Friday, October 5, 2012

Surviving NOT Being A Child Prodigy

A couple of months ago I got my first ever article published! Okay it was on an online magazine and I didn't get paid anything, but in my mind it still counts. You can find the original article HERE or you can read it below.

Surviving NOT Being A Child Prodigy

There are lots of books and articles out there that are hugely inspiring. I know because I’ve read most of them. Lots of these writings involve a person going through a hardship or challenge and end up finally understanding the meaning of their life – or at least how to live it as fully as possible. They learn lessons and ultimately manage to pen it in a way that makes us laugh, cry, and for five whole minutes, think about our lives and how we are living them.

I am not one of those people, and this is not one of those articles.

I first realised I was mediocre and possessed little talent when I decided to write a book and found myself googling ‘I want an idea for a book’.

I’m not attempting to be particularly self-deprecating. I am just one of those people who was never a prodigy in any field - who never had a talent. I coul
dn’t catch a ball, draw a picture or play an instrument well. I was bad at math and science. I didn’t spend my weekends perfecting one activity. I never even particularly enjoyed any of the extra-curricular activities I did do. I’ve dabbled in dance, ice-skating, roller hockey, softball, netball, painting, drawing, woodwork, knitting, pottery, religion, rock climbing, yoga, photography, piano, viola, saxophone, personal training, life coaching… I could go on, but the list is endless.

On top of the pain of being talentless, I have also never had anything very interesting happen to me. I’ve never had a real tragedy or been so desperately poor I’ve had to live off baked beans or in a cardboard box. I’ve never had an abusive boyfriend or seen someone die. I have not had a serious illness or disease. I didn’t even get very bad acne as a teenager. I know, I was ripped off.

Okay, okay, before you get up in arms, that last paragraph was in jest. I do feel extremely fortunate that I have not had to suffer these things the way many people have. In the same breath, I have also felt extremely envious of people who have had experiences that led them to successful, fulfilling lives while I was still sitting in front of my computer in my pyjamas, laughing at cat videos on YouTube.

The problem with living my life that way was I honestly just didn’t know what else I should be doing. I was extremely conscious of the fact that it was a waste of a perfectly valid life and was hungry for something more meaningful to do, but at the same time I had absolutely no clue what the hell I was supposed to be doing. I knew that I was expected to pick a field, work really hard for a lot of years, earn some money and then retire, but what was it I was supposed to pick? I couldn’t help but feel that a talent or a problem would help me out of this pickle, but alas, I was stuck trying to find a calling with no guidance. The Universe refused to help.

In a world where everything we read, watch and hear tells us that success is simply easier with God-given talent, how does the Average Joe (or Jane) manage to discover the purpose of their life?

Why is it we feel such pressure to find ONE thing and stick to it? Why is it we feel the need to do it so young, and if we aren’t multimillionaires by age 25, we think we’ve missed the boat? In a generation where on average we change jobs every 5 years, what’s the obsession with finding THE ONE - Career, that is. Why are we encouraged to spend 4+ years at university studying one, sometimes two fields, when in all likelihood we won’t be doing anything even slightly related by the time we retire? Our careers will bend and change and we will find different things that interest us and we will try things we ultimately end up hating, but is that actually a problem?

Do we prodigy-less children need to panic, or is it actually a blessing in disguise? Are we the chosen ones? While those with natural ability at music or sport practice their talent daily, we are free to explore all fields with no pressure. No niggling thought in the back of our brains that we SHOULD be perfecting the skill we were born with.

In my short working life I have worked abroad as a glorified carnie, sold my possessions online for food money, started my own company, done online courses totally unrelated to my university degree, and found some semblance of happiness and joy in my totally messy and unstructured working life.

Yes the niggling voice that I should pick ONE thing and stick with it forever is still there, but I’m getting much better at shutting it up. This guilt we feel about not living our lives the way our parents and grandparents did is very real, but it is also on par with feeling guilty about buying a song on iTunes when they still produce records. It’s ridiculous, it’s out-dated, and while it is a nice concept it is rarely practical.

So I encourage you, all my non child prodigies, to be proud of your ability to switch and change without a care in the world. Enjoy yourself. You may end up stumbling across your one true love, or you may not. That’s okay too. At the end of the day, as long as you had a good time doing it, you will be able to look back on your life with as much pleasure and as many inspiring stories as our talented counterparts.

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