Monday, January 12, 2009

Sunday Top Ten: I Just Wanna be Good

The key to high self-esteem for Grown-Ups is to craft an adult life composed solely of things you're already good at. I don't feel smarter now than I did at age 13 'cause I AM smarter, I feel smarter now 'cause I'm not spending twenty hours a week staring dumbly at mathematical equations, Spanish verb conjugations and photosynthesis diagrams wondering why I've got chapstick for brains. The second runner up key to high self-esteem is alcohol or cocaine. The third runner up is actual self esteem. I don't know what's wrong with you people, what time did you wake up today?

Top Ten Things I Wanna Be Good At But I'm Totally Not
(some are from the list you made in the comments of what you're good at, those are indicated by an asterisk.)

10. **Grammar -
It's just kinda embarrassing. I've got several years of education on this topic. I wonder if my occasional mistakes make people violent like how I feel when I see apostrophes in plurals. I really get so upset about it, I'm just sick to imagine what it'd be like if you ever looked at ME that way. La la la. Preposition.

9. Dancing
- I secretly love to dance, I'm just bad at it and therefore often avoid it. How do you learn to dance? So far my best strategy's been to get really drunk,'cause then you know I just pick up the beat straight away, it's like magic suddenly I am ready to take baby out of the corner and do that big lift like Swayze-Crazy style.

8. **Sleeping - What a cop-out! I thought seeing "sleeping" as an answer and then I realized no, she is, she's a great sleeper. Her head hits the pillow and she's out, the alarm goes off and she's miserable but up, and I've always been fascinated by those who master this skill I've never -- literally never, not for one moment of childhood even -- possessed. I've generally dated excellent sleepers, sleepers who'll sleep through everything that keeps me up, when I wake up sick, or typing, or not sleeping, or reading or going to the bathroom, getting more water, hunting for chapstick, checking email, thinking thinking thinking thinking. They can snooze away. Haviland's a bad sleeper too, but she wears ear-plugs and wakes up at dawn w/o an alarm.

7. **Writing news stories quickly and efficiently - I am OBSESSED WITH FIGURING THIS OUT. Why? Why do I write so many words? Why are my blog posts so long? Why must I recap every minute if I'm gonna recap a show at all? Why must I be so thorough? What does it mean that I once used David Foster Wallace to justify this behavior and he killed himself this year? It's just I have so! many! thoughts! this is too long.

6. CSS/HTML -- You know that feeling you'd get while doing homework for a class you're bad at -- for me, this was all maths, sciences and languages (by that I mean, "Every class except English") -- a class you're required to take although your brain executes no apparent skill or aptitude for it?

That feeling don't end on graduation day, kids. We've got a kickass programmer now, but there's some things one must attempt to do oneself before one can even tell the designer what to design let alone tell the programmer what to put into code and godDAMN that shit is hard. After I finished my college requirements I thought from here on out, I'll only do shit I'm good at, but no. There's always new opportunities to feel that way, wheee!!

5. **Bullshitting - So I'm working, any job, being paid for something and I'm barely even initiated into the computer system before I begin breaking everything down 'til it barely even exists. I'm at a restaurant and my co-workers are earnestly absorbing information about the specials and I'm analyzing the macro-structure of going out to eat as a luxury commodity, how much food America throws out while in other countries starving children fight over bags of rice, how mealtimes are such an imperative part of family, social and worklife structures, how we've made something so animal totally civilized, and so what if you've got an eating disorder and therefore avoid going out to eat then what do you miss how do people look at you and what if we just talked to each other like real people, why do we agree to accept that the waitress will be nice to earn a tip while we all pretend that she's being nice 'cause she honestly cares, honestly thinks you'll be happier and healthier with Grilled Pork Chops or a soda refill. Well at least this job is better than retail 'cause I honestly do believe that people should eat food, but I don't believe they need a fried appetizer, and this is why it's better for me to just go into business for myself because there's a product I can talk about if it's a passion project and omg DO YOU SEE WHAT I MEAN! I mean don't even get me started on psychoanalyzing all my co-workers, we could be here all night/day/whatevs/shift.

They say "get a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life," I say, "Get a job you love and you'll probs avoid getting fired."

photo by cass bird

4. Letting Go For Reals - I never change, it's just circumstances that fit better. The only thing that ever helped me get over something was to replace it with something better or to run away or to change everything about my life completely so that whatever I'm holding onto wouldn't have a place in it. I did that at 14 and again at 23. Now I just write stuff so I'm not allowed to forget.

3. Remembering Numbers -- I'm severely, severely number retarded, and it makes me look really stupid a lot. I get numbers mixed up, even after months working at the same address I often misdirected deliveries. Despite frequenting the joint, I gave Haviland's address as "3E" in a recent reply-all and, back in '06 when I first started coming over, she'd have to stand outside her door at "2E" to intercept me on my way up.

It's not just numbers, it's symbols too, any kind of arbitrary pattern, I get mixed up. My first year at U-Mich I sent all my mail to the last four digits of my SSN 'cause my actual address was the same sequence with the first two numbers reversed.

I used to chalk this all up to flightiness and an inability to pay attention. But as I grow into the mature blossom of a person that I am, I realize that it's not. I'm gonna start writing shit on my hands again! That worked before. My hands are the softest post-it notes in the world.


1. Winning I'm trying to remember if I've ever gotten first place in anything. Every competition I've ever been in, I've never lost -- I've always gotten 2nd place or some kind of semi-finalist position, but never first. From the Ann Arbor Public Library Short Story Contest for Children to the 50-yard-dash to the ARTS Competition to National Merit Scholars to the Hopwood Awards to the Lesbian Blog of the Year. It's good, always placing but never finishing. Gives me something to reach for and a persistent sense of being one step away from greatness, which enables a humility that's quite necessary when one ventures to talk about oneself so much. La-di-da but anyhow you have two more days to vote! Keep voting! Remember we can't let the republicans win, yes we can.

Oh wait! We won the Uh Huh Her SXSW contest. Does that count? I don't know if our competition was even soapbox derby level.

You know what I was thinking about what I really like in a person? I like people who remember things being better than they were, who conveniently forget the hardest parts. I like that and I like good sleepers, and I like chips and ice cream (not together) and lately I've been really into these sandwich cookies that are like Oreos but the filling is sort of pepperminty.

Oh Carly if you've made it this far: IDEAS. You're genuinely good at ideas. Me too.


Anonymous said...

zomg, first of all, OMGOMGOMGOMG first!!

i couldn't think of anything i am good at, except things that i am not proud of, therefore didn't want to share. i feel like you are kind of good at sleeping, cause waking you up is kind of a nightmare. falling asleep, you are not good at, but the actual act of sleeping, you thrive.

also, umm credit cass bird on that pic, cause she has a lot of feelings about those sorts of things.

carlytron said...

oh snaps, you're right. we ARE good at ideas!! excellent.

a;ex said...

Thanks for taking back the thing about the "cop-out."

I'm good at Rock Band too. Happy?

Now you should probs go ahead and make a list of things you are good at... just to keep the balance, you know?
Making eggs, recapping, and looking fine in a wife-beater are among many potential list items. Just sayin.

Vashti said...

I wish I was good at sleeping too. I mean, I'm pretty good at it when I'm in school but on weekends and breaks, fuck my life, I'm up til 4 am. But I mean, that's the reason I started commenting here in the first place. It distracted me from that "I want to shoot myself in the face" feeling I get early in the morning.

Also, I have a lot of time on my hands meaning thanks to Wordle, I have photographic/typographic/graphgraphic evidence for why you should/deserve to win the Best LGBT Weblog Award:

This Girl Called Automatic Win
The Bilerico Project
Pam's House Blend

First off, what is this? Glad you asked. So basically, it's a compilation of the most frequently used words in all y'all's blogs. The more a word is used, the bigger it is. You know, a word cloud. Put words that relate to LGBT issues aside [ie: Castro, DOMA, etc.] and you basically win. Sure, for other bloggers the word gay [or in Pam's case homosexual] maybe be twice the size of yours but you? You have more than just one word. You have three [gay, gayest, and LGBT]! Everyone else just has one or two. If that doesn't spell winner, then I give up on America. Time to move to Canada, the UK, or Australia where they spell words differently.

a. said...

Hooray for automatically winning!

As for writing quickly and efficiently... I've gotten so good at cutting all thoughts down to a sentence that all my writing suddenly lacks emotion. I think I've managed to give myself A.D.D.
It works for me professionally though!
If you do seriously need a hand with this sort of thing in the future, let me know.

Fun fact:
I keep my OBVS button on my coat, and therefore it keeps showing up at different press conferences with cops and such around the city. As in "Do we have a gang problem?" ...Obvs.
It brings me far too much amusement.

Haviland Stillwell said...

I love that Cass Bird shot. She commented on my toes when we met. I thought that was appropriate for the auto-winners to know. Even the mystery ones who comment on my website.
I like the restaurant part, riese.

Elizabeth said...

Speed reading isn't all it's cracked up to be. I am one of those people who can read insanely fast... except it's more like I look at a paragraph and absorb the general ideas. Or I flip through pages and manage to read an entire sentence somewhere that catches me but then the page is long gone because I've flipped so far ahead already (my brain is faster than my hands or mouth)... I miss the details a lot and have to force myself to slow down or reread.

kaydee said...

You dont want to remember numbers.
I remember tons and tons of numbers, all numbers. There should almost be a movie about me and numbers, but obviously everyones like "beentheredonethat".

What I started off wanting to say is, I just seem like a creeper. People are like "Hey, what's that one girls phone number? The one with the hair?" and I've only met her once, don't know her name but I can still answer "957-8099" which hopefully isn't anyones real number. I should have used "555".

Also, I feel like I'm saying all of this out loud, really fast, without breathing.


Rachel said...

i don't know, i think you are probably better than bullshitting than you think. it is what happens if you have an english major, or a women's and gender studies major, or if you sometimes get the sinking feeling that you can't think about anything real anymore. also i would argue that if you are for real good at making eggs, that is a pretty solid talent, maybe up there with sleeping or grammar.

asher said...

totally random comment:

- haviland meant cass bird? wow.

- and gus van sant is starting to look a lot like andy warhol. no?

word veri - adject
is that a real word? and if so, isn't that cheating?

riese said...

Anonymous: I feel like if I was good at sleeping, waking me up wouldn't be a nightmare, I feel like my rather aggressive behavior towards anyone who dares to awake me from slumber is evidence of me being bad at sleeping. People who wake up friendly I feel are very good at sleeping. Though you should wake up my Mom, she'll make me seem like a Care Bear.

carlytron: self-esteem crisis wholly averted.

a;ex: You know I thought about that but I think actually I've already written a few top tens on topics related to my few legitimate skillsets. I feel like recapping isn't a skill when all my recaps are 10,000 words long. I dunno.

Vashti: I like that my biggest words are "smarter" "like" "give" and "now." I don't know what tht says about me. Comrades. chapstick. high. Also I like "Space" and "nine" being so close to each other, it's totes Deep Space Nine. These are all just from the entries on my front page yeah? I think what this proves is that my blog is totally unfocussed scattershot of nonsense maybe. No wait I take it back. Gayest. I mean it says so right there, I'm the gayest.

a.: Oh I love the obvs button, I feel like it cuts off communication before communiacton can even begin. I might for real ask for help on summarizing news stories. Once upon a time this woman at Condè Nast was trying to teach that skill to me but then the project got killed and yadda yadda yadda but I never did figure it out.

Haviland Stillwell: helllloooooooo gorgeous. I like your toes too, even if I'm not a world famous photographer.

Elizabeth: Well I want to be a speed reader who can also remember what she read too. I know people like that. Can't you decide to slow down and then just slow down? Or if you CAN speed-read something, you just can't help but speed-read Everything? I find this very intriguing now.

kaydee: See but also, it's really embarassing when I don't know my address, and I've been in big trouble at jobs for not knowing table numbers or office worker's extensions or any other arbitrary arrangement of numbers. Also sometimes people have phone #s that are really similar and I get them mixed up, like hav & tb and my mom & natalie. You should be my numbers assistant, it's a great job.

Rachel: Sometimes I try to think if I was always this way, if its' a result of overeducation especially w/r/t sociology or if it's just I've reached an age where I've had enough thoughts to find these thoughts totally overwhelming. i'm not really that good at making eggs. i'm actually curious how anyone can be bad at making eggs.

-funny story is that she was actually supposed to photograph us for that ny mag story that got killed, but then they rescheduled the shoot for the next weekend so we got another photog and actually i've never seen those photos but anyhow, i know right, i'm jealous.
-yes. re: gus/andy. i think on purpose.

Elizabeth said...

I feel like I have adult onset ADD and I just keep reading faster and faster because I want to know what happens because I want to know what else happens because I want to go paint a picture because maybe later somebody will post something new on one of my favorite websites and then maybe it will inspire me to write something again... ya dig?

If I realize that I'm reading super fast and no longer retaining details I will force myself to stop, slow down and go back. It was a useful skill in college but now I think I'm just missing the beauty in the details.

Maybe I've always been ADD, I was just better at channeling it when I was little?

autumn m said...

Ok so I was dying inside a little bit every time I thought about the fact that I was good at nothing. But.......then I realized that I am great at something. Like better than anyone else ever anywhere. an amazing people watcher. Like I could be a professional public people watcher. I also feel this has another name, like stalking or something. I don’t know. Like it could be borderline stalker-ish. And what helps make me great at it?? Mirrored sunglasses. HA!! Yeah....this makes my day. *content sigh*

And i really feel like you could be amazing at many many things. but your secretly not letting on to be. So when you do something super awesome and amazing, we'll all be, "OMG that’s way to fabulous." (Because I use the word fabulous in everyday conversations). Also...if Alex says that you’re an amazing egg maker, Im very inclined to believe her. Why would someone lie about such a serious skill?

Vashti said...

Yeah I think it's just from the front page. I don't know. All I did was put in the url and that's what showed up. But yeah. See? Gayest. My point exactly.

autumn m said...

OMG i just had the most amazing thought ever!!! You know how you want to get more people to vote for you?? Yeah?? Yeah?? Just tell them that for every hundred votes you get, you'll get Haviland to take of an article of clothing. See.....incentive. Why didn’t I think of this before.....
And im sure Haviland would help, it’s for a good cause.

Crystal said...

I'd like to be good at remembering numbers too. When someone asks for my phone number, I always have to look it up in my phone and so they assume I'm giving them someone else's digits. The last time I wrote something math-y on my hand it didn't work out too well for me.

Also, you need to hire Autumn as your campaign manager stat.

riese said...

elizabeth: I think I do that too but I don't actually absorb any of it, I just sort of scan. Is that all speed-reading is? scanning? Also the ADD is a national epidemic, it's our culture. It's not just you.

autumn m: according to what i got in the mail today you are good at drawing. people watching is a fun game, we like to make up stories for everyone who walks by.

The thing about making eggs is that it's really not complicated. She just says that to compensate for the fact that I'm less competent at cooking other things I claim to be good at's like my consolation prize.

vashti: I see.

autumn m; See I've encouraged Haviland to remove her clothing for many years now to no avail, she seems to be persistently not down for the cause. trust me, i've tried.

Crystal: See I was going to write things on my hand in non-permanent ink though, so it was gonna be different.

jack said...

I'm not good with numbers, because I'm not logical, just a thought-congested daydreamer. But what I am good it, involving numbers, is counting the # of letters in words, and sometimes even sentences. And I get irritated if the end amount is not an even number (which is usually when I count all the letters in the sentence, or phrase, in hopes that I'll come up with an even number).

And I feel better about myself now that I've confessed that seemingly inocuous tidbit.

Anonymous said...

this is slightly off topic, but have you seen the david foster wallace interviews on charlie rose? they're from a long time ago, but i only recently saw them. (there are two, and one is w/ jonathan franzen) i decided against mentioning it to you before, b/c i thought i'd seem like a weirdo, but now i don't care anymore, plus you mentioned him in this post. i just thought you might be interested. just gotta go to the archives on and look him up. have a nice day :)

asher said...

ps - totes saw you, carlytron, and a;ex on the hbo special bit 'l word super fans!' tonight.

1) i love how you went out of your way to name drop all the disappeared characters. starting w/ gomie. and that you compared jenny to jesus - and claimed he pretended to kill himself. :)

2) love how carly claimed to not know the lesbians walking down the street. i see through your lies. and loved how she predicted angelica was the murderer.

although i still think it was sounder (#2).

a. said...

Ooookay so you must apply for this job:

artois said...

I'm good at numbers, totes overrated.

I wish I was good with words and stuff. And didn't have to use 'and stuff' all the time coz I run out of adverbs (adjectvies..?)

And yea, ideas are cool. All the cool kids dig 'em.

DJL said...

I think you're one of those people who is good at pretending they aren't good at a lot of stuff.