Testing and failing, most every day

By the time we get to Friday we’re all so tired, we’ve just started going out for dinner. Last night I took the high road and just had a salad but when we got home, a couple slices of pizza and an ice cream cone. There’s no way I’ll lose weight like this, climbing up Cougar Mountain as my only exercise, once a week. I’ll catch snatches of myself going by the mirror in the middle of the night and it’s troubling, I’m reminded of all those aging dads I knew growing up (fat slobs who couldn’t take care of themselves) and now I look just like one of them, and I don’t care. I’m pushing up against my waistline to the point I should buy new sizes but refuse to — and when I get home and out of my clothes, I’m like a sausage released of its casing.

I’ve been thinking about this idea of tests, now that I’ve finished up my first five weeks at the new job. There are the tests to see how fit you are for the work and the workplace, then the tests parents face with their kids, and their relationships, the tests with our own tempers, our self-discipline: most everything breaks down as a test. The word “test” sounds bad though, clipped, probably something I associate from being a kid. It meant buckling down, to be measured. But what I’ve come to learn about tests is, it’s not the score but what you learn in the process of testing. And then to test again, and again.

When I worked at Starbucks I mentored with a guy I really admired, in part because of his thought process, and how he broke down problems. He was a real pain in the ass, but people gravitated around him for similar reasons. You could learn a lot. I often felt diminished after our debates, but it was a lot like losing at chess: each time you lose, you record the reasons why, and then lessen the likelihood you’ll lose again that same way.

What I wanted to talk about in my job interview was all the mistakes I’d made in my career, that made me more valuable I thought, to the firm and the people I’d one day manage. Experience boils down to that, in a sense. It’s like street smarts: it comes from bad things, not good. But talking about mistakes in job interviews is a slippery slope, like verboten topics on first dates, you don’t want to introduce any reason for doubt.

Because it’s a Saturday, I took a few minutes when I got to the lake to sit there on the rocks and watch the water, anglers out on the dock. They were smoking and speaking in some Asian language, and it felt like I was in a movie. A couple crows were in the tree above me, one making a sound I’d never heard a crow make, a sweet ‘caw’ to the other. The marine layer was thick and muggy and a light rain fell. It was early enough some of the street lamps were pink-orange, and it felt buggy, walking by the tall grass off the shoulder.

I sat in the recliner after we got back from dinner and remembered our time in Ireland for some reason, that Christmas my mom came and I picked her up at the airport in Cork, and then we tried to find a quiet place that was still open for a drink. Walking back up the steep street to our flat, then breakfast the next morning at a small café. I don’t know what triggered the memory, just a moment of realizing how precious and strange times like those were. And the fact that they’re still happening with all these memories we make, every day.

Not knowing exactly where I was planning to go with this but feeling compelled to, this post, like most every one that I’ve written, was a test.


Categories: Memoir, travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. Being long past high school and college exams, “test” to me = “challenge”. Let’s see how much I know, how I compare to the masses … and why do it? As you say, the process (more than results) = learning. Almost always.
    I enjoy your mental wanderings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s right! The process over the results, or the results are the process! Thanks for reading and for letting me know you enjoy the wandering! Appreciate it, Bill.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, daily failing builds character. I always think of the lyrics to that old standard: 🎵 “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!” 🎵

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your columns are always interesting, sometimes full of pretty sharp-cornered thoughts, but this one somehow is both substantial and notably graceful. Despite your offensive vocabulary. (Test, job interview, losing, sausage.) (No wait, I love sausages. Lunchtime. Enjoy the weekend!)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. There is something about that phrase ‘sausage released of its casing’ that is both amusing and kind of revolting. Quite brilliant, to inject new life into an old image like that, sounding both old and present, a bit like this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. There’s more value to posts that don’t know where they’re going than the ones that do. And to continue in that vein, more joy in a little bit of success after a lot of failure than success all the way.

    Great post that made me stop and think for a bit. Love your writing! Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for that my friend, I agree! Don’t get in a cab with me driving unless you want the scenic route 😏 thanks for sharing your thoughts and reading. Bill


  6. and it was a great test at that. like meandering down a long winding, dirt road, you eventually end up somewhere, though it may not be anywhere you intended.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve always said that every day is my opportunity to be the best dad, husband, employee, supervisor, human being I can be. Every day I fail and then try it again the next day. It’s pushing the rock up the hill on a daily basis. It’s what we do.

    Liked by 1 person

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