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Talent Don't Hurt. (Right?)

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

When discovered, it's hard to accept a talent that exists far outside of our comfort zone. It feels like a paradox. If I have a knack for the doing of a thing, I shouldn't feel uncomfortable in the doing of it. Right?


Wrong? I think? But if this is the case, how do I tell the difference between the bad feeling of being outside a zone of comfort and other bad feelings, like being in over one's head? Or the real-time realization of having made a huge mistake? Or having pissed someone off? Or failure, in general?


I don't think you can. Unless someone contradicts how horrible you're feeling (or felt) by saying, "Hey. You're pretty good at this."



In grade school, I tried soccer. Ended up as one of the goalies for some reason. I was already an anxious kid, though you don't realize you are one at the time. And Dear Lord did I want to run off the field when we played against other kids. Soccer fields are very long. So, it was actually very nice when our team was doing well. Because everyone was WAY OVER THERE. All the parents and coaches and other kids watching were looking WAY OVER THERE. This left me by myself, unnoticed, and un-challenged, making it easier to relax a bit.


But then inevitably it'd all go to shit and the whole mess would start charging my way. With it, the sounds of screaming and cheering, the stress of trying to remember what to do, and sensing when that ball was about to come screaming my way.


I remember this all vividly in a general way, if that makes sense. But I have a select and specific memory of waiting in line to get on the bus after a game. And the coach stopping me before my turn to climb up the bus steps that always smelled so much like bus steps. And telling me what a good job I was doing as a goalie. And that he thought I had a real talent for that position.


I said, "ok, thank you." Then I managed to get up into the bus and find a seat while feeling like I might pass out.


What the hell did he mean "good job?" How the hell could I feel how I felt while playing while also doing a "good job?" What talent? Is it just that no one else wants to be a goalie so coach is lying because having me is better than having no goalie at all? Wait, I said thank you. Did I just agree to keep BEING the goalie? I spent most of the quiet parts of the game day-dreaming about running away without being noticed. What does having talent even MEAN then?


Pretty sure I got home, hid in my room, and cried for a while. Actually talented or not, being told I had talent as a goalie had tethered me to a situation I was increasingly desperate to escape. But in grade school, earlier even, we decide talent is a good thing. Like everyone, I'd always wanted to be seen as talented. Just not in this. Much like how at the time, I'd spend a lot of mental energy wishing someone would see me as boyfriend-material. But would get very frustrated when a girl who wasn't "the right girl" would show me kindness.


I'm sure we all get talent "ambushed" by situations similar to this. In part, I think, because how we feel inks our sense of reality so deeply.


These are potentially fantastic encounters, though. "Positive ambushes" might be a better phrase. "Opportunities" might do us one better.


Semantics aside, if they're inevitable, the fact one will hit you sooner or later is moot. The point becomes, how do you navigate the confrontation?


I quit soccer soon after learning I might be good at it. Decades later, truly wish I hadn't.


Time is finite. Talent, doubly so.