People told me not to brag or show off before I hit kindergarten. It was a constant hymn that was the background music of my childhood. Don’t outshine the people around you. Don’t break the curve. Don’t don’t don’t.
Here’s the thing. There are parts of me that are genuinely exceptional. Some are inherent, and some I’ve worked for over the course of my lifetime. I was reading before I hit kindergarten. I was memorizing Shakespeare more than a decade before his works were assigned in school. I learned to program at a point in my life when Saturday morning cartoons were more important to me than just about anything except for maybe my mom, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s dogs. I pick up new concepts like some people pick up a newspaper. And I understand the deeper nuances of things almost as quickly as I learn them.
I didn’t ask for that. I haven’t worked for it. Being proud of much of anything in my life is sometimes challenging, but being intelligent has been almost as much a detriment to my well-being as it’s been a boon. I couldn’t be proud of that if I wanted to be.
What I am proud of are things like overcoming some of the biases that plagued my youth, seeing people for who they are and what they do rather than how they look or how much wealth they’ve accumulated or inherited, and putting in the time and effort to become really good at things that once challenged me. Cooking, for instance, isn’t something I was trained to do. If I’d learned cooking directly from my mother or grandmother, there’d be considerably more fried food in my repertoire, but I admit that despite growing up in The Deep South, I can count the number of times I’ve made fried chicken myself on one hand.
I can be proud of my ability with fiber crafts. Yes, some come fairly easily for me, but they come so easily because I’ve spent years working with yarn and hooks and needles and all the myriad ways to wind and tie and twist them around. I learned to crochet to pass the time as a child because my beloved grandmother who I’ve already mentioned repeatedly was an avid crocheter. She showed me basic stitches and taught me how to read patterns then essentially left me alone with several books on technique and a stack of Workbasket magazines that would beggar the mind. She knew me. She knew I’d find what I wanted. And when I did, she was delighted and full of praise. Making her proud was one of my greatest delights because I rarely heard any word of warning from her that I should hold back or diminish myself in any way.
These days, my difficulty in talking myself up has become a genuine detriment in my professional life. Composing a résumé or writing a directed cover letter for a position is like pulling teeth, and yet I’ve done so repeatedly and somewhat fervently for the last eight months. I like to think that they convey my ability and expertise effectively, but after two-thirds of a year unemployed, I have to wonder. Certainly, my challenges with depression and anxiety have added a level of difficulty, but I have to wonder if maybe I’ve tried too hard—if perhaps I’ve oversold myself to employers who see not a hard-working accomplisher of goals but a braggart and expense.
Regardless, I’ve little choice but to continue. Two things I’ve added to my efforts of late are attempts to acquire any employment (since now, a part-time job isn’t robbing me of both time and the unemployment compensation that’s made paying rent and utilities possible for so long) and a powerful dive into learning new technology that might put me into a more advanced bracket of web development. It’s liberating, frankly. Despite needing the income more than ever, I’m not free to begin the paperwork to open a new fiber arts business. I can do more freelance work and teach classes and offer my expertise to projects that might have caused waves while I was receiving unemployment compensation. I’m not overjoyed to be without a regular job at this point, but I am somewhat excited at the liberty I feel at no longer having to check in with my former state (and to some degree, with my former employer) that I’m doing the things that I both want to do and am required to do by law. Of course, I’m looking for work. Of course, I’m trying to find income. One doesn’t survive in a capitalist society without those things, and if the last few years have taught me nothing else, I’ve seen in sharp detail the maddeningly tight-fisted hold capitalism has on the minds and lives of the citizens of our culture.
So, if you or someone you know is looking for a web developer, give me a shout. If you need layout, technical editing, or schematic/diagram/chart construction done, you know where to find me. I’m not cheap, as they say, but I am easy. I love to work, and the work I’m doing has become a lot easier to do of late. I still hate having to talk myself up in cover letters and interviews, but I’ve gotten better at it. It’s a skill I’d never hoped to have so much practice in.