My Mad Skillz


[Image: two hands on a laptop, typing out a document. To the left are pieces of printed paper, a pencil, and several wads of paper in the background.]

Sharyna pointed something out to me the other day. I was already becoming aware of it, but she confirmed it for me in a very clear manner. I often devalue my own skills and abilities and consider lots of other people (particularly men) as smarter than me if they have a skill that I don’t have. I’ve done it with ex-boyfriends, but also with friends and other people in my life.

When it comes to where my skill set lies, it seems really obvious that writing and English are my strong points. But when it comes to math, I’m actually not as bad as I sometimes think I am or say I am. I was able to survive college math through pre-calculus II. Although I struggled with it, I still understood most of it and found some of it kind of fun. I get easily confused with math, but even people that are brilliant with math aren’t born knowing it. They still need to be taught. However, I don’t find math fun or enjoyable, so when it comes to doing math on my own, I choose not to. I would much rather write.

When we did inventory at Tarpley’s, I was paired with a self-proclaimed English nerd who was “not a math person.” Inventory, of course, is counting. I found myself adding up large sums of products in my head and asking her if they were right and she had absolutely no clue. I never thought that addition would be considered something very mathy, but compared to someone else who claimed their talents did not lie with numbers, I was much faster. I also amazed someone who vastly underestimated my math skills by perfectly understanding the properties of infinity, even though I had never been taught them before. I don’t know why, but the right answers made complete sense to me and I stuck with my gut.

Looking back over my life, I can see where I have idolized certain people as intellectual giants, just because they knew something that I didn’t. My ex-fiance knew computers. I didn’t. So I told him how smart he was and acted like he was more intelligent than I was. Which, let me assure you, he did not need me to openly state that. He was already convinced of it. But my feeding into his ego only assisted him in devaluing my skills even more. He didn’t think that writing was such an interesting hobby and certainly not that much of a skill. So when all I had to offer was writing and he could build computers, who was the smart one in this equation?

And, of course, I would be remiss without mentioning the zombie apocalypse. It really bothers me that I have no real survival skills. If the world goes to shit, no one is going to really need a writer. They’re going to need zombie killers, survivalists, sharpshooters, and preppers. Where do I fit in with all of this? Who is going to be willing to help keep me alive when my skills all involve a pen and not a pistol?

Naturally, this is a ridiculous way to judge my own skills. There is nothing out there to make anyone think that there will one day be real zombies. Judging the worth of my entire life on the basis of a horror movie scenario is pretty ridiculous. But still, I do it.

Partly I think this is just part of my low self-esteem talking. I can’t take my skills seriously because that would mean that I value myself and I never let myself do that. I act like everything I don’t know is far more important than everything I do know so that I can continue moving the goalposts and make sure that I can never catch up to whatever mythical line of competency I’m trying to force myself to catch up with.

In the end, I need to take a step back and stop being so hard on myself. I do have skills and I can be a competent person. Also, there was room for Milton Mammet in the zombie apocalypse, so why not me? Why can’t I be a writer that keeps a detailed account of life in the world of zombies that will become part of the culture milieu that exists during this time? Why can’t that be me?