I remember the first time I caught a fish in the river near my cave. I sat in front of the rushing liquid, watching ripples and bubbles caused by the creatures below. I stared for what felt like lifetimes. My front legs were drenched in river water and bits of dirt and grass. I knew the fish were unaware of my presence, but I still felt them mocking me and telling me how terrible I was at fishing, staring, understanding water, and being a bear. They never said anything of the sort, but I felt them think it.
My paw finally swiped one of the mocking fish. I felt its head crush under the thick padding of my paw. I dragged it toward me. For a split second, I felt awful for so swiftly ending another creature’s life, but I was far too hungry to dwell on the thought for too long.
I managed to fish. I was awful at it. I am still not too terribly good at it. It still takes me far too long to time my paws with the rush of the river. I still frequently find myself tripping into the water, scaring all of the fish away.
I am not good at fishing.
I am not good at a lot of things. I try many activities to pass the time in the forest, but I rarely find myself mastering any one of them. I still struggle with identifying bird calls. I am terrible at walking backwards. I usually fail to keep my fur shiny and smooth. I have a very hard time acquiring the proper footing to extensively climb trees.
I am not good at so many things.
When I am alone, being a bear by myself and the like, I am not bothered by my lack of expertise or mastery. Even though I certainly aspire to be good at things and spend a fair amount of time practicing said things, I am okay with my inability to enhance my skillset.
When I am not alone, however, being a bear with others around and the like, I am bothered by my lack of expertise.
Everyone else seems amazing at everything.
I stare in amazement as squirrels zip up trees with great agility. My jaw drops when I witness a bird of prey swoop down into the forest to snatch its meal. I am constantly impressed by the beauty and elegance exhibited by does as they graze the forest floor.
They are so good at eating grass.
And I will never be good at eating grass. At least not that good. I usually throw up when I eat grass. I am bad at eating grass.
It troubles me to be surrounded by expertise that I am not capable of acquiring myself. I want to be good at climbing, finding prey, and eating grass, but I simply am not. I once tried to ask a doe how she got so good at eating grass, but she quickly ran away as I approached. I am sure she would have told me the obvious, though: practice.
And I do. I practice many things, but I never feel like I have mastered any of it. I want to impress others in the forest. I want animals to see me and be amazed by my capacity to be a bear and do bear things. “There goes a bear,” the creatures would say. “He is marvelous at being a bear and doing the thing we are watching him do.”
I wonder what I look like while doing the things I practice on a daily basis. How do ants see me as they witness me try to eat grass? What do the lizards on the trees I climb think about me as I straddle the flimsy limbs and try not to fall? Is anyone impressed by the way I nap in my cave for many hours at a time? I feel like nobody is.
I want to be good at things. I want to be an expert at fishing and swimming and sleeping and eating. I want to, but I do not know if I ever will be. But whenever I find myself dwelling on that want of being a master of anything, I try to think about why I want it so bad.
Do I want to be good at fishing so I can catch fish easier? Not really. I do not mind being bad at catching fish. I really just like swishing my paws through the cool river water. I suppose I want to be good at fishing so others can be impressed by my ability to fish. Does it matter if others are impressed by me, though? Would it make my days easier or the grass on the ground tastier? I doubt it, yet I still crave it.
I need to be okay with what I am capable of. I need to embrace the bear that I am and not be ashamed of the bear I think others see. I need to do these things, but it is difficult. For now, I will keep trying to be a better bear while accepting that I might not ever be the impressive bear I want to be. I think that is okay.
I will also try to eat more grass without throwing up. I like to eat grass.
I am a bear.
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