We were at a park today. There were some guys playing basketball. I watched them for a little bit and wondered if they had ever hoped to make it big, be discovered, play in the NBA. Do they ever get discouraged that they are still playing pickup at the park? Or wish that they’d had the opportunities and resources and coaches that those other kids got? Do they hang their heads for being average and begrudge others their success?

I wonder this because I may never write a book. Or even for a major publication. I may never learn to longboard. I could spend many years chasing race times that I will never achieve, no matter how much I run. My children might grow up to be average, just like everybody else. My home will likely never win any sort of recognition for quality in design, decoration, or cleanliness. In fact, there are a whole slew of things that I dream of that may never come to pass.

But then again, am I writing all the time because I want to be published somewhere that everyone reads? Do I run to break personal records? Do I parent my children because I think it will help them become the best and brightest of everything?

Um, no. Not really.

I write because I like to write. It makes me happy. Same with running. Same with being a mom. (And also, who cares if my kids are the best and brightest at everything if they aren’t happy? Isn’t that what matters? I’d much rather have a child who was happy and average than above average and miserable.)

Those dreams I have are, I believe, good to have. They give me something to work toward, something to measure progress against. Even if I never quite get there, at least I’ll have improved along the way.

And so what if today wasn’t the day I had hoped for? So what if I was 1 for 8 on the thrift-store list? Does it really matter that we made it to swimming lessons on time, with everything but Manchild’s swimming trunks? Not really. We cried our tears together, forgot about it and had a good time anyway. We may not have conquered the day, but we still gave it our best shot and we were happy about that.

Those guys are at the park? They are there because they love to play. Who cares if it isn’t in an arena as long as they get to launch that ball and watch it float toward that net, to charge and dodge and jump and pass and screen. I’ll still be happy if I never race again as long as I can keep running. I’ll be happy if I never write the Great American Book of Creative Non-Fiction as long as I can keep writing. I’ll be happy if Manchild and Squish never win the NBA Slamdunk contest. As long as they do their best. And as long as they are happy.

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