17 February 2012

Friday Five: Five Things I'm Good At

Over at The Collective, the topic of the week is "Five Things I'm Good At", although being uncomfortable with phrases ending in a manner prepositional, I would probably restate it as "Five Things At Which I Am Good". And since I haven't done a Friday Five in a while, I thought I'd steal the theme to prompt for a blog post.

At first, this topic sounded pretty easy. I generally remark that one of the curses of being me is that I'm actually pretty good at a lot of stuff, but I'm not great at anything. So surely I could find five things wherein my performance could be described as "good". Right? But then I remembered that many of the things I do well are actually things I used to do well and haven't done for a while. Example: Dance. I was no Anna Pavlova, but I was at least good enough at ballet that my ballet teacher asked me to work as her teaching aide for some of her younger classes. But unfortunately, the summer before I was to start doing that, she had emergency surgery on her foot and couldn't dance or teach anymore, so not only was I not helping teach ballet but I didn't even have a ballet teacher myself, and I never found another instructor that I liked, and so I stopped dancing in my senior year of high school. I haven't done ballet for 15+ years and while I'd like to start dancing seriously again, my lifestyle (single parent who works fulltime) doesn't support that kind of effort. Life is about trade-offs. Oh! But I'm kind of good at trade-offs, then, right?
  1. Trade-offs - I still have a lot to learn and gain in this area, but I'm pretty good at maximizing what I can do within the restrictions of what I can't. Does that make sense? Case in point: graduate school. Now, I'm as dedicated as anyone to wanting to get straight A grades, and I have for most of my life. But during the majority of my time in grad school, I was working fulltime and married. I could have done nothing but work and schoolwork the whole time, and come away with a perfect 4.0 GPA, but I decided that I wanted to spend time with my husband and family and friends, go to Disneyland, read fun books, watch movies and TV... Basically, I opted for having a life while also working and in school, and so I was willing to take a GPA between 3.8 and 3.9. I graduated with high honors and managed to do most of what I wanted. Not bad, all told. [Note: This is an engineering trait. We are essentially lazy; we devise ways to get maximum return for minimum investment and then use terms like "efficiency" and "earned value" to paint ourselves as virtuous and disguise our inherent lack of interest in putting forth any more effort than is absolutely necessary.]
  2. Being a dedicated mother - I've had to accept that nobody can be a perfect parent 100% of the time, but I really do care about being a good mother and try hard at it every day. I'm going to count myself a success, because after more than 4 years, my child is still alive, relatively healthy and well-adjusted. He solves puzzles far above his age level and can do addition and subtraction in his head.
  3. Traveling - My style may not be to everyone's taste, but all things considered, I'm very very good at traveling, especially internationally. I make good packing lists. I can include everything that might be needed but travel light and pack everything into an impossibly small piece of luggage. [My primary fault is packing too much reading material--books and magazines are heavy, you know--but to be stuck in an airport or airplane without something to read would be a travesty.] I try to know everything I can about my destination(s). If I'm traveling with companions, I might even put together little travel-sized pamphlets for everybody, containing useful things like maps, our itinerary and schedule (even though we don't usually stick to our schedule), phone numbers to the American embassy and our hotel/airline, even (if necessary) key phrases in languages spoken where we'll be traveling. I probably already know a lot about the history and geography of our destination(s) (see #4, below) but I'll research everything that I don't already know and then bore you to tears by telling you about it. When in country, I'll spend way too much time in museums, staring in awe at some particular artifact that is very important to me, even though it looks like just a dusty old piece of rock to everyone else. Despite my US passport, I am invariably mistaken to be German, even by flight attendants on Lufthansa, so it makes for some fun and funny confusion at times. If we get stranded anywhere, miss a flight, lose luggage, whatever, I'll be loads of fun in the airport while we wait, and I'll make sure that everything turns out all right in the end (okay, I don't have any control over most of what happens in airports, but I will always maintain a positive attitude and take care of my friends). Lets save up several thousand dollars and go to Europe together--you won't regret it, I promise!
  4. Retaining obscure knowledge - I remember all kinds of generally useless facts on any and all subjects. I read a lot and have good recollection for things that I've read. This makes me a force with which to be reckoned at Trivial Pursuit. Sadly, unless I go on Jeopardy, this mastery of trivia is unlikely to be beneficial in a monetary sense.
  5. Old movies - I have spent many hours of my life watching classic old movies, from silents (veritable antiques) to 1960s epics (not so old). I really enjoy films from a bygone era, and as with general trivia, I remember pretty much everything about my old movies. I can recognize even obscure character actors. I know all about German expressionism, film noir, new wave, and other cinematic trends. I have strong opinions about a lot of things related to film in general. Good times, good times.

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