People like to say that lives on social media look unattainable and perfect, but whenever I see something that’s beautifully curated all I can see is the sweat: the money expended, the surgery and fillers, the workouts, the interior designers, the carefully selected objects, the hours spent setting up and filming and taking photos. I think the effort is what’s most interesting. I like people who try very hard, and I like people who attempt to conceal their effort, but I especially like people who let all their effort show. We are all Frankenstein monsters—patchwork quilts of past experiences—trying to pass ourselves off as whole and cohesive things. Femininity in society is especially like that: how you dress, how you style your hair, how you apply makeup, how you eat, what jewelry you choose. These are learned things, earned things.
When the Pandemic started bike sales surged in Spain because with a bike you could ride anywhere, thus avoiding the confinement restrictions and the daily curfews. Like many others I too bought a bike; at first I thought of buying an e-bike, but once you have a motor on your bike you end up using it most of the time, so bravely I decided to buy a normal road bike; I had not been riding since I taught my youngest 12 year old daughter how to ride a bike, and that was many, many years ago. Sant Cugat, where we live, is a very hilly area and I could hardly climb any hill; our home is at the end of a hill, easy to start downhill, but impossible for me to ride uphill, so I had to walk the bike home, very shameful; with age you lose muscle mass very fast an regain it only slowly. I started biking 30 minutes three or four times a week, always lamenting not having bought an e-bike. After six months I was able to climb some hills, and finally also our home hill, yes, in the lowest gear, but at least I had not to walk up. After a year of cycling I can ride almost all the hills of Sant Cugat, a big surprise for me. There remains a very steep hill to climb, from Sant Cugat to the top of Mount Tibidabo, the mountain that overlooks Barcelona, a 550 meters rise. Biking up to Mount Tibidabo would really be a big achievement for me; maybe I can do it in another four months, maybe not, I will try. What is the lesson I learned biking? We can do more and better than we think; start small, start slow, but keep going, time is your secret ally, and with time you will go faster and better, and you can feel proud of yourself.
I'm 74 and have never been athletic, but after 17 years of learning/practicing pilates, I'm pretty darn good at it. I'm not very good at languages, but am using the pandemic to learn a new one. I'm spending a little time each day doing the lessons. It feels good (I'm beginning to get it!) and bad (I feel awkward trying to speak it....). Yes, skills take time, diligence, and getting a kick out of learning. Thanks for highlighting this issue.
This post erases class. People who start off at 3rd base and make a home run exert the same degree of effort at the people who start from home and get to first base. Many of the signifiers you elevate as evidence of effort come from a base that most folks don't have. Everyone has the ability to exert effort, but inequality ensures that those with the most have their effort multiplied exponentially while those with the least have their efforts denigrated and dismissed.
This is really well said; instead of highlighting small phrases I found myself nearly painting the whole piece. Thank you, I always enjoy hearing what you have to say.
I dont understand, are you glorifying surgery and fillers as good 'effort?
Great read. I always had a ‘to do/ not to do’ relationship with exercise, partly because I hadn’t found the exercise regime that was challenging but something that I also felt physically comfortable doing.
A year ago, I came up with my routine of cardio, weights and core exercises that I have stuck to while also increasing the intensity and changing things around a bit periodically. I focused a lot on the process involved to get a fitter body ( including eating a balanced meal) and the effort is paying off. I got disciplined about exercise and now it’s become one of my very good habits.
Fantastic piece of writing, Ava. I've approached it a slightly different way here: https://www.quora.com/What-was-it-like-for-you-to-awaken-after-having-been-in-a-coma-for-an-extended-period-of-time/answer/Matthew-J-Pallett
Thank you for saying you are interested in the process. I'm leaning into the story and process and sharing that more than the end result.
The best article I've read on Substack by a mile. I highlighted the whole thing. Holy crap! Mind blown.
This is one of the best things I’ve read this year. Thank you.
Wonderful! I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for creating it.
Interesting subject indeed.
I have been having such discussion with my 13 and 16 year old a lot recently. I am trying to teach them to have critical thinking when seeing « successful » people on instagram and YouTube. Now, their first though becomes “he probably rented the car or the house” when people are showing off. Just yesterday, I was telling them about all the hard word their mom and me put into studies and certifications to get to where we are today. They are now paying much more attention to the “silent ones” who don’t brag about success and start to slowly ask question to people who don’t talk much to learn about their “crafting”. Even I have a hard time sizing the amount of time i am putting in to learn because most of the time, I don’t see this time as “work” because “learning” out of interest does not count as “effort” perhaps?
Writing this, I am realizing that the goal might not be to “teach” our kids but to get them interested in what we want them to put effort on....
I love your piece. Your thinking lines up pretty well with my experience. I am an industrial designer, handyman, fitness buff, father and husband. People want things they own to be perfect but don't understand what it takes to make these things. When possible I like to make the things I need. Not because it is less expensive but because I can make something that fits my needs exactly, and, the task is as rewarding as using the finished product, and that says nothing for the sense of ownership and accomplishment that is a physical reminder of the time that has past in one's life.
Yeah, great read! I especially loved the comparisons to prayer, and to Michelangelo chipping away everything that didn’t look like David. Sign me up!
You have defined (and demonstrated) mastery. I am grateful.
Beautiful writing. The best stuff always inspires and that does. Thanks.