I still remember my first endeavor to cook solo—I was around eleven, and I was going to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Well, it was the saddest sandwich ever. I put the butter on the inside. I cut the cheese too thick. I had the stove on too high, so it burnt before the cheese even got warm.
I wasn't a great writer growing up. I enjoyed writing, for sure, but my writing was hit and miss. I was a terrible speller (I even wrote "I'm a good speler" in a list of attributes about myself in 2nd grade, ha.) (I'm still a really shaky speller, even after my minor in editing). I never got my paper read in front of the class by the teacher, etc. and so forth.
Art was the same way. I was never the best in my class. I never got first place in a show. To this day I am not strong with any kind of paint. Me and paint don't get along at all. And even when I try realism it still looks like a cartoon.
I could go on, but I think that's enough. The truth is that I don't really have any natural talent. I've tried a lot of things, and it's never been one of those moments where I just magically had skill. Not with the flute. Not on the swim team. Not singing. Not running. Not acting. Not gymnastics. Not playing Go. Not blogging. Nothing. And yet I've always had this dream or hope or whatever that there's something out there I'm "meant to do." You know what I mean—that thing that is so entwined with my destiny I know immediately that this is my future and I will be amazing at it.
This probably sounds totally ridiculous, but I remember very vividly how it seemed like that growing up. I'd see my peers doing amazing things, and it seemed that talent sprouted out of their very being with no effort whatsoever. I thought maybe if I found my own talent I'd be amazing like that, too.
But everything was hard. I have a suspicion it was hard for most of the people I admired as well, though it didn't seem like it back then. It felt like all I did was fall on my face a lot. Some things I stuck with because I just loved them so much, like art. Drawing was, oftentimes, my refuge. I got better only because I drew literally every single day. I have the 13+ notebooks to prove it, not to mention all the portfolios from classes still taking up space in my parents' storage.
Shockingly enough, I didn't make leaping improvements in my writing until I started working on it everyday either. Take a guess on what made me a better cook—I'm sure it's obvious.
The things that I am good at now are a result of loving that thing and then working really hard to do it well. Actually, not entirely true. I didn't like to cook, but had to because there's no way we could afford to eat out often. If I wanted good food, I had to learn to make it myself. It was a skill that came out of necessity and then turned into something I really love. But anyway, the common denominator here is work.
Work sucks sometimes. I can't tell you that if you work harder than anyone else you'll be on top. If that were true, I would be way further ahead than I am. But alas, I'm still up against some people who have honest-to-goodness talent. It's hard to deal with sometimes. I won't lie and say I'm totally fine when someone who has put in half the work and time I have gets twice the reward I do. It's hard to accept—important to accept—but hard. It's hard to have to start so far behind the pack at times. It's hard to face so much failure, to not be able to learn and improve as quickly as others. And it's especially frustrating when a Natural Talent doesn't even TRY and still does better than you, and worse, doesn't even care or appreciate the thing they're so good at.
When I think about how hard it can be sometimes, it isn't any wonder I keep looking for that Magical Thing I'm Good At.
But on the flip side, there are some comforts in all this sucking at stuff. For one, I do believe with all my heart that anyone can improve in something if they want to. It doesn't matter what it is—you can go after it and do it well. It might take twice as long. You may never be as good as a prodigy. But you as a human being have the potential to succeed. It is part of all of us.
Work, practice, determination—these things put us on an even playing field. Of course, the field might not look even (it often doesn't to me), but it is, because those who have to work harder often gain secondary skills the naturals don't. I mean, I don't love that I know how to work out of pure necessity, but it comes in handy. When the going gets tough, I don't stop. Sometimes those who've had it easier do. When you are naturally bad at stuff, you are also more likely to continue pushing yourself, never quite trusting that's you've "made it." Whereas someone with natural talent runs the risk of resting on their laurels and not going outside their comfort zone.
Basically, I'm saying my extra experience in the Field of Sucking helps me come out on top at times. Who knew?
Eventually, all the work you do starts to look a lot like talent to people on the outside. Lots of people tell me I'm talented at certain things now, but I know the truth and am mostly proud of that truth. There was very little talent involved, and nor is there likely to be a random sprouting of it in the future. If I want to be good at something, the only way for me to get it is through hard work and endurance.
At this point you might want to say work is my true talent, but even working hard took me a long time to learn. I used to give up rather quickly, until I realized that the things I did often were the things I was best at. The "doing often" brought on the "best at," not the other way around.
So if you're bad at stuff, take heart and realize you're actually in the majority. The older I've gotten, the more I've realized that "natural talent" is kind of a myth. And even if it isn't, talent is nothing without the work part. Better to put in the effort at something than spend your life waiting for that one magical talent.