I have never felt good at anything in particular. Actually, that is a lie. I know there are things that I have been good at, those kinds of things that you just pick up and are pleasantly surprised to find that they resonate with you. The first time this ever happened to me was in the driveway of my childhood home in Florida. It was undoubtedly hot and humid, and the driveway scraped at the bottom of my feet as a nine-year old me rushed out to meet my mother, home from a long morning of garage sale-ing, the only time it’s okay to rummage through someone else’s belongings in their own driveway, and then take whatever you like.
She held out a thin plastic box, lifting the front latches with a click and putting together the instrument for me. it was long and thin, and felt awkward in my hands, like when you try to pull a piece of elastic off the waistband of your favorite pair of pants (don’t act like your pants didn’t have elastic waistbands when you were nine) and find that the elastic just keeps sliding out, and then with sinking horror your realize that your pants are getting looser. She placed my fingers over the correct holes, and even though I had to stretch and it hurt a little, it also felt right. I pulled the mouthpiece up to my mouth and, not knowing what sound could possibly follow, I blew, and made a sound on the very first try.
It was hard work from then on. I practiced so long sometimes that my wrists hurt. I moved up the ranks of band geekdom until I felt comfortable sitting with the cool kids, talking about the last marching band competition, and how well we did, and if-only-that-one-girl-would-just-pick-up-her-dang-flute-and-practice-we-could-achieve-world-peace. It seemed that easy. It was that easy.
I read today that Laura Joyce Davis said, “Strengths are not what we’re good at, but what make us feel strong.” Some days making music did make me feel strong. The only time that has stood out to me enough to make me reminisce and wish I practiced more was in my Senior year of high school, when I conveyed enough emotion that the judge in my solo competition cried. I knew that that was what art was about.
Back then I thought my future was in music, and maybe part of it is. I changed my major four times before deciding to graduate with a linguistics degree. You’d think that your degree would dictate you life’s work, I know for a fact that’s not true. Nothing ever seemed to click, until I looked back at what made me feel strong, even if I wasn’t the best at it.
When I was thirteen I wrote fanfiction. It was angst ridden, full of unrequited love, and (unfortunately) looked a little something like this:
“The day was finally upon me. I didn’t bother getting up when I felt someone calling me. I didn’t even open my eyes. I knew who it was. Harry and Hermione had been trying to get me to come to the dance anyways, saying that I should go because it’s my last year. I don’t care. I’ll be a table ornament if I go.”
When I took a writing break, I thought it didn’t get any better than that. I thought I couldn’t get any better than that. At least, the other prepubescents on fanfiction.net told be I was the bomb. Coming back into writing, though, I have worked my tail off (Seriously. You can look for yourself; there isn’t one). Now my writing looks a bit more like this:
“The rain started. It began slow, like the first few tears when you are trying not to cry, and it quickly escalated into those heaving sobs that cannot be controlled, the booming thunder and lightning happening simultaneously as the shrieks that come with knowing that there is no end to the tears in sight. The howls shook our house, and lit the sky as a brilliant spider web cracked through it. Mom managed to pull Dad and I inside and shut the door, turning for the television, flipping the switch so that she could do her hourly check of the StormWatch crew. The meteorologist stood out in the rain, his perfectly styled hair not even moving in the forty mile per hour wind. I wondered if he slept with his hair so tough. If he rolled over too quickly, would the helmet knock out his wife?”
My writing isn’t perfect- that’s for sure- but it keeps getting better, and even though it will never be perfect, I love it. It makes me feel stronger.