Throughout my childhood, I longed to possess exceptional gifts. I wished ferociously to be a prodigy, at something, anything. It didn’t matter to me, I would have happily taken on the burden of child math egghead, piano maestro or art whiz, just so I would have had something that made me stand out from the crowd. I vividly remember leaning against my mom’s shoulder, weeping and despairing the fact that I didn’t have one easily distilled gift. For me this longing was compounded by the fact that in my parents’ eyes, I was special/amazing/talented. When I started existing in a world outside of their praise, I was shaken by the realization that not everyone saw me illuminated by love as my parents did.

We all wish to be special and stand out from the crowd, but sometimes those defining skills need time to develop and mature. If I had had one singular gift as a child, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to act, sing, play the flute, read books, debate the Constitution, edit newsletters, plan overnights for my high school youth group and generally act the like the kid and young person that I was.

In my ongoing quest to embrace the person I am and exist in each moment, I’ve come to accept the fact that while I don’t have one thing that I excel at above all else, there are many things that I do very well. Here are some of them:

I’m great with food. I make a mean salad (including homemade dressing), can roast a chicken that will make you drool, and my caramel popcorn knows no bounds.
I can speak in front of large groups without a script without vomiting or making a fool of myself.
I’m really good at bringing people together and helping newcomers feel at ease.
I can read a book at breakneck speed and still remember it months later.
Whipping a cluttered desk/closet/shelf into order is as easy as breathing for me.
I drive a stick shift with ease and expertise.
I can make an entire room of people crack up, simply by laughing myself.
I can apologize and forgive.
My skills as a handbell player, while currently really rusty, were always pretty topnotch.
I can play tennis a little bit.
When I played softball (only with my dad, never on a team), I never threw like a girl and was never afraid of the ball.
My accessories are always unique and interesting.
If I actually put any effort into the guitar, I’d be pretty good at it.
I can whip through a rack at the thrift store and pull out the three best pieces in under five minutes.
Once in awhile, I’m a more than adequate writer.
I give an amazing massage.
I can retrieve Chuck Berry lyrics from my memory banks on command.
I’ve become a good runner, despite childhood signs to the contrary.
And of course I love my friends and family deeply and completely.

As I’ve grown up there are moments when I still wish for a passion, something that could define me and would enable me to say, “Yes, I’m a ___________.” Recently that desire slowly has become tempered by the realization that I’m not looking to be defined by what I do. These days I hope to be defined by how I treat and interact with the people I come into contact with. And that’s enough for me.

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