Things At Which I Suck–And One Thing I Don’t

I ’m always fascinated with the people who discover a gift at a young age and achieve almost instant success.  You know the ones I’m talking about:  Josh Waitzkin, the chess prodigy who was kicking ass and taking names at seven years old; Oksana Baiul, the figure skater who won an Olympic gold medal at age 16; Todd Bridges, who became a household name at age 13 through his acting on Diff’rent Strokes; Mozart—the definitive child prodigy—who was performing for kings and composing music at age 5.  Of course, pretty much all of them were hopelessly screwed up as they got older, probably because they were so zeroed in on their talents and weighed down by the expectations of others.  It’s easy to envy people like that as long as one doesn’t look at the details.

I’m also blown away by people who seem to have a knack for just picking up things and being pretty decent at them.  These people don’t necessarily generate much fame, but I’m guessing you’ve met a few like this.  One that sticks out in my mind is a former friend of mine, Tony, who could literally pick up any instrument and be proficient within a day.  If he had a particular interest in an instrument (such as the electric and acoustic bass), then he was very good at that.  He also had a soul-shattering singing voice, and had won the genetic lottery in looks as well as talent.  The girls loved him.  People like Tony aren’t as prone to becoming psychological train wrecks, unless—like Tony—they let their egos get in the way.  I worked briefly with a guy, Spencer, who had a mind that would probably make me dizzy if I could have crawled into his head.  His intelligence was off the charts.  Mostly, he directed his energies in the field of professional audio, but he could speak with authority on almost any subject.  The thing about Spencer was that he was so easy going and unassuming that unless you really got to know him, you’d never guess there was a bona fide Mensa candidate standing in front of you.  I think that’s probably because he was endlessly curious.  If there was something he didn’t know about (a field of subjects that grows smaller with each passing day), he would ask questions of someone who did know—and he would keep asking questions until either he was satisfied, or until the person he was interrogating ran out of answers.  He had no fear at all of exposing his ignorance on a subject because he understood it was only by not pretending he knew everything that he was able to learn so much.

I’m even seriously impressed by the people who keep working at something until they master it—and then they keep working some more.  These are the people that tend to be referenced whenever the long-debunked 10,000 hour rule is brought up.  People like Bill Gates, or Tiger Woods, or Thomas Edison usually fit into this category.  These are also the people who are most prone to declaring that all you have to do to be successful like them is to work your ass off.  Inherent socioeconomic obstacles, or just plain old luck, are rarely mentioned during these little homilies of How To Achieve Your Dreams, which is why I tend to find these people particularly off-putting on a personal level.  But that doesn’t negate how much I’m really very impressed with their dedication to their craft, whatever it is.  It doesn’t matter how good they are at it; they just keep practicing and working even when they’ve long passed the point when they could take their foot off the gas just a little and let their own momentum carry them through.

However, I don’t fit into any of the above categories.  I’m not one of them, and I never will be.  Truth be told, I suck at most of the things I’ve tried over the years—and I’m not very good at most of the things I do now.  There’s a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which being that I clearly did not win the genetic lottery in any sense of the term.  I’m not a natural athlete, or artist, or musician, or software coder, or mathematician, or businessperson.  But that doesn’t stop me from wishing I was.  I’m certainly not one of those people who can get by on their looks in spite of zero talents (looking at you, Ivanka).  My DNA has not set me on the path to individual greatness.

I don’t have the capacity to easily pick up new talents or habits.  If I’m going to learn how to do something new, I first have to get past the whole learning part.  I like knowing things, but I do not like learning things.  If I’m not instantaneously excellent at something, I lose interest very quickly.  This is why the curiosity of people like Spencer fascinates me so much.  What, me, let people know that I’m not a walking Wikipedia?  Heaven forbid.  Once upon a time, I used to just bullshit my way through those situations.  Now, I mostly just keep my mouth shut—which is an unqualified improvement—but clearly I could do better by admitting I don’t know about the topic at hand so that I might avail myself of others’ knowledge.  Every once in a while, I am able to will myself to be more like Spencer and ask a question or two, but that’s typically as far as I get before my fear of being discovered as Not Knowing Something becomes too much to bear.  This, obviously, is not a particularly good trait to have for a bunch of reasons—but it’s really unhelpful at the present time while I am getting my feet under me in a new career in software support.  I have to ask questions.  I have to openly admit my ignorance.  I have to be curious.  My paycheck depends on it.  So, I do it—but I’m finding that I’m not even very good at letting people know I’m not very good at the thing I just started doing less than a year ago.  Fortunately for me, they already know I’m not very good, so they are patient and helpful anyway.

I’m lazy.  I mean, really lazy.  I once read about a woman describing her husband in the following manner:  “he will never stand when he can sit, and he will never sit when he can lie down.”  That’s me.  If there is a clear indicator of what the absolute minimum level of effort is necessary to complete a particular task or learn a particular skill, then you know I’m going to try to figure out how to get away with doing even less than that.  I couch it in nicer terms when in a professional environment by saying that I’m very good at finding efficiencies.  So, if you’re ever interviewing someone for a job and they say something like that, don’t hire them.  They’re lazy as hell.

Now, before I go any further, I want to be clear that my ledger of talents and abilities isn’t written entirely in red ink.  There are plenty of things at which I am relatively good.  For example, I’m a decent cook, a fair baker, a passable writer, an average gardener, and a better-than-average friend.  Which, on a certain level, is normal.  Most people are average at a lot of things because there’s a reason why it’s called “average”.  But I’m not writing about those things because a post about things at which I’m adequate is as interesting as any given Jane Austen novel.  It’s also important to understand that the reason why I’m not very good or even great at those things is due to my aforementioned laziness.  I’ve never put in enough time or effort to become really spectacular at any of them.  Also, please understand that I’m not writing this to fish for compliments because that’s just unattractive as hell.  Besides, among the many other things at which I suck, I’m also particularly bad at accepting compliments.  My wife once had to look me in the eye and remind me that “thank you” is a complete sentence.  So, to be clear, I’m going to tell you about some of the things at which I suck (because an exhaustive accounting would take weeks), and one thing that I don’t.  My hope is that it will be at least entertaining enough to have made it worth your time.

I suck at music.  I’ve tried playing it, singing it and even composing it.  The first instrument I recall “playing” was the clarinet.  I joined the junior high band, chose the clarinet…and never learned a damned thing about it.  My parents rented an instrument and I got a music stand and had a booklet that showed how to play it.  But that was it.  So, when I went into band class every day, I was literally the only person in the whole band who didn’t play a note.  Everyone else seemed to have just walked in the door knowing how to play their respective instruments.  Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can understand that these other kids were probably getting actual, you know, lessons, but 12-year old me just didn’t grasp that.  After about a month, the teacher thought maybe I just needed to try a different instrument, so I took up French horn—with the exact same result.  Then, I was given a baritone (which is a very small tuba) to no avail.  By the time the first quarter of the school year was done, the band teacher had had all the fun she could take out of me and shoved me off to the school choir where I could blend in and mostly just move my lips.

Other instruments I’ve attempted to play over the years:  guitar, drums, bass, autoharp, recorder, hand bells, piano and even pipe organ.  I actually took a semester-long class in college for piano.  The problem—as always—was that I never practiced.  Instead, I would screw around every week and then spend the night before the class test trying to learn a piece as well as possible, before banging it out in front of the professor the next morning.  When the class was over, I got a “C”, and that was that.

I took two solid years of music theory, mostly because I was planning a career as a recording engineer and figured it would be helpful.  But I also entertained delusions that I might write a tune here and there.  I wrote a grand total of one piece of music—a theme and variations—and I was done.

I did actually take voice lessons (I’m a lyric baritone) for several years.  One of my teachers was one of the most in-demand tenors of his day.  But you can’t polish a turd, because all you get is a shiny turd.  I can carry a tune, but I’m way too prone to being just a little flat or a little sharp.  My tone has never been steady enough to be able to be confident enough to sing alone.  So, I generally stuck with choirs because I could tune myself to the people around me.  Around that period of time, I came across an interview with Jimmie Vaughan when he and his late brother Stevie Ray had released Family Style.  It was the first album that Jimmie had appeared on as a singer, so he was asked about that.  His response:  “I came to realize that everyone can sing.  It’s just that some people can sing better than others.”  Damned straight, Jimmie…but some of us still suck.

I suck at athletics.  I’ve always struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember.  The only time when I was actually underweight was during a particularly bad few years in my early 20’s.  Other than that, it’s been the eternal struggle.  When I was a kid, I much preferred staying inside and reading a book than going outside to get my ass handed to me by my brother playing literally any sport.  The one year I went to a summer camp, I almost drowned while trying to swim across a 75-foot river while all the other kids made it easily and stood on shore watching me go down.  If it wasn’t for the adult counselor, I wouldn’t be typing this right now.  I eventually had to have my parents pick me up a week early after getting heat exhaustion during a scavenger hunt.  All the other kids were running like hell around the campground while I was dragging behind them, sweating like a pig and then puking my guts out.  I was always in constant competition in school with one other kid to see who would be the last one picked for teams.  I played organized softball for one season, when I was in elementary school on a team with a bunch of other kids who also sucked.  We had literally one kid on the team who was any good at all—I felt sorry for him even then for having to be stuck with us.  My batting definitely sucked.   I had such a bad habit of carelessly throwing the bat aside on the rare occasions when I would actually hit the ball, that I got threatened with suspension.  My base running was also shit.  I once tried sliding into first base, which should give you as clear a picture of my incompetence in the sport as anything.  As far as my fielding was concerned, my poor coach was at a loss as to where to put me.  I started by asking to play in left field and he was happy to oblige—until one game when I ran back to catch a fly ball and lost it.  I don’t mean I failed to catch the ball.  I mean I lost the ball.  I spent a solid 15 seconds looking all over the damned place for the ball, only to eventually realize that I had caught the ball just on the very edge of the glove.  The fact that it hadn’t fallen out when I was screwing around was a miracle in itself.  But while I was way out in left field, the two kids on base tagged up and scored.  After that fiasco, I was moved to third base, which even at the time I thought was an odd choice considering my lack of quickness both physically and mentally.  I was so bad at third base that eventually my own coach advocated to the umpire for the other team when one of their runners was called out at the plate, because I was standing in the way of the runner when he rounded third.  The umpire agreed and the point was awarded.  I was eventually marooned in right field where I might have to chase down a ball once or twice in a game.  It was literally the one place where I could do the least amount of damage.  Needless to say, I didn’t sign up for hardball the next year.

When I was a freshman in high school, I joined the track team as a sprinter.  This was a laughably stupid move on my part because I never once won a single foot race in gym class or just among other kids at recess growing up.  If anything, I might have been better served as a distance runner but, as has been established, I am lazy.  I sprinted because I didn’t want to run that far.  I came in dead last in every single track meet that year—most of the time I was several seconds behind the 2nd-to-last place runner. 

After that, I decided to abandon organized sports completely.  Instead, I took up long distance cycling.  I loved watching the Race Across America, the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia and thought I could be a distance racer.  I had no trainer, no sponsor, no plan, no nothing.  But I rode and rode and rode and rode some more.  After about a year I was regularly making circuits of 40 miles on an almost daily basis, which I thought was pretty impressive.  That was until the day when the Coors Light racing team blew past me one day like I was standing still.  They weren’t even riding that hard—just sort of casually cruising.  I stood up on my pedals and geared up all the way doing my damnedest to try and at least keep pace with them, but it was like I was chasing a rocket car.  That was a wake-up call.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to take much time rethinking my life choices because I was hit by a car soon afterward, which put me out of commission for a few months.  Then, within a few months after recovering enough to start riding again, a kid at school kicked my leg and dislocated my knee.  After that, I decided that it was high time I gave up before I lost my legs in a freak chainsaw accident.

I suck at art.  It was always a toss-up as to whether my most hated class in school was art or gym.  One year, when I was in the 3rd grade, we all had to make papier mâché globes of the Earth.  I made a football of the Earth.  Coloring books were an exercise in futility.  Lines?  What lines?  Painting by numbers looked more like Pollock by numbers.  Pollock sucks by the way.

There was a brief, shining few years when I was almost good at an artistic medium.  For most of my time growing up, I kept trying to take good photographs, and I kept failing.  Lousy composition, terrible exposures, and awful cropping.  Then, one day when I was 19, I decided on a whim to buy a roll of black and white film.  It was just a 12-exposure roll because I figured if I was going to waste my money on film that I’d never used before, I’d feel better about it by spending as little as possible.  The funny thing was, there were probably 2 or 3 exposures that seemed pretty good—at least compared to my color photos to that point.  So, I got more black and white film and took more pictures.  It seemed to involve less effort to take what I thought were decent pictures, which was right up my lazy alley.  The only way I can really explain it is that I could think better in black and white.  I started investing in better camera equipment, more film, started reading books on the subject and studied the masters of the medium like Adams, Karsh, and Steiglitz.  I took a couple of photography courses in college so I could learn how to develop film and make prints.  I got hired out for a few portrait jobs and even to shoot a few jazz shows featuring some legendary headliners (although my primary interest was landscapes).  I really started to think that I was getting good at this.  But let’s not forget that I am lazy.  Ultimately, I was putting in just enough effort to get by while kidding myself that I was getting better.  I was also a big fish in a very small pond so it was easy to engage in this particular fantasy.

The first crack in the façade came when I started entering my work in photography contests.  I entered a slew of them and never got so much as an honorable mention.  I was able to kid myself some more by pointing out that most of the awarded photos were heavily Photoshopped.  The fact that I actually sucked had not sunk in yet.

Eventually, I decided I needed to start getting some objective input about the quality of my work.  So, I took my portfolio to a few galleries.  Almost every place I went, I was surprised at the willingness of the people to take the time out of their respective days to look through my stuff.  For all their generosity of time, they were also equally blunt in their assessments of my work.  They told me what I needed to do to improve, but…well…that would take effort.  Eventually I adjusted my self-assessment of my skills to what I thought at the time was a more appropriate level of adequate.  Then, I met my current wife who is one of those people who is crazy smart and wildly talented.  She’s one of the people in that second category of folks who can be good at almost anything she tries.  When we were first dating, I made the mistake of showing her some of my work.  She was kind and didn’t trash it, but we can all recognize the tone of voice of someone who is trying just a little too hard, can’t we?  When she and I started getting more serious, I came across one of her photography portfolios and asked her to show it to me.  That’s when I saw what actual talent looked like and that’s when I finally understood that I did, in fact, suck.  I haven’t touched my camera in years.

These days I take pretty decent pictures because I have an iPhone 11, which is basically cheating considering all of the software and code involved in covering up my shortcomings.  My wife still tries too hard when telling me how good they are.

There is, however, one thing at which I do not suck.  Not only do I not suck at it, but I seem to have that quasi-magical ability that allowed me to actually be pretty good at it right from the start.  About 20 years ago, I started volunteering for a non-profit organization.  My volunteer role was a little different than what might be found in other non-profits, in that I was part of a governing body.  I was one of about 500 people who got together periodically to handle the business of the organization—and I was good at it.  I did have the assistance of a more seasoned member of the organization to show me how things worked, but I picked it up very quickly and was able to put that knowledge into positive action in short order.  Inside of a couple of years, I was recognized among the organization’s membership as someone who did excellent work and who did it without a need or desire for the recognition that I was now receiving.

I think my success in this work boiled down to two primary factors:  I have an intuition for organizational structures, and I have a high degree of empathy.  It seems these are my gifts, and they certainly aren’t the product of my liberal politics—quite the reverse, really.  I started out with the politics of my father (who was a right-winger from way back), as I suspect many kids do, but it never felt right.  Even at a young age I could never reconcile the idea of deliberately screwing over the poor and disenfranchised with my ability to feel their struggles and their pain.  But I kept toeing the party line because I was assured that it was good and correct.  It was only after I had the benefit of enough separation from my early political influences that I was able to recognize the reason why it always felt wrong—because it was wrong.  To this day, I am convinced that if everyone had enough empathy for others, there would be no such thing as conservatism.

Anyway, throughout the course of my work with the non-profit, I continued to get tapped for more responsibility.  I served on committees and in leadership roles.  I was asked to mentor people.  But the nature of these responsibilities is different from what you might expect.  By taking on these leadership roles, it required me to delve more deeply into the principle of service.  I wasn’t commanding anyone, but rather finding ways to help them achieve their objectives.  Eventually, my volunteer work became the biggest grounding factor in my life.  Whenever my own life would go to shit, in big ways and small, I always had a sure-fire means to get through it more easily than I would otherwise—being of service to others.  When my grandfather died, I was shattered for weeks afterward.  But by doing this service work I was able to channel that grief in a constructive direction and process my loss faster than I would have otherwise.  I’m also a pretty good wallower, so a speedy path through pain is better for me than what it might be for most. 

There is one example in particular which stands out in how much of an impact service has had on my life.  A few years ago, I got my first case of shingles.  Anyone who has had it knows how awful it is.  Anyone who hasn’t had it doesn’t want to know.  It wasn’t the worst pain I’d experienced in my life—but it was the most spirit annihilating.  It was like being hooked up to a car battery and getting zapped every five or ten seconds.  If the pain had been constant, I’m pretty sure I could have adjusted to the point where I could have gotten some sleep.  But the intermittent nature of the pain kept me awake for days.  Even in my total exhaustion, I couldn’t get more than a few minutes here and there before being jolted awake by another zap.  Anyway, several weeks before the shingles attack, I had scheduled a commitment to do some work for the organization, which just so happened to land on the day when I was at the peak of pain.  As wiped out and tortured as I felt, I knew that cancelling the commitment was going to do me more harm than good.  So, I made the hour-long drive to the function and when I arrived everyone could tell I was in bad shape.  They wanted to cancel, but I insisted we go forward.  The whole thing was about two hours long, but roughly half way in someone asked me how I was feeling.  That’s when I realized that I wasn’t hurting at all.  I mean not.  At.  All.  I felt completely normal and free of pain, and the kicker was that I hadn’t even noticed when the pain had gone away.  After my commitment was over, I drove home.  About halfway home, the pain started coming back, as I expected it would, and by the time I got home I was cooking at full tilt again.  But I’d had the strongest evidence I would ever receive as to the power of service in my life.  To this day, I never doubt the need to get out of myself and help others whenever the shit hits the fan.

Two years ago, I ran afoul of two rather influential people within the organization.  They really didn’t like me and pretty much never did.  I’m not concerned about the reasons why because lots of people don’t like me and they have their own reasons—some valid and some not.  Just like there are plenty of people who do like me and I don’t question their reasons either (although I do question their judgment).  The why isn’t the point, after all; it is the actions of people which matter.  So, anyway, these two people essentially made it their mission to make my time with the organization as miserable as possible from that point forward.  It wasn’t about the work that I did, or the quality of that work, or the mistakes that I made, or how minor or significant those mistakes were.  For them, there wasn’t any principle involved—this was personal.  Even when I did what they asked of me, they found opportunities to drag me about it in business meetings.  If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a common occurrence in almost any organizational structure:  politics. 

Other people saw what was happening and were horrified by it.  They tried appealing to these people to stop their unprincipled attacks.  First, simply by trying to reason with them, but eventually by just telling them point blank to cut the shit.  They didn’t care.  Further, by continuing on their course they managed to do the one thing that can cause more damage in any organization than anything else—they divided the room.  Suddenly, there were factions where factions never existed before.  People were resigning and we were having trouble filling the gaps.  They saw all this, but their animosity toward me overrode any possible hesitations they might have felt about the wreckage they had created.

I stuck this out for a lot of reasons.  One of those reasons was because I made a commitment to fulfill a particular role and my time wasn’t yet done.  Another reason was because I felt that at some point these two might come to their senses and back off.  Probably the biggest reason of all was the knowledge of what all this work had done for me over the years and I wasn’t eager to give it up.  Certainly, a significant reason has to do with my background as a survivor of domestic abuse.  I have a bad habit of staying in abusive situations far longer than is healthy, and this was no exception.

But, about six months ago, I came to a decision.  I was going to finish out my current commitment and then I was going to quietly walk away.  I’d forgotten that I’m a volunteer.  I don’t need to concern myself over how this might affect my livelihood, or family.  I’m there because I choose to be there and I can leave at any time.  I certainly don’t need to burn the place down on my way out because that flies in the face of everything in which I believe.  This decision was quite freeing in that I was now able to focus on doing the best work I could without concerning myself over the inevitable backlash.  To be sure, the attacks kept coming—and in some ways became even more vitriolic as my capacity to not give a shit became more evident—but I just needed to keep my side of the street clean.

Those six months have also given me time to process the grief over this loss.  This is the one thing that I am actually really good at.  It’s effortless and enjoyable.  I’d also be lying if I said it wasn’t a boost to my ego, considering that the vast majority of my life has been punctuated with various and sundry failures.  To walk away felt like the death of a dream.  It was, and is, difficult on a scale that I can’t clearly express in words.

But the fact is that I don’t have to leave my gifts behind.  I can simply…do something else.  Which is exactly what I intend to do when the new year arrives.  My current plan is two-fold:  I plan to seek out local domestic violence advocacy organizations and offer myself as a volunteer, particularly as someone who can talk to other men who have been battered by women.  I can already tell this is going to be a heavy lift because the preliminary contacts that I’ve put out there have assumed that I am actually a former batterer—which, honestly, I have to expect.  Plus, it’s not like there’s a whole bunch of men like me out there who are seeking help, aside from D.J. Fluker.  But I figure if I keep plugging away then eventually something good can come of it.

The other thing I’m planning to do is use my skills from my days in audio to record senior citizens so they can tell their stories.  This was something I did with my own grandparents years ago and I was surprised at their willingness to talk about some of their experiences.  My grandfather explained it by saying, “with the shadow of the Grim Reaper looming, we are loosening our tongues.”  I can’t count the number of times that I’ve heard someone say of a relative who had passed way, “I wish I had done something to get their voice on tape.”  So, this would be more of an ad-hoc form of service, just between me, the people being recorded, and their families.  There may be a lot of it to do, or there may be very little, but I’ll find out which is which in any event.

If neither of those plans pan out, then I can just try being of service somewhere else.  This is my gift, my talent, the thing that I was born to do just as much as Michael Phelps was born to swim.  Furthermore, I am going to keep working at it no matter how well developed this talent happens to be—just like Yo Yo Ma, practicing the cello every day.  No, I’m not ever going to be a good (much less “great”) artist, athlete, or actor—because those aren’t my talents.  But the good news for me is that I do know what my talent is.  There are a whole lot of people out there who have no idea what they were born to do, either because they were distracted by other priorities or because they are too busy just trying to stay alive from one day to the next.  I am fortunate, specifically because I do know what I can do very well, and what I can’t.  This allows me to focus on the thing I do well and not burn time, energy, money and morale trying to chase an ideal that will leave me in the dust like the Coors Light racing team.  Instead, I have the freedom to keep doing the thing that I love, in almost any context.

I don’t know if you know your natural talent or not; but if not, I hope you find it one day—and, more importantly, that you’re able to use it.

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About butcherbakertoiletrymaker 573 Articles
When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.

10 Comments

  1. Love your long reads.

    You are providing a crucial service in software support as well. I suspect that you experience interactions from the frustrated and pissed as well as the pathetically grateful. Resolving their issues is huge.

    As far as being of service in a volunteer capacity – good for you. I work in an industry that provides services to NPOs, and talented (and more importantly, reliable) volunteers are the lifeblood of most organizations. 

    • its stayed much the same for me
      im good with my hands…. kinda shit at being a human being
      occassionally my feefees get in the way
      and i wrap them in a carpet and throw them off a bridge
      suspect ive got a hell of a reckoning coming up…one day

  2. I have no actual musical talent.  I have been criticized for having hands of stone by my piano teacher (I took it for 8 years!)  I can’t hold a pitch worth shit thus I can’t sing.
    I don’t have much rhythm so I can’t dance well.  Quite stiff actually.  Ashamed that I can’t flow and move instead of looking like a herky jerky robot spasming.  Not as bad as Elaine in Seinfeld.
    I can’t hide my disdain of phonies.  Not at all.  I like genuine people.  I don’t care if they’re not smart or not successful or not educated as long as they are genuine.  I will sneer like Sneery MrSneerface to assholes who think they’re god’s gift to leadership and in fact not even fucking close ie: I don’t work well with pompous assholes.  It’s why I no longer speak to a former friend who believes that being an MBA is a sign of pure leadership and that he’s a leader.  He’s basically a rat who never takes responsibility for the job at hand and is quick to take credit for good ideas that aren’t his (he doesn’t have very many good ideas.)  When he was a reservist, he was hated by both his senior officers and the men under his command –that makes him quite a special type of person indeed and someone to keep out of my life. 
    It is also why I clashed with a lot of my managers/supervisors.  I realize now that I seem to be that one guy who recognizes their insecurities and amplifies it.
    Two things I am good with. 
    One is reading people.  I am a curious sort who likes to understand folks.  Makes me kind of creepy though because if I were a malicious type I’d very supervillainy.  With great powers comes great responsibility.   Because I could pick up on a manager’s insecurities, I used to try and help (being a helper monkey type of person) but now I realize that I just created more resentment from them so I don’t even bother now.
    The other is (allegedly) remaining calm under pressure.  I have been told by folks/exes that my face is quite… expressionless and almost impossible to read.  Almost robot like or inscrutable oriental (throwing out the racist trope.)   To be fair, I do have my tells but only if one pays attention.  I rarely lose my shit when the pressure of deadlines or management goes up.   It’s not that I don’t feel it, but it rarely shows up in my actions, tone or expression.   Someone told me that he feels I enjoy being under pressure and in tense situations.  He’s not wrong.  I enjoy being busy and at the center of the action.  Most folks avoid high pressure situations, I have a tendency to charge in.
     
     

  3. You have another talent/gift –  self awareness. And that is rare and valuable. 

    As someone who has done a lot of volunteer work and been a paid employee who supervised and supported teams of volunteers I know how common your two nemeses are. And how uncommon a dedicated, knowledgeable, and selfless volunteer is. It’s unfortunate that their pettiness has damaged the organization you were working with. But others will continue to reap the benefits of your willingness to serve. New projects bring new challenges and new opportunities for growth. It’s an exciting time for you and I wish you all the best!

     

  4. …I can’t say for sure but I think maybe I don’t have a problem with admitting ignorance…at least under most conditions

    …there are some people who seem to assume (on I-don’t-know-what-basis) that everyone else is dumber than them in a way that drives me a little nuts & I tend to be uninclined to let those sort of folks have any kind of satisfaction based on being able to tell me something..but I think that’s more to do with not liking to reward assholes than with not being okay admitting I don’t know something?

    …generally speaking I have a strong preference for not being the “smartest person in the room”…in fact I generally feel sorry for people who are always the smartest in the rooms they find themselves in…in my experience it’s a lot more interesting being the one who gets to ask questions & learn new stuff than it is being the one who has to provide the answers…but it’s hard to say if that’s a good thing, really…back when I was a student it was sort of a problem, even…I’d have an essay to write & I’d have all the time in the world for it right up to the point I’d done enough reading to feel like I knew what my answer would be…then it was no fun any more & actually writing the thing felt like pulling teeth

    …as for the lazy thing…I once had a math teacher (a pretty great one, at that) who explained that the best mathematicians were a very particular (& arguably obscure) kind of lazy…they’d spend years of their lives turning over a particular problem just to figure out a way of performing the same calculation using less steps…or even in just one…so basically they were always looking for a shorter way to do something that took less effort…which is known hallmark of being lazy…might sound a little nuts but I think looking at things that way was part of what made them a good teacher & the concept has always appealed to me

    …& lastly…I think you might be underselling how much of a talent it is (& how rare) to be actually good at improving things at a structural/organisational level

    …there are a lot of consultants & such out there charging people through the nose because they claim to be able to…or managers being very well paid to do it…but in my experience the majority of both seldom seem to really do so…in some cases they don’t even seem to trouble themselves to understand either what works about the structure/processes they get introduced to or the underlying purpose/requirements that need to be served

    …so to be able to “get” what an organisation needs & then actually come up with ways that it could be more effective &/or efficient…that’s a hell of a talent in my opinion…I hope you find somewhere that could benefit from yours…& that you get all the satisfaction from it that it sounds like you deserve…without the static from assholes it sounds like you got at the last place…screw those people for fucking up a good thing…it sounds like you’re well rid of them but the organisation would have been better off keeping you & losing them

  5. “To this day, I never doubt the need to get out of myself and help others whenever the shit hits the fan.”
     
    This is a lesson I’ve learned over the years, too. And honed a good deal, in the last 6-7, tbh.
     
    Because like you, I can tend toward rumination/wallowing, which just makes my stuff feel worse.
    But if I can get *out* of my damn head, and pour that energy somewhere else, and then get the dopamine rush of knowing I helped someone else through something rough, it makes MY slog less of a slog.
     
    You’re gonna also be an awesome asset, whenever you end up at the DV org you get in with–and if I may, something to noodle around a bit–possibly recording some men’s stories (because YOU would know how to adjust/disguise a voice, so that the dudes could share anonymously, if they desire!💖), so that your organization can share them on the website, to help LOWER the stigma?
    It would combine *both* of those good things you’re also good at😉💖💞💗

  6. I can tell you something you’re really good at… writing essays. I often get bored and skim long-form pieces like this, but I read every word. If you put out a book of essays, I’d read the hell out of it. 
     
    I’m one of those people who are pretty good at a bunch of things… without ever quite excelling at any of them. I’m a damn good home cook, but I can’t be arsed to put in the effort to get fancy about it. I can write tolerably well, but I’ve never finished anything. I sing very well, but I’m shy about it, don’t practice enough, and no one but family is really going to hear me unless they’re walking by the window while I’m doing the dishes! Crochet is my preferred art form and I have done some pretty cool projects freehand, but mostly I stick to simple blankets because I hate bothering with it. I used to be a decent dancer, and I loved it, as well as being passably good at baseball and volleyball, but my body has betrayed me and I wouldn’t dare try so much as a ballet class now… I’d dislocate something, for sure! 
     
    I also know a little about a lot of things from history and science, to art and literature, to herbalism and gardening, to fashion and architecture, to religion and medicine. I have many and varied interests. I read endlessly, and so I get into a subject, read a dozen books on it, then get bored and wander off to something new. I think that’s part of the reason I never went back to school (aside from time and money)… it requires too much focus on any one topic for an extended period of time. I got terrible grades and eventually dropped out of high school because of that tendency in myself to get bored and stop trying. 
     
    Staying calm in a crisis is probably my best talent. Blood? No problem. Broken bones? No worries. Seizures? I got you. Floods, fires, tornados? We’ll be fine. Everything comes due on the 1st of the month and no one gets paid til the 5th? Calm down, I’ll figure it out. I used to think I could turn that ability into a career in emergency medicine or something along those lines, but the chance for proper schooling passed me by (babies and bills!) and now that I have the time, I am physically unable to do it. 
     
    I’m often frustrated with myself precisely BECAUSE of being smart and good at lots of things but never being able to either stick with it or do anything with any of it. In a way, I think that constantly being told as a kid how smart I was and how I could do anything I wanted was paralyzing. In a way, it made everything seem IMpossible, because I could never do anything QUITE well enough. I’m smart enough to be in MENSA, but does that really matter when I couldn’t get my shit together enough to turn in my homework?

    • I graduated high school with a cumulative GPA of 1.76. But my test scores were through the roof so I was able to enroll in college.   Like you I was bored to tears so just didn’t give a shit. 
      But a funny thing happened in college. My grades went up. My first semester was the first 3.0 in my life. I graduated just shy of honors, mostly because I had to work full time and couldn’t dig into my studies the way I needed to. I finished graduate school with a 4.0. I think for me the fact that the higher I got in academia, the less focus was on boring bullshit busy work and more on actually doing stuff that was relevant. 
      all that’s to say, maybe if you get a shot at additional schooling you might have the same experience. 

      • Thank you for the encouragement! That’s so great that you did so much better in college 🙂 I only officially finished 9th grade, and that was 25 years ago (god, I’m old), so I have a lot of catching up to do if I do decide to take college classes. I also have no idea what I’d go for… I always wanted to do culinary school, but I think that would be too physically difficult for me now. Maybe something in the same vein but less demanding… nutrition sciences or dietary something or other. Is there some sort of degree in food history?? I could probably stay focused on something like that!

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