sarasvati: Greyscale image of Sae, from Hidamari Sketch (happy)
[personal profile] miss_haitch has an interesting idea, inspired by the Fuck Yeah, She's Awesome meme. "Why Yes, I am Awesome."

People don't often get much of a chance to talk about what they're good at without being seen as bragging about it. In journal entries, it's a little different, because even when you're writing with the intent of other people reading it, it's still, in a sense, talking to yourself. It's sometimes easier to be honest with yourself than it is to be honest with others, especially when it comes to positive traits. You don't have to worry that you'll be jealous of your own abilities, or wish you could do what you already can do.

People tend to downplay their abilities and strengths to others, and in one sense, I can see why. I don't want to appear as though I'm bragging. I don't want to make others feel uncomfortable. I could say, "Yes, I knit this shawl, and the pattern was pretty easy, so it only took a week," and then later find out that the person I said this to is still learning to purl and master stockinette. In being honest, that person may now see me as a braggart, and I don't want to be seen that way.

On the other hand, why downplay my achievements? If I achieved something, shouldn't I be proud of it? Whether it's because of innate talent or because I worked my ass off, there's no reason for m proud moments to become a source of shame.

So here it is. The post where I talk about my strengths, my proud achievements, the things I am good at. More importantly, I talk about why I'm good at them or proud of them.

1. Knitting lace. I'm a decent knitter in terms of speed. I won't win any awards for fast knitting, but I'm comfortable enough that I can knit garter stitch without looking at my needles, which is why I knit leprosy bandages while watching subtitled anime. And I can knit lace. I have knit scaves and shawls. I have even done a bit of pattern design.

But I didn't just suddenly wake up with the magical ability to knit lace. I started off knitting (and that was hard enough at first, as most new skills are), and then during the course of reading knitting blogs for inspiration, I came across somebody who knit a lot of fine lace shawls. I was stunned. I was envious. I figured I'd never be able to make something so beautiful myself, and would just have to sit back and jealously admire all the beautiful things that others were making.

Then I got off my butt and tried a simple lace pattern. And screwed it up a lot. But I practiced, and I worked at it, and I got better. Now I look at those same lace shawls that impressed me so in the beginning, and I think, "Hmm, I think I could replicate the pattern just from seeing the finished object, and it doesn't look too difficult either. I wonder if I have any good yarn left." It took work, and perseverence, and there will always be people more skilled than me, but I can do it now, and I'm getting better with every stitch.

2. Reading. I'm proud of the amount that I read. I see people reading 100+ books in a year and wonder how the heck they do it, because 60-80 is usually what I can handle, but then I reflect that compared to the general population, 60-80 books in a year is still pretty damn good! Some middle-aged people brag that they haven't read a book since high school, and I flinch and wonder how on earth they could be bragging about that. I take books on 10-minute bus rides, for crying out loud! I can't be without my books.

I'm an avid reader. And I'm damn proud of that fact.

3. Writing. I consider myself a decent writer. Some people would consider me good. Some would say I need a lot of polishing. I consider myself in between. I need more practice, more work, and I do actually have the goal of having a book published someday.

I take spelling and grammar and punctuation seriously. Oh sure, I'll make typos and not catch them sometimes, but i wont rite liek tihs unless I'm being ironic.

I look back on things that I wrote in high school and see how much I've improved. I look back on the first short story I wrote for class (which was still longer than most others) and I see that I had talent even at a young age. I remember the first story I ever wrote, when I was 5 years old, about a dog and a wolf in the zoo, arguing over a bone. The first "chapter" was half a page long, and had a childish illustration of two animals in a cage. I remember taking a writing class in high school, and being only one of two people there who actually liked to write and could do so at a level that impressed the teacher, because she wasn't used to people taking the class seriously. (Most people took it for an easy mark, since some of the lessons involved how to address an envelope, and the structure of correspondence.)

4. I can sing. In high school, I was in two exclusive choirs more than once, and I was a first soprano in all of them, which means my range is rather impressively high. I'm out of practice now, so my range has dropped some, but if I practice again I could get that skill back. But even now, out of practice, I can still sing well, on key, and with good volume.

5. I'm intelligent. I know I'm intelligent enough to get a university degree if I can ever save up enough money, and I know that if I try I could graduate with at least a 4.0 average. I love to learn. I'll read textbooks for fun. My biggest problem is that I'm naturally lazy and inclined to take shortcuts that ruin things later on, but if I can get past that trait, I know I can shine.

This intelligence isn't one that I particularly had to work to get, only to maintain, and that maintenance usually depends on my environment. I was determined to be too far advanced for the first grade after being there for only 4 days, and so was skipped ahead to grade 2. And from there until clinical depression hit (around puberty), the work was always easy and I was always at the head of my class. I could potentially have skipped ahead another grade, though that would have made life even more socially awkward for them than it already was. Depression hit, though, and I lost motivation to just anything and everything, my grades started to drop. And since my parents had routinely demonstrated that grades were a measure of worth, I became pretty well convinced for a while that I sucked and wasn't worth much of anything.

Depression has happily faded into the background now, and I know that if it hadn't taken over my life when I was young, I could have graduated high school with honours and gotten scholarships for university right there and then. I know I'm capable. I love to learn.

6. I seem to have a knack for learning languages, which I wish I'd found out about when I was younger. I could be multilingual by now! It's another thing that I have to work at, of course, but with that effort, I know I can learn a few more lgnauages, and perhaps even be a translator or something some day. I'm definitely interested in Japanese, and if I hadn't let laziness rule my life for so long and had actually put the effort in, I know I could be fluent by now.

I also have an interest in German and Russian, which I plan to get some skill in later. French is one I ought to know, but thanks to assy teachers in high school, I now have a wonderful mental block with that one. I can still read and comprehend decently, but talking's difficult.

Of course, that could apply somewhat with English, too.

I suppose I should have seen the talent for languages earlier. In high school French class, I'd often know the right answer, even for things as annoying as complicated verb conjugations. The biggest problem was that the teachers would always question how I arrived at the answer, to make sure I properly understood it, and to make sure I didn't cheat somehow. I could rarely tell them why. I just knew what sounded right, it felt right in my head, and more often than not it was right, even though I didn't always know why.

But give me some random verb conjugation in English, my native language, and I probably couldn't tell you what the tense it is either. I didn't learn in the standard way, and therefore could only answer half the question, and sometimes the questions were "all or nothing" answers. Don't say what the tense is, don't get a point even if the verb's right.

My skills, I have shown you them. I'm not without talent. Even innate talents took work to hone. I'm not just naturally awesome.

But as I read more and more of the DW entries where people talk about their talents, saying things like, "Knitting lace is easy," doesn't seem so much like bragging anymore. There's somebody out there struggling with garter stitch, sure, but they probably have a skill or talent that I envy. I'm awesome, they're awesome, and there really isn't any reason to be shamed of good things.


sarasvati: A white lotus flower floating on water. (Default)

August 2011

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