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The reluctant guru speaks

This is likely to be rambling and disconnected. That's what happens when you're reluctant.

Somebody called me a "guru" in the comments of the last post. I've also been called "godfather" and "dean" and all those other mighty-might nouns that make me cringe.

Let me fill you in on a little secret.

I hate being the answer man.

As you might know, I'm somewhat of an answer man in real life. I'm a boss. Not one of those big bosses. I'm one of those in-between bosses that gets crap from both sides. There are many days when I question why I ever wanted to be a boss, and there have been days when I've been within seconds of telling my superior that I would rather just write and maybe we could work something out.

But still, here I am, being a boss.

I think the reason for my issues in this area is that I can't be everything that everyone wants me to be. The people under you want you to do certain things and be a certain way and the people over you want you to do certain things and be a certain way, and both sides crab if it doesn't work out to their satisfaction, and, guess what? IT NEVER DOES. Meanwhile, I just want to BE.

Expectations are a bitch.

So, when I received a request to provide some insight for disenchanted collectors, I thought, "oh, here we go. Go bother someone else."

But I can't say no (not when I don't have another post idea). So here I am, reluctantly.

I've written about how to tackle disenchantment in the hobby before. It received a lot of nice comments. I was also accused on Twitter of being a know-it-all and "how dare I speak for everyone?" This is one of the reasons I'm not on Twitter anymore.

And one of the reasons why I don't like being called a "guru."

But a lot of the things I wrote about then still apply for those who are questioning their card habits.

The thing is: it's simple. If you want to stay in the hobby, find something in it that makes you happy and go with that. Otherwise, just get out, and find something else.

It's a hobby. It's not meant to be filled with angst and agony and "what am I DOING here?" It's supposed to be fun. An escape. We've got enough in our lives that wears us out, why do you want the hobby to do that, too?

If you don't like doing what you're doing in the hobby, I don't see the point in wringing your hands about it and asking "what's become of me?" Spare yourself the drama. If you don't like it anymore, give yourself a break and come back later. If you still don't like it, kiss it goodbye.

The problem for some people I think is that they think their inability to stick with a certain element of collecting underlines some inability to "commit" in a larger sense. Perhaps there are larger issues of committing to a relationship or a job or a family or responsibilities of some sort. But if that's the case, these are the issues where the angst is needed.

Not in your hobby. The hobby is for frivolity. Period.

Collecting doesn't have to be the same all the time. It doesn't have to be a badge of your "commitment." It can be. There are a lot of collectors who get a rush out of finishing off a set. It shows they can commit to something and they have a prize at the end to show that they're committed.

But collecting habits are allowed to evolve, too.

My collecting habits have been shockingly consistent over the years. But I've noticed that they have evolved somewhat. I don't collect sets quite as often as I used to (it was once ALL that I did). I'm a little more involved in player collecting. I'm a LOT more involved in team collecting.

And then there are things like the postcard that you saw at the top of the post.

It came from Mark's Ephemera. It's a signed postcard from former Brooklyn Dodger Pat McGlothin. Mark wrote about him here.

The postcard, which features a very fine photo of a quiet Ebbets Field, is what is known in my collection as an oddball. It doesn't fit into my traditional collecting habits. I collect trading cards, mostly of the 2 1/2-by-3 1/2 variety.

But it's a terrific item, and it came to me totally unsolicited from Mark. I'll keep it forever.

Increasingly, I've been receiving oddball items from collectors.

Mark also sent me a whole bunch of O-Pee-Chee Expos. These would be oddballs, too. I don't really collect O-Pee-Chee or the Expos.

But, you know what? They are very, very cool.

I think people who read my blog sense that I think oddballs are great, and they sense a slight shift in what I collect. They sense that I am adding more oddball stuff like food-issue cards and stadium-issue cards and other things into my collection.

And, this has to do with the disenchantment thing, too. When I receive something like this in the mail, there is a little part of me that says, "Wait a minute. I don't collect this stuff."

Sometimes I'll have a little conversation with myself, often times without me even knowing I'm having it (how I can have a conversation with myself without me being aware of it is possibly a sign of being insane, which is also another reason why I shouldn't be considered a guru).

The conversation goes something like this:

"O-Pee-Chee? What's this?"

"Pretty cool, huh?"

"But I don't collect it."

"But it's so cool."

"But where's it going to go?"

"I dunno. It's cool."

"But I only collect Dodgers, and sets and stuff."

"But it's cool."

"(*Sigh*) OK. It's cool."

Did you see any angst in that conversation with myself? I worked it out.

It's simple really. Either I find a place in my collection for it, or I trade it away, or it goes in the "Box of Inconsequence." But I'm not going to start fretting about what's become of me and my collection. Collections change. Collections evolve. It's called "adapting." This is not your marriage or your kids. It's a bunch of cardboard.

This is not to say that I don't get burnt out or periodically bored with collecting. In fact, it just happened. But I'm always aware that the feeling will go away and that I'll find something in the hobby that will make me happy again. No need to despair.

So, there, that's my "advice," or whatever you want to call it.

And I'm sure there's someone saying, "that's not what I wanted to hear at all" or "that's stupid" or "why does anyone call him a guru?"

I don't know why anyone calls me a guru.

I'm not.

I just like writing. And collecting cards.

And oddball cards.

I like oddball cards now, too.

Here are some other cards from Mark. Some oddball. Some not:

So ... there you have it.

Oh, another thing.

Here's something that I say all the time when people come to me for answers. It gets all kinds of raised eyebrows. But I think some people appreciate it.

This is what I say:

"Do whatever the hell you want."

I think that applies here, too.

You don't need me.

It's your collection.

Do whatever the hell you want.


BA Benny said…
Well put, that's why people refer to you as a guru, you always know what to say even if you don't have an answer.
dayf said…
People call you The Guru because you ARE The Guru. Especially now that people like Ben, Mario, Chris and myself have dropped out or are fading away.

Don't want to freak you out or put a lot of pressure on you but you are The Man right now. You just are.
AdamE said…
Posts like that right there is why you are the guru.

FYI, I have a couple oddballs that I thought about sending you. They are not in your wheelhouse but they kind of are. so I'm sitting on them in hopes I find something else to send along with them.
Good post. Until the crappy LA National League team cards at the end.
Go Reds!
Commishbob said…
Well that damn well settles it! I'm going to post some of my German cigarette actress cards. Heck... It IS my collection, isn't it?
gcrl said…
Hand wringing in any situation is one of my biggest pet peeves. Your comment about that is spot on. Nothing worse than a 'to be or not to be' post in my opinion.
Kbrewster/90 said…
My favorite line:

"This is not your marriage or your kids. It's a bunch of cardboard."

You don't have to be the smartest person in the world, just the smartest in the room. And, when it comes to card-blogging, that's you.
Anonymous said…
Good post. I think your views of the hobby is a big reason you've been able to post nearly every day for so long. Kudos.

Also, the post you linked from May 2010 was basically right before I started blogging - so I'd never read it. Interesting to see collecting perspectives change - you were talking a lot about the new release calendar, which is something I'm not used to you posting about whatsoever. Another thing you seem to have done is been able to put down the new releases without putting the hobby itself down - that's something it seems like alot of people struggle with.
Reluctant or not, your'e ability to express yourself in a way everyone can understand and use a little humor along the way resonates with most of us. You know, with the exception of the ones who said "why does anyone call him a guru?"
Cory said…
Good post. I've been on Listia lately and haven't been on my blog that much.

I'm in that mode where I only post things that pop in my head. Like my current short post. I'm not actively looking for my next
post like I used to. It's kind of liberating to do it this way because you don't feel a burden to post.

Kind of the whole point of it being a hobby, I guess.
Mark Aubrey said…
"It's your collection."

No, now it is your collection.

I'm glad you were able to stack up the Expos cards and climb up on to your soapbox.

Show the back of the LA Dodgers sticker. Make a post out of that one.