Other than doughnut wedding cakes and buying school supplies, there are really no areas in my life where I excel as compared with any other average Jane. I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but it does. I really, really, really, really want to find something I am really good at. Something that other people who know me can use to describe me. “Oh, Kim. You know her – she’s the one who is really good at concrete stamping.”
I often look back on my childhood and teen years and recall the many times that I was simply okay at things. I was always struggling to be great and truly wanted to be called the best, but I mostly hovered around eh, so-so. For any child under the age of 14 – that sucks. Being bad would have probably given me more attention, but I was too scared to try that one out. I had a good suspicion that in my house, being bad might go hand-in-hand with being grounded, and I didn’t want that kind of attention.
In elementary school, we took these standardized tests twice a year. When the grades came back, the top scorers were given prizes and most were invited to join the honors program. The prizes were things like groovy sticker books and fun shoestrings. (Groovy stickers and fun shoestrings are still a great motivator for me, if you must know. Even at 31.) I remember never quite getting high enough grades for the prizes or the program, but not low enough grades to be considered for any sort of special tutoring. I was merely average with a periodic visit to the world of above average.
I spent years watching the smart kids do fun things like perform plays and go on exciting field trips. I watched them take home their Smart Kid Loot and often wondered if I’d ever join their ranks as owners of sheets of stickers declaring Ã¢â‚¬Å“AWESOME!Ã¢â‚¬Â for all to see. They went to the zoo! They rode the train! I wanted to be one of them more than I wanted to make-out with Kirk Cameron Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and that was a lot. Of course, there was only like four kids in the program – since my school only had about 15 kids per grade. So – I would have only been part of a small elite group – but an elite group nonetheless.
I believe it was the 5th grade when I finally scored high enough on the tests to be asked to join the honors program. Of course, that year the most exciting field trip was to a cattle auction. I remember being bitter that being smart somehow meant that I needed to smell like cow shit. As luck would have it, joining the honors program for that one year still barely put me above average. That year, half of my class made it into the same program, but with higher scores.
My subject grades were never the best either – just pretty good. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure I could have worked harder to get top marks, but I preferred writing notes signed Ã¢â‚¬Å“LYLASÃ¢â‚¬Â to my BFFs. And sports? Let’s see – I played soccer, basketball, I cheered (shut up – it was practically mandatory) and took gymnastics – all before high school. During those endeavors I was “The girl who scored a basket for the wrong team,Ã¢â‚¬Â “The one student who still can’t do a back handspring after two years,” and “The girl on the bench.” I think in the world of athletics, I was more often below average or possibly the outlier ruining the average for the rest of the team.
Mediocrity tortured me.
In high school, I came a little closer to becoming The Smartest or The One with The Highest Scores, but I never actually achieved that goal. I was proud to be close, but I was never close enough to garner any attention for my academics. I graduated with honors and a 4.0 (on a 4.0 scale) – but that still had me ranked out of the top 20 in a 56 person class. Damn my class and its high concentration of smart kids.
And sports? I played volleyball and ran track. I actually became pretty good at Volleyball, but never great. (We’re not discussing track.) Of course, I wouldn’t have even had the chance to become good at a public school. Lucky for the athletically challenged, my school was so small that the coaches of the sports teams didn’t even have try-outs. If you wanted to play – you simply showed up. The coaches rarely even knew the rules of the sport they were coaching, so the potential for progress in the positive direction was intense. All in all, my athleticism improved in high school, but that just brought me closer to average and further from talent less dweeb with two left feet.
Socially – I was never the top either. I was the president of one club that meant a lot to me – but that no one else gave two flying shits about. I mean – who wants to find their place as “The Best” in an all-girls service club? That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to discover my unharnessed potential. Doing Meals-on-Wheels.
Towards the end of high school, I started realizing that the best way to get that attention I craved was to quit trying to be the best and focus more on being the weirdest. This was very easy at a small high school where the students wore uniforms. I learned that I could get just as much attention wearing black nail-polish as I could by getting the top grade on a test. And the black nails were much easier to accomplish. After relishing the stares and whispers after one day of wearing black nail-polish, I braved silver snake rings and black combat boots. OOHH! The attention! I even started dating an older guy!
For a short while, I guess, I became the best at something. I was The Girl with the Lyrics to Stairway To Heaven Written on her Jeans, formerly known as The Girl Who Is the Eucharistic Minister on Wednesdays in The Chapel. I was getting attention for becoming somebody different, somebody weird, and I loved every second of it. For the short while it lasted.
Unfortunately – I was only unique in my small world of a catholic high school. When I entered college, I learned the world was full of freaks bigger and better than I could ever hope to be. My hard earned title of weirdest didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even last past orientation in college. They guy with the purple mohawk and tattoos on his neck took it from me.
I find that my inability to find the one thing I can do AWESOMELY to be quite disheartening. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been thinking about Life Lists lately, and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get past #1 on my Life List: Become REALLY Good At Something Other Than Watching Television.
So Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I think I want to tinker with some skills to try to find my calling. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve already been working on web-design, but I think I lack natural creative vision to excel at that. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blogging, of course, but I lack natural grammatical skill to succeed at that. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve tinkered with scrapbooking, but my attention span (32 seconds) keeps me for getting into that. Creating my own greeting cards is okay, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not shown any natural ability for that skill either. Especially since my handwriting is so ugly.
What are you hobbies? What are you really good at? Can you teach me? Do you also have an unquenchable desire to be the Valedictorian of something (to quote Dooce)? If so, let’s do this together. Unless you turn out to be better than me, then I’m ditching you for a less capable partner.