for being young and romantic. Several of my superiors had wanted me to stay in, but being the always in-between, I got out. So, was above average as a Soldier, but not really good enough to be a lifer.

Then, when another war broke out a little over a decade later, I went back in and went to war again. Then, when my tour was over, against many of my superiors' urgings to the contrary, I got out again. This time it was for nothing more than to be a (living) father to my young children from a previous marriage and a husband to a woman I still love very much to this day. Yeah, she digs me too, so we're doing the whole growing old together thing.

So, now comes my storied IT career of around 30 years. Among my managers and leaders, I've always been a little better than many of my peers in all the ways that matter. Hard worker, gets along with everyone, doesn't give up, takes initiative, has leadership abilities... all the things that make a boss look good.

But, never quite good enough to be a true manager. During my second time in the Army, I was an NCO, and I took that responsibility very seriously and did all I could to bring honor to the rank and what it stood for. But, in the civilian world, I was always good enough to land the special projects, or lead teams for implementations... but not quite full time manager material.

And now that I'll be 50 later this year, it dawned on me that I've always been in the in-between guy. As I'm studying for my first AWS certification, I think I want to be the guy that's all in. Except, on my terms. I don't want management, that's for sure, and I don't even want to be a full time employee. My kids are grown and living in different parts of the country, so I can really spend quality time with my wife, or on improving myself.

So, when I say all in, I mean all in with taking the courses, passing the tests, and above all, actually making a self employed career of my design. If for nothing else than to experience what it's like to not hold myself back by always being in-between.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Jay's Journal
All posts