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Don't Squander Your Gifts

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

This was the question that was asked of us all too frequently when we were children. I remember feeling excitement, confusion, anxiety, and fear when preparing to answer. As young as eight years old, I would put myself through this emotional roller coaster. I still do it to this day. I'll be 27 years old in one month and I'm still growing up, so technically ya'll can ask me the same question now and I'd struggle to answer. It's a tough answer for me because I've always wanted to do everything.

If you ask my mom what she remembers most about me as a child, I'm sure she'll start by describing me as gifted. I was smart, I loved reading and writing, I could draw, paint, make jewelry, braid hair, dance, I even designed and sewed clothing for my dolls. She would also mention how frustrated I would get when I was not able to do these things on my own time and in my own way. She'd then tell you that I always concerned myself with how others felt about my talents. Every year the standardized tests came around, every year I'd score in the 90th percentile, and every year I'd hide my score from my classmates. I loved art class and creating beautiful things, but I would often act disinterested because my friends didn't display the same knack for art as me. I would create my own newsletters but would never share them with anyone other than my mom, aunt, and Nana. The truth is, I wanted to fit in and I wanted to protect the egos around me. I was already being teased because of my shoes and my acne, I didn't want even more attention. So I dumbed myself down and buried all of the potential within me.

I stopped doing so much and decided to focus my energy on one thing. I turned to dance because I felt that, while it truly made me happy, it wouldn't offend anyone's ego, including my own. That's what I thought. The dance world is ego and it isn't always pretty. It's competitive, it's intense, and it accounts for many of the tears I've cried, but I stuck with it, even pursuing a degree in dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dance was it for me. No more writing, unless it was for an assignment. No more drawing and painting. No more jewelry making, no more designing. I was okay with this because I never felt I was truly gifted in these areas anyway. I considered these things mere interests of mine and thought my ability to dance, perform, and leave the audience feeling something was my one true gift. I gave it all up. This was all before the age of 18.

Fast forward to 26 and I'm an up-and-coming group fitness trainer, hustling to expand my class schedule and barely making ends meet. One of my best friends is in my Los Angeles bedroom telling me there's no reason for me to ever be broke. She's asking why I choose to sit on all of my gifts, instead of practicing and sharing them with the world. She's suggesting that I forget about being a "Master" of my many gifts, and instead remember how practicing them makes me feel.