We All Suck at Something, at Least Some of the Time

Maybe you’ve read it. It’s been shared about 3 bazillion times on Facebook. Shonda Rhimes’ commencement speech at Dartmouth  makes me wish I’d gotten better grades in high school so that I might have heard her give that speech in person.

Because it was walking-into-Ben-&-Jerry’s-in-a-pair-of-expensive-shoes fantastic; coming-home-from-a-long-trip-to-a-professionally-cleaned-house fantastic; end-of-a-deployment fantastic.

(Okay, maybe not end-of-a-deployment fantastic. But the speech was pretty good.)

A lot of people have focused on Rhimes’ advice to be a doer, not a dreamer. Dreamers, she said, end up living in relatives’ basements; doers give commencement speeches at Dartmouth. Great advice, but here’s the part that really gripped me:

Shonda, how do you do it all?
The answer is this: I don’t.
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.

Even as I write this commentary, my 2-year-old daughter has a face covered in yogurt and is spellbound, with drool literally leaking from the corners of her mouth and parked in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Not exactly a #winning moment for me as a mom.

If I am killing it on a Scandal script for work, I’m probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I am probably blowing off a script I was supposed to rewrite. If I’m accepting a prestigious award, I’m missing my baby’s first swim lesson. If I am at my daughter’s debut in her school musical, I am missing Sandra Oh’s last scene ever being filmed at Grey’s Anatomy.

Put in MilSpouse terms, that might sound something like this:

  • If I’ve managed to hold onto the elusive telecommuting job, I probably don’t know the other spouses in my FRG.
  • If I am universally beloved as a FRG volunteer, my kids are probably eating hot dog spaghetti for dinner tonight.
  • If I insist on only feeding grass-fed, organically grown, sustainable harvested foods that I cut into the shape of of Doc McStuffins and the Millenium Falcon to my family, then I probably hate that I use my driver’s license more than I use my college degree.
  • If I closed a big deal at work during the same week that I organized the most successful PTA art sale ever, my body is probably softer and rounder than I’d like.
  • If I look better now than I did at 19, I probably feel guilty for all the hours I spend at the gym and all the times I passed on eating the special cookies my kids made.
  • If I sent my DH a themed care package every week during the last deployment, my co-workers probably resented how my lunch breaks seemed to always be 10 minutes longer than allowed.

Let’s all stop pretending. None of us is #winning in everything, all the time.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse isn’t the worst thing in the world and I, for one, have intentionally put yogurt on my face before to minimize pores. Or something. I can’t remember what the yogurt was supposed to do. Anyway, my daughter will be just fine.

We can’t be rock stars at everything, all the time. In fact, sometimes we can’t even be roadies.

We pick what is most important to us in each moment and we do it the very best that we can. We #win at one thing at a time.

And — and this is the most important part — we drop the guilt. Because if Shonda Rhimes, the queen of Thursday nights, the master of the staccato monologue, fails a little every day, why should I expect perfection?


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