Thursday, February 24, 2011

Advice from Thomas Edison

The night before last, I decided to give up on looking for love. Too much rejection! Too much heartbreak! Too much beating my bloodied head against unbeatable odds! In a fit of despair I canceled my subscription to every dating website. I emailed every male person who had been a possibility and explained that I was no longer in any way, shape, or form interested in forming any sort of relationship. I told my friends that if the handsomest, smartest, funniest, kindest man in the world were to ask me out, I would say no.

But then on Facebook yesterday, someone posted this quote from Thomas Edison, which is apparently very well known because it turns out that you can buy T-shirts, mugs, totebags, onesies for infants, with this saying imprinted on them: "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time."

It's a great line, because it doesn't direct us to keep on trying endlessly, the old try, try again adage. Try just one more time. Of course, enough one-more-times add up to trying endlessly, but you don't have to think right now about a lifetime of endless endeavor. For now, try just one more time.

Still, there has to be something to be said as well on behalf of giving up. Authors hear stories of other authors who submitted their manuscripts dozens of times before the big, break-through acceptance, yes, but there are also manuscripts that get rejected because they are just plain bad. I've always been irked by children's books about kids who struggle with sports and doggedly keep on going and then finally earn some small success: why NOT quit an activity that isn't rewarding or fulfilling, especially if you're not very good at it? That is certainly my stance about most sports. And right now it's my stance about dating.

And yet. . . that line of Edison's repeats itself in my head. Try just one more time.

I'm not going to try today, though. Today I'm going to take my new car to get an emissions test, and to get a second key made, and to buy it some nice rubber floor mats. Today I'm going to clean and organize my very small house for the somewhat large dinner party I'm hosting tomorrow night. Today I'm going to write a chapter on my book, and write two book reviews, and read fifty pages of a dissertation.

But tomorrow - maybe - I'll think about trying just one more time.


  1. I predict love in Indiana. You will start singing "Indiana wants me"

  2. I know when I'm in fits of despair, the only advice I want is exactly how many tablespoons of cyanide per ounce of KoolAid... Yeah, bad joke.

    However, I am going to offer something up anyway, though it may not be on any t-shirts (darn you, Edison). It could never fit on a t-shirt, anyway, it's going to be insanely long. So here we go!

    I was recently visiting a very small college with a very rigorous curriculum. While I love the courses, I, unlike the general student body, am about as studious as a tree frog, so you'll imagine how relieved I was to hear one student tell this anecdote (within an anecdote, no less!):

    "Sometimes, you have to stop studying. I was giving myself a migrane studying for a Latin test, and I just had to throw down the book and go play volleyball. I ended up playing with a kid from my class, and after that we went to the caf and studied."

    He passed the test. He even remembered the material, which is considerably more meaningful.

    Why not have a fit of despair? Why not throw down your books and your eHarmony subscription and storm off for awhile? Love sucks most of the time, and the rest of the time you're too stupid to remember how much it sucks. Trying is great, but sometimes it's best to throw everything down and do your own thing.

    Because when you're doing your own thing, hosting dinner parties or going for a drive or whatever it is, the people who enjoy your thing, whom you enjoy, surface, and you find who and what you really want.

    Good luck, Claudia. <3

  3. Thanks for the wonderful post - yes, a fit of despair can be just what the doctor ordered! Followed by storming off and doing one's own thing. Followed by - ???