I’m an expert at nothing.
I write things like this and this and this, which I suppose are mildly interesting, but is it good writing? Nah. I liked this story that I wrote on our nursing program, but it’s hardly great writing. You can read this blog and know that I’m no great writer; hell, you’ll figure that out by the time you finish this post and make some effort to untangle the four or five completely divergent topics that are sure to emerge from what started as a simple enough premise. I’m clearly no great writer.
In the past I’ve taken toys apart, reassembled and repainted them to make something different and unique; back in the late 1990s I even had a couple of minutes of very specific Internet fame for coming up with a recipe for a particular Star Wars figure that was copied in earnest by other people who are into that sort of thing.
I play video games, and over the last several years have poured an absolutely embarrassing amount of time into this. I’ve played a bunch of console games, and have bothered to complete only a select few. In fact, I could probably list every game that I’ve actually completed here if I put a few minutes into it.
I’ve tried new things. This completely wild-assed idea I had to build a piece of furniture was going about as well as I could’ve expected for a first attempt, until I ran out of materials and pretty much tapped out my abilities to complete it without help. I’ve tried making a point to draw more. I’ve tried to make a point to write more.
I’ve tried a lot of things, but I don’t know what to do to be great at any of them. I see a lot of things in my head; I’ve always been able to visualize outcomes. For whatever reason, I’ve just been unable to turn those visualizations into tangible results.
There are plenty of things I think I do well enough.
I think I’m a pretty damn good dad to my two girls, and I take a lot of pride in that. I’m not great; there are plenty of things as a dad that I know for a fact I could do better. But on the whole, I think I’m pretty good. I can read stories in silly voices with the best of them; I can make shadow puppets on the wall while I’m laying in bed with my four-year-old daughter right before she falls asleep. I can laugh while she draws vampire teeth with the drawing program on her Leapster. And I can get on the webcam and help my oldest daughter with her algebra homework, even though it’s been three months since I’ve been able to give her a hug.
I love my girls to death; I love them both terribly. I hug the little one daily; I miss the oldest one just as often; and I am anticipating the arrival of their new partner in crime in March with an almost stupid amount of joy.
Likewise, I think I’m a pretty good husband. My wife may or may not agree, depending on the day or the time of day or whether I have or have not completed some assigned task in an appropriate fashion in the assigned amount of time. I feel confident saying that I think she mostly agrees. As with fatherhood I can, of course, be better. I’ve said and done things I shouldn’t have. I’ve not said and done things that I should have. The realities of dadhood and husbandhood are such that there’s always room for improvement and, fortunately, some relatively significant margin for error while you’re working on it. But in a big-picture kind of way, I think that I’m a pretty good husband.
I had a career that I thought I was pretty great at; when people asked me in job interviews why they should pick me, I told them, “Because you might find somebody who can do this one thing or that one thing or some other thing better than I can; but you’re not going to find anyone who’s better than me across the board. I don’t know who your other candidates are, but I’m better at this than they are.” And not only did I say that, I was pretty sure it was true. I would’ve put myself up against anybody else in the country; I wouldn’t have come out on top every time, but I’m pretty confident I’d have come out ahead far more often than not.
I don’t have that career any more, and I miss it on a near-daily basis. Not that the job didn’t have its share of frustrations; the frustrations played no small role in my departure from that job. What I miss about it was being really good at something, knowing I was really good, and showing up every day with the knowledge that I’d have some opportunity to prove it. I also loved that as a part of that job, I had regular opportunities to teach somebody something that they didn’t already know, or to share the tricks I used to accomplish some particular thing or complete a particular project.
I also have a pretty good imagination. It’s certainly vivid and creative; whether or not you wish to classify it as “good” depends greatly on the day and on your own individual perspective. I suppose in the hands of others, my imagination might be quantified as quite disturbing. When some people ask their friend to draw them a pony, most people probably get a pony in return. My friend got a pony named Deathblossom with giant cannons grafted onto its back. I like looking at things from any number of off-center angles, and when I’m passionate or excited about something I can look at things and see what could be, not merely what’s laid out in front of me.
But as I’ve already mentioned, I always seem to fail at making that vision become anything tangible.
I think part of my problem is that I’ve always wanted to be really good at a lot of things. Andy Bartlett, guitar playing woodworking artistic designer who can also whip up a computer program. The problem is, I think I suck at basically all of those things. I haven’t a clue how to play guitar, have failed to put enough effort into my few efforts to be a computer programmer to see even the remotest progress; I don’t practice enough to be really good at drawing. I don’t write enough to be a really good writer. I don’t make the time to do a lot of things.
So, I’m an expert at nothing. The only thing I think I do exceptionally well is get distracted by something new that I ultimately won’t be very good at. I’m not particularly happy about this, but at the same time I’m unsure of what exactly to do to cure it. In all likelihood, I’ll probably just keep goofing around with any number of broadly-varying things, and hope that whatever I pick up to occupy myself is at least temporarily amusing — even if the end result isn’t very good.