Just Call Me Peter

I just realized I am a victim of the Peter Principle.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a very quiet and withdrawn person. When people see that, they need to assign a cause. Well, if someone isn’t talking, they must be listening or thinking. If they think a lot, they must be smart. So every adult I ever met when I was a child always treated that way. Of course, I am then pressured to push myself—to fulfill their expectations.

But through life, I’ve always seemed to hit a skill ceiling pretty consistently. I’m pretty good at math, and slept through calculus, but my early career goal of working in Quantum Physics hit a wall. I’m really good at solving formulae, but I’m terrible at coming up with them. That made a career in math or physics pretty much impossible. So I gave up and went into computers instead. But even there, I’m only mediocre. I wrote successful software, but could never comprehend graphics. So I couldn’t make games, and back then, there were no game engines. I’m a fairly knowledgeable PostgreSQL DBA, but its database source code blew my mind, so I can’t contribute to it.

Of course, then I feel like a failure for not living up to the standards I had when I was younger. Everyone said I was a prodigy, and I’d be making the things that change the world. Wasn’t I some kind of genius? Well, it turns out I never was, but I’m a passable mimic. I drank the Kool-Aid my whole life and never stopped to question it. I kept getting pushed ahead until I reached a level well beyond my actual ability, where I quickly retreated.

I always felt I was a disappointment because I’d wasted my “gift.” But I was never gifted. At most, I’m above average. So having an average life with average expectations should be the normal result. Why have I been beating myself up over this for so long? I don’t suck because I’m not Dolph Lundgren. I’m not a failure simply because I’m not Notch. So why have I been mentally telling myself that for the last 20 years?

Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here enjoying my success for once.