Question 42:. What are some of your talents? How did you discover them? What have you done to cultivate and develop them?
I want to start this with a story about myself. I learned to read when I was three. I was always a very good reader and very good student. School came pretty easily to me. I worked hard; I often pushed myself. I was very successful in school. I tied with a girl named Rachel as number two in my senior class. My friend Lara was number one. I received one A- my first semester of freshman English. As a child and teenager, I was very proud of my intelligence. Probably I was a bit cocky about it, even, at least as a teenager. I took AP US history, government, economics, Spanish, calculus, and English. I passed all of those tests except Spanish. Not entirely my fault...my school didn't actually have AP Spanish, so my friend Lara and I did a kind of independent study version in our Spanish teacher's office while she taught another class. She checked on us from time to time, but we didn't put in as much effort as we could have. (Lara still managed to pass the AP exam.)
Anyway, 20 years ago (how did that happen?), I graduated from high school and headed off to Provo, Utah to be a student at BYU. I moved into Hinckley Hall, one of the dorms, and I was in a dorm for honors students. Suddenly, I was surrounded by many of BYU's smartest freshman. Several people in my ward were Presidential scholars...the highest scholarship given by BYU. They were incredibly intelligent. And many of them were seemingly talented in many other ways...sports, music, etc. I really didn't get homesick much that first year, and I developed wonderful friendships with several people that I stay in contact with today. But I did go through a bit of self doubt and feelings that I was not of worth. S much of what I had thought made me special was tied to my academic achievement...and suddenly, I saw that I wasn't as smart as I had always thought. I wasn't musical or athletic or artistic. I began to feel a bit like the Ugly Duckling.
A number of things happened over the next few years to help me get over those feelings. I was humbled. I prayed to know that I was special and loved, even though I wasn't as smart as I thought...smart, but not brilliant. And my prayers were answered. I also spent a lot of time reading my patriarchal blessing and highlighted each of the gifts that it mentioned. It ended up being a real blessing in my life.
So...my talents. Or my gifts. I think talents and gifts are similar, but not exactly the same. Most of them aren't, in my opinion, that noticeable...but I have talents. I am a good teacher. I am good with kids and have an ability to develop a warm, caring atmosphere in my classroom. How have I developed my skills and talents as a teacher? I have taught for 16 years. I have read lots of books about teaching. I have participated in training. I have been observed by others and received feedback from them. I have video taped myself teaching and watched those tapes. I have prayed and asked for help and assistance.
Another talent is that I am a good reader and have a good memory about what I read. I can often remember titles, authors and main ideas of books that I have read even years later. Since I average at least 50 chapter books/novels a year and hundreds of picture books, that is no small feat. I really don't have to work at this much. I do belong to Goodreads and type reviews for most of the books I read, and I know that writing helps cement things in my memory better. But other than that, I really don't work hard at that. I have the ability to recall scriptures, books and other things I have read easily.
Another gift I have is my testimony of Jesus Christ. For the most part, I find it easy to believe and develop faith. That has been true for most or all of my life. That is not to say that I never have questions or that I do not have to work to continue to strengthen my faith and testimony. I know these are precious gifts that can be lost if I do not put effort into strengthening them and using them.
Finally, another gift or talent I have is that I find it genuinely easy to love and feel empathy for others, most of the time. I know this is a gift of the spirit, and I know that I am not perfect at this. I know that this ability comes from my Father. Alfredo commented off-handedly today that I always see the good in others. That isn't entirely true. I often notice the bad and feel disappointed or saddened by the poor choices that others make. But at the same time, I can often feel some level of understanding about why they do what they do. I have been blessed to be able to love a wide variety of people, from a wide variety of backgrounds and often can see multiple perspectives. Primarily, this has been a gift of the spirit. But I have accepted callings in the church, including several that have really stretched me, and that has helped to develop my talents in this area. I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of people as I have taught. I have traveled a little bit outside of the US and that has helped me. And I truly believe reading has played an integral role in this as well....helping me to see multiple perspectives and learn about others who are different. (I actually read a research article a few months ago that showed that reading novels does increase empathy.).
I am not gifted musically...I don't sing or play an instrument. I am not as organized as I would like...or as organized as Alfredo would like me to be. :). I am clumsy and not at all athletic. I am not artistic. I am not good at fixing things. I am a pretty good cook...but I have to follow recipes, not just invent foods on my own. I am good at recording things...I journaled regularly for many years and now blog. I am definitely still a work in progress. But I am thankful, so very thankful, for the talents and gifts that I have been given. And I am thankful for the talents of so many others that bless my life.