Me, piano recital photo, circa early eighties, dress made by my grandmother. Also, I have trouble imagining myself with bangs, but apparently I used to rock them.
Good question: Is there something that you can’t do (at all, or very well) that you wish you could do?
I liked this question when Caroline first asked it, but now I think I love it, because it made me stop and think about the differences between talent and practice, something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Sometimes when I post things I’ve made or projects that I’m working on, I get a lot of feedback that includes the word “talented” in it. It’s always a sweet thing to hear, but I never really think about my work as being driven by talent.
As someone who works in a creative field, and is also surrounded by (and perhaps attracted to) creative people, I feel like I spend a good portion of my days being inspired by, and in awe of, many talents that I don’t possess. Not in an envious way, really – I’m just constantly amazed by the diversity of talents and infinite variations on the shared fruits of these gifts, so much so, that I often find myself saying “I would love to try that out sometime”.
But in naming something that I can’t do, I also have to think about those things that I can do, and it’s not a small amount of things. I’m not the “best” at any of these things, but I do think I’m pretty good at generating an idea in my head, gathering up the resources to try it out, and I’m patient (and sometimes lucky) enough that it turns out like I imagined. Most things that I do well, I do them because I practice. A lot. And I don’t really consider that a talent, just a good effort.
My initial response was this: I’d love to be able to speak other languages more fluidly. That probably has more to do with practice than talent, but I do believe that some people pick up languages far easier than others. I love to read things in other languages – it’s an enjoyable stretch of my brain – but I’m a reluctant speaker, and not a great conversationalist in a foreign tongue.
At times I’ve thought it might be cool to be a great athlete – or, to be honest, have any sort of athletic tendencies at all. I’m (not so) secretly terrified of things flying towards me that I have to catch (or duck). I tend to freeze, or turn around and run away screaming. But I don’t think I really wish for this talent. I’m okay admiring athletic skills in others, particularly when they are playing for my team.
This is a tough question! But I think I know what my answer is. I’d love to be able to sing. Like, really sing. I can carry a tune or sing in a crowd. But I’d love to have one of those amazing voices that stops you dead in your tracks. I’m not sure I’d ever have the confidence or desire to be the one that is called on to sing something in front of a crowd, but I’d love to have some pipes good enough to encourage me to try it! I recently attended a funeral, and an 85 year old man was one of the speakers. He spoke of a well known German poem / prayer that is frequently sung as a lullaby by children, and he recited the English translation. After he spoke, his wife opened her mouth and began singing it in German, no microphone, just her lovely, clear voice that filled the space and brought everyone to tears. I think I’d love that talent – not for the applause or the attention, just for the ability to lend sound to the moment, and give voice to deepest grief and purest hope.