There’s a woman I sort of know. I say sort of, because I wouldn’t really count her as a friend. We don’t live in the same town, so ours is a long distance acquaintance. We’ve run into each other now and then, and corresponded a few times. From what I know of her, though, I know that she is one of those golden people: genetically gifted in a way that most of us are not. Which makes me sort of…jealous.
I know, you are probably more enlightened than this. Maybe it’s not so much that I am jealous. I don’t want this woman’s life. Maybe I am just curious. What would it be like to be so good at everything?
The woman I speak of can ski like a dream. She is a whitewater kayaker. She runs, she swims, she mountain bikes. Everyone who knows her is fascinated by her: she has a sizzling personality that just doesn’t quit. Naturally she is beautiful. And, to top it off, she’s nice.
How does it happen that someone’s DNA comes together in a way that everything she tries she can pick up easily? I know plenty of people who excel at one, maybe two things. Then there are people like this woman, who seem to exist on a different plane.
A good shot of jealousy (admiration?) can be enervating. It can spur me to run faster. Drag out the skis and try again. Spend hours trying to craft the perfect paragraph. Jealousy, when channeled, can be a good thing. Like your mom may have told you, Somebody’s always going to be better than you. (The unspoken message here was, so toughen up and just do your best! Stop being so self-absorbed!)
It’s true that you can labor for hours at your chosen sport but hard work can only get you so far. You need that wisp of talent that was placed into your genes, the one you got in the luck of the draw. Case in point, I ran and ran and ran, but never progressed beyond a six minute mile, and I could never string those together very far. With good coaching? Maybe, but an Olympian I would never become.
There’s also opportunity. At our local ski area, I see seven year old kids bombing down the slopes, fearless and fast. The same kids won’t be great swimmers, at least not until they move away, because the nearest pool is 65 miles down a two-lane road. My friends’ kids in Alaska grew up diving for abalone and surfing, but in order to ski they have to really want it, hiking two thousand feet with skis strapped to their backpacks. No ski areas, no rope tow, around the corner for them.
I’m always going to be a little jealous of Golden Girl. But then I remind myself: the most important thing is that all of us, Golden Girls, weekend warriors, even the woman I see struggling to walk her dog each morning, are lucky enough to be able to have the chance to be outside recreating, not struggling to survive, the way women have to do in so many other countries. We can wear running skirts, not burkas. We don’t have to walk five miles for water. That’s what is worth celebrating, not how fast someone runs or how beautifully they can carve turns.