I am good at washing the dishes, does not mean I want to be a dish washer!
It is wonderful how the human brain works. How memories build, and how lessons are learned. The smart thing however, is knowing the lesson to be learned from an old record in the back of your mind.
As I grow older, memories of my early childhood (11 is early enough!) pop up at unexpected times. Reflecting on them, I can easily say those were moments wasted, as I did not capitalize on the lesson learnt as soon as it occurred. Well, thankfully, the wonderful human brains is capable of reflecting on its own subconscious level, and those lessons do turn out to be useful one way or another.
Here are some memories I had, and the lessons I should have learned early on…
I remember in 8th grade I had a great teacher, who asked us once to try and write a story for comprehension lesson. I had a moment of clarity and creativity that allowed me to write a true story in a very attractive way. It took me a lot of effort and I kept changing it until it was very well crafted. My teacher loved it, and told me: “you have a talent for writing stories, why don’t you try writing another one?” I believed her. I should have not! I never was able to write another story, I simply did not have that talent. Lesson learned: know what you’re good at, don’t wait for others to tell you that.
Thankfully, I’ve always been that person, but I came to understand it better after graduation of university. I realized everyone was applauding me for anything good I did, but I knew better to consider myself talented in those areas. I just tend to do things right, right from the first time. Then I get bored, exhausted, uninterested, and reckless.
When I first started working, we went through orientation sessions, where we get to live a whole life cycle of a project in one week. At first I was given the hat of a team leader, then I was asked to help in information architecture. At the end of the sessions we had the chance to give each other feedback, and I was given one very intriguing eye-opening feedback about my performance: “You just seem to be good at whatever you do!” It hit me right then, since I did not do well as a Team Leader even though I wanted to play that part. I remembered how my mother always said how good I was at washing the dishes! But I knew I never wanted to be a … dish-washer! Lesson learned: I can find ways to excel at what I do whatever it is, and that in itself is a talent, not what I do.
In my 6th grade, I had another situation that could have taught me so much. I had a lousy English teacher, who (now when I reflect back) had no idea how to handle an 11 year old girl! Back then, they separated us into two groups for English classes, class A for more advanced students, and class B for those who need to pick up. Initially I was put in class A. Then this teacher took three girls out of class, gave us a short test, and decided that only one stays in class A. I wasn’t that one. I didn’t take it well to be “degraded.” So I started weeping. Now regardless of whether I should have been in class A or B, the teacher could have easily put me at rest with the choice she thought was better for me. Instead, she seriously took it personally and said: hell, go to class A!
Okay, so now I am in class A, thinking in the back of my mind, that I don’t deserve it, that I need to do double the work, that I need to prove a point. And all my efforts went to “trying to prove it!” A month later or so, I requested to be put in class B. You can only imagine how much hatred I had (and still have apparently!!!) to that teacher.
A year after, I was put in class A, but I realized that it wasn’t a big deal. I realized I could have easily worked my way in it. I could have caught up and beat them all, because that is what I did for the remaining… of my life! Lesson learned again: don’t let “them” tell you what you’re good at, that is their personal opinion, that should not matter to you. Damn, I let her put me down! never again.
The last moment of truth I could add up to this experience, is back in forth year, engineering school. They usually send some students for internships to Europe instead of inside Jordan. I looked at the list of cities included and thought, this hurts, for the first time in my life, I find myself out of competition. (My GPA wasn’t good enough!) So I never bothered to apply for internship. Later on, I found out that the ones who won these trips, had lower GPAs than mine. Lesson learned: don’t let the damn GPA decide what you can do!
So there you go, lesson of the decade: find out what you’re good at for yourself, don’t let others dictate it, don’t be fooled by how good you do what you already do, don’t let your English teacher win a fight, and don’t underestimate what you can do based on… some nation’s grading system!