My neighbor and I were daubing the last bit of sealant on the shared driveway, under his direction. I leaned on my broom a little too hard, it snapped, and thworlp! my forearm was coated with viscous, lukewarm tar.
"You're fired," he said.
Now, I've talked about my skill with tools in the past; on the spectrum of general handiness, I'm sort of a five out of ten. The bulky things come easiest. I'm good with stone walls, as long as you don't want them ruler straight, and I'm a decent digger. I have little patience for the detail work, which includes such things as measuring, masking, working slowly, planning. As I said in a recent post, I only learned one knot in all my scouting years.
But none of that matters. Because no matter how bad—or at least not great—I am at other things, I can still run. Perhaps because the skill was so hard to earn, or because it was something that seemed so alien to me for so long, putting a few miles together still feels like an achievement, every time.
In the rigid world of times and scoring, I'm about as good a runner as I am a house-painter. But while I look at any given paint job and see where I should have applied some tape, I remember every race as though I broke the tape. Like air guitar or karaoke, you don't have to actually be good at running in order to feel good about your skill level.
First prize for my age group is still safe in some other runner's hands. My times may not improve. That's okay. Because when I change out of my synthetic gear and put on leather shoes and go off to test my competence in other arenas, there's always this quiet spot right at the center, a place I can mentally put my finger on and say "I'm good at this."
And that's almost as rewarding as watching your neighbor finish sealing your driveway.