But Not Good Enough

Faced with the prospect of spending 25 hours of Shabbat with a husband whom I was, to put it mildly, not getting along with, I said “Fuck that” and skipped town. I drove two hours away to do something that was not Shabbat-friendly.

Photo by Taras Makarenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/cars-ahead-on-road-593172/

Driving by myself when there’s little traffic and just easy highway driving, and I don’t have to deal with passengers puts me in a good mood. I sang along to the radio. Yeah, I’m old school and listen to the radio vs. streaming from my phone or something that would guarantee I hear the music I like, but it works for me.

I harmonized. I belted. I sang whatever and however I felt like. It felt so damn good.

And not to brag, but I sounded good. Like, really good.

I wasn’t on stage, but man, I sounded like I could be. Photo by Josh Rocklage on Unsplash

Singing that well puts me in a daydreaming mood. I started fantasizing about the opportunity to perform and show-off at a work talent show. Mind you, the likelihood of this ever materializing is approximately 0.0000%, and even if it did, I have at least one coworker who is a professional opera singer, so I would inevitably make a complete fool out of myself, quit my job out of humiliation and shame, and end up unemployed in a recession. But I was really enjoying indulging in the fantasy of it. Oh, and not just the fantasy of performing in public and being amazing at it, but also the fantasy of the-coworker-I-have-a-crush-on-that-I-will-absolutely-never-do-anything-about-but-man-is-it-fun-to-indulge-in-daydreaming being wowed by my ahmaaaazziingg performance and falling in love with me. Again, the likelihood of any of that happening is approximately 0.0000000000000%. But it was fun to fantasize.


The other thing that happened on Saturday was that I learned that someone I know personally got a book deal for their first novel that came with a $25,000 advance. In fact, I learned that this person was actually offered a two-book deal with a $50,000 advance – and was advised by their agent not to take the deal because their agent thought they could get a better offer for the second book.

Not a portrait of the published novelist I know or their book. This is a stock photo. Photo by Paul White on Unsplash

I am really happy for This Person. They are a talented writer, and they’ve worked really hard. I haven’t read this novel yet but based on what I know of This Person’s other writing, they absolutely deserve this.

But I also felt an odd unsettled feeling. It wasn’t jealousy exactly, but…

For context, you need to know that I had met This Person, now a Published Author With $25,000 Advance, a couple years ago in the context of a writing workshop where we were both participants, both learning from the same workshop leader. Their poetry was really good, but mine was good enough that I felt like we were peers. We talked about our work like we were peers.

And it is weird realizing that we weren’t peers. That This Person was so much better than me and was simply modest enough not to be conceited about it.


There seems to be a lot of things where I’m “good”, but not “good enough”:

  • Writing – I know I am a good writer (although I cringe writing that because good writers don’t have to tell you they’re good). But I also know there are better writers.
  • Singing – All the self-deprecation and angsty overlong posts aside, I know I’m not a bad singer. That my voice is such that you’ll look up and pay attention when I sing karaoke or chant Haftarah. But I also know that so many people are so much better. Even in competitive karaoke, I lost far more often than I won, and I humiliated myself more times than I can count.
  • Career – On the one hand, my career looks respectable, especially to people not in my field or people wanting to enter my field. On the other hand, there are a lot of people in my industry niche who are a lot younger with far more impressive titles and making a lot more money than me. I have lies of omission on my resume/LinkedIn that make me look a couple years younger, and I still look old and under-accomplished in comparison.

Rationally, I know that this is just the reality of things. Most people are neither the very best nor the very worst; probability is such that we’re all muddling along somewhere in the mediocre middle.

This is exactly what Aristotle meant in his Doctrine of the Mean. Just kiddingit totally isn’t. I just needed an image to break up the self-deprecation and self-loathing in order to make this post less boring. Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Sometimes I wonder if it’s mentally easier to just be bad at something. Like I don’t have any angst about being a shitty chess player or a shitty golfer – I know I suck at those things and I can accept that. It’s the “good, but not good enough” things that I feel like I don’t know what to do with.

There are outlets, of course. Blogging. Karaoke and fun low-pressure song collabs with fellow bloggers (sorry Tim, I’ve been too preoccupied with other life drama to do any of the song collabs I owe you!) Continue working in and trying to rise in this industry niche, or switch to another one – whatever best optimizes the work-life balance to desired compensation/title/advancement opportunities ratio. Basically, do what you want and stop caring about what other people think. But that’s really hard to do.


I didn’t sing much on the drive back home.


  1. A $25,000 advance? Oh mylanta, I’d be green with envy!! Ohhh!! Of course, I’d try to hide it and act supportive, which I would also be, but oh gracious, that would be really hard!! Ouch!! Wow!! I feel ya!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Life gets in the way of a lot of things. I know that good but not good enough feeling very well. A lot of it is that I have so many interests and I get bored with working on one particular skill. As I get older, I have more adult-onset ADD. When I was playing flamenco guitar seriously and performing, I practiced 4 to 6 hours a day, and I got pretty damn good, but there were so many guitarists who were way better than I was. Now I have to be satisfied with being a mediocre guitarist because of neuropathy, and arthritis and I don’t have the patience to sit and practice for hours. When I write a song, I practice enough to get the guitar and bass parts recorded, and then I often forget how to play what I played. I can’t play a lot of the guitar parts I recorded in my songs now. I would be a disaster if I tried to play live these days.

    Are there talent shows at your work? I would never enter a work talent show. Hang in there.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Adjusting to life, work and professional changes takes courage. I’d bask in the memories. Playing classical guitar, practicing hours everyday, and having an old master teacher in Italy was a highlight in my guitar playing years. Not the same today, and I’m okay with the adjusting to the limitations. You are pretty much a notable star today with your photography, poetry, and guitar playing videos on your popular website. 📚🎶 Christine

      Liked by 2 people

          • I’ve found that the way to improve my mediocre self is to seek the advice and instruction of people who are way better than me. Before we moved to Spain, I thought the local flamenco guitarists and the few flamenco guitarists we had from Spain were darn good, but it was a real eye-opener to discover the skill and talent of Spanish guitarists. The Spanish guitarists that had moved to NM were top notch for NM, but they were only mediocre in Spain. The guitarists I studied with knew and played with Paco de Lucia. And they were close to Paco’s equal in skill. Being in the same room with people who could play like that was mind-boggling.

            Liked by 2 people

          • Absolutely, I agree. Remember those exhilarating times in Spain. They will encourage you today. I like to say once upon a time, I played classical guitar. And today it helps me to strum a few cords to a favorite song. It’s never going to be the same, and that’s okay. Other choices in life got in the way of a music career. 🎶🎶🎶

            Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting question you pose. Have you heard the research about the Olympic medalists? The bronze medalists are way happier than the silver medalists – because they made the podium while the silver medalists feel like they missed goal. Comparison is such a tough mentality!

    I think your prescription to just do whatever” sings” to you and not care what others want is a good one. You’re right – hard to do!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I hadn’t heard that research, but it makes sense. It’s especially tough to think about the fact that with all the endorsement money on the line, the difference between gold medal sponsorship and endorsement deals could be milliseconds, but that says more about branding and capitalism than athletic performance and achievement. But definitely, comparison is tough

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I think that talent and hard work should pay off, but luck enters into it too. How many mediocre talents end up millionaires while equally (or more talented) performers end up toiling in the shadows. The best many of us can do is keep on plugging (whether that is singing/writing/performing/dancing, etc) and hope we will be discovered, but that usually means putting ourselves out there to be discovered. Not to many diamonds discovered among the detritus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadly, I sometimes feel like I have more in common with the mediocre talents! Like if I ever finish the novel I started and get it published, it will be because said novel is a stupid-funny satire novel that’s easily marketed, not because it is a work of literary genius.
      Well taken point re: putting yourself out there

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you ever got published and your novel is well marketed, it would be because, it’s worth it’s salt.
        Don’t look down on yourself, you are a lot better than most.
        There’s an article you wrote where you were being silly and outright sarcastic, don’t remember its title, but i found it very good a piece of writing. There was nothing average about it. That says much, given it was sarcastic. Somehow, you balanced the humour and sarcasm to deliver a great piece that many people loved as evidenced in the comments section. Only, good talents can pull off a piece of writing like that.

        Believe more in yourself my friend👍🏿😁

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hahaha. I couldn’t stop reading this till the end. And when it ended, i still wanted more. I think i like this “it’s happening, so let it happen” attitude you have, girl. It’s helping you overcome stress and anxiety a lot. Something sotta like “sit in tight or piss in sight” 😃😂 I love your love for singing and your career, how you don’t want to lose one for the other. And man! $25000 advance! What a fortune!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Man you’re so judgemental of yourself. Would you say to another friend that was a good writer but not published the things you say about yourself? Would you say it to me? Writing a book is bloody hard work. I don’t know if I will ever commit that level of time and focus to my craft. I want to but life has a way of making it hard and my personality hasn’t to date been especially disciplined. But that’s not a comment on my writing or my ability. Or the luck of finding the right publisher to recognise my work. I won a little poetry comp last year but if I had sent in different poems I may not even have placed. The judge happened to really like that one poem of the three I sent in. Art is subjective. How people interact with it is as much about them as about you. You are a good writer. But how much time do you commit to it compared to this published author you know? And how hard did they look for a book deal before they found one? I know a published author too. I was at UNni with her and I am so proud and pleased for her achievements. But she works sooooo hard. She has made Writing her life. It took her 7 years to get her first novel written and published. 7 Years! She’s published another novel and a memoir since then. Doing other atuff isn’t shameful. It’s a valid choice.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make a lot of really good points about publication and awards – they are as much about persistence and willingness to put oneself out there as well as merit. I think your writing is amazing and that your competition win is well deserved! Funny enough, your comment reminds me of something I used to say when I passed the Jeopardy! college tournament audition exam (I was never selected for the show) – there was a lot of luck involved, and if they’d asked a different set of questions during the audition, I wouldn’t have passed the test.
      Congrats to your published author friend!

      Liked by 2 people

      • JYP, I think you’re incredibly talented at singing and writing. I don’t have much exposure to the rest of your life but I gather you have a half decent career too. I just can’t take how down you are on yourself. I do wonder whether I don’t read your posts in the right tone – that you’re using black humour and I’m reading it as straight up prose. In any case, I find it deeply troubling how convinced you are that other people look down on you, judge you, etc for things that are, to some degree, outside your control – like where you live, whether you are this kind of Jew or that kind, or whether you have kids or not. If people judge you for these things, they are not nice people and their opinions are tainted by that problem.

        If having cancer taught me anything, it’s that we only get one life and it can end much more suddenly than we think. So take it and run!! Maybe if you believe in an afterlife, that’s not such a motivating force. But for me, it has made a big difference. I can’t give you advice. I can’t even seem to rant at you effectively. LOL. So I am going to bow out. I love your writing but I worry about you too much. I hope you find a wonderful pond and that you and your husband are able to resolve your differences and enjoy each other. He sounds like a pretty decent bloke. I didn’t want to just stop following you. That seemed really rude. So I hope you will forgive this comment. You can always delete it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Worms, I appreciate your comment! A few things:

          1) I have written in that darker self-deprecating humor tone before, although that wasn’t the intention of this post. But even on the posts intended to have self-deprecating humor, I appreciate that there are readers who find this a turn-off. Hell, even I hate self-deprecating humor when the author does it badly.

          2) A challenge of anonymous blogging is that it’s hard to give context. My industry niche is small, and it’s hard to describe the ways in which my industry is both more judgmental and more accepting than one might expect while keeping anonymity. It’s also hard to accurately describe our marital struggles without treading into territory that my husband (who is, in fact, a pretty decent guy) would not forgive me for sharing.

          3) At the same time, I get that a lot of the perceived judgment I write about here is a “me” problem, not necessarily an industry/Jewish community thing. I’m mad at myself because I wanted to live somewhere else and have children and be at a better stage in my career, and I judge myself for that. But I have industry colleagues who look at me like a respected colleague. And I have friends in my Jewish community who have nice houses and children who don’t judge me. (And I’m not above cutting off contact with those whom I think are judging me…) No matter how often I made a fool of myself during the competitive karaoke league, fellow competitors still seemed to appreciate me as a participant and performer. I appreciate that the perceived judgment is more often than not me judging myself for not meeting my own expectations vs. someone else judging me.

          4) This blog suffers from a massive lack of perspective. I haven’t experienced a major illness/serious health condition/massive loss/or severe financial insecurity. I’d like to believe that my feelings are still valid, but I acknowledge that the perspective that comes from having lived through hardships is missing here. Even the marriage problems I’m dealing with right now – I am married to a decent guy and while I wouldn’t exactly say that things are pleasant right now, I appreciate that things could certainly be far worse. I’m grateful to the readers and commenters who remind me to maintain perspective.

          I always appreciate your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments, and it is helpful to know how my readers/blog friends are perceiving my writing. That said, like you said, life is short. If you aren’t enjoying the experience of reading my blog, then, and I say this with sincerity and friendship, please do not read it. Life is too short to read things that make you unhappy/stressed, etc! I do not take offense at your decision to unfollow.

          With friendship,

          Liked by 2 people

  7. JYP, you’re in a highly competitive field with professionals on stage and in private offices. Their lives highly stressful to maintain top positions. Accomplishing something has to be a personal win, not newspaper headline news. I commented on Tim’s comment to you. Not that you are in his or my age bracket, but over the years, adjusting to change and limitations takes a whole lot of courage. Your many blog followers are still around, and you really can write well. It’s hard to get recognized unless your have a high-powered connection. And only a few have that. Another hang in there! 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • For sure – it absolutely makes sense to change one’s goals over time based on changing circumstances and desires. And yes, while big splashy achievements paying tons of money are rare, it doesn’t mean that one can’t achieve goals that are meaningful to oneself and celebrate those.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I believe that aspirational thinking is helpful even if one’s talents are not allegedly “world-class”. Why not enjoy singing? I sometimes sing alone in the car. I’ve been caught doing this at traffic lights. I just grin and continue along. No harm done, and my comfort zone is expanded. It’s OK to let your hair down and just live life authentically. If we sometimes compare our dreams to other people’s accomplishments, that’s OK, if we do so mindfully.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I so appreciate your honesty. And the discussion your posts generate. I have written about the same feeling, the idea of being good at a number of things but not great at anything. I am sorry to hear you are in a rough spot with the husband, but life does have those moments. They can lead to better things. Enjoyed this moment into your life…


  10. Just for what it’s worth: one day I was lamenting to a friend that I listened to a Tommy Emanuel CD (a very, very accomplished musician and guitar player) and I now felt compelled to throw my guitar away and give up music. He said, sure Tommy Emanuel’s good, but would you just listen to his music only, for the rest of your life? I thought that was a good point. There are all levels of skill and genius out there, and everybody’s different and there is ALWAYS someone better than you.
    At this point, I wouldn’t hazard a guess at my level of expertise, but it’s fun, so who cares.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ll lighten the mood a bit here. Since I can’t sing but love to lipsync, and you can sing but love anonymity, how about we make a music video and I’ll lipsync to your song 😂😂😂.

    Anyways, you’ve read my blog, you know how I am with self-judging, so no need to rehash that.

    AND you don’t need to reply to my million comments, I just wanted to express my thoughts on the posts I missed!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I just happen to be reading Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. I believe what you experienced is called envy. It happens. You’re probably just as good as 25k-book-deal writer. A lot of times, book deals have nothing to do with talent, per se.

    On another note, I love the driving alone description. Freedom or a sense of it is hella important, and I’m glad you were able to have that for yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The best way to beat ourselves up is to indulge in constant comparisons with people who aren’t us. None of us are never going to be someone else. One solution is choosing to enjoy being ourselves as we are or maybe even trying to be our better selves. You are a good writer, you feel like a good singer. Let yourself be, enjoy these things by shutting down the competitiveness. Celebrity doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of life and competitiveness is often an anxiety ridden waste of what could be pleasurable time.

    Liked by 1 person

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