Inventory, Age 43 5/6

1. Things I can do well but don't really think of as skills despite the fact that it took time (i.e. years) and effort to learn them:

  • Touch type with some degree of speed and accuracy
  • Write grammatical English
  • Read and remember thousands of books and articles in my academic field, their authors and titles, and give a rough idea of their arguments without having to look them up (very useful when talking with colleagues, advising students or designing syllabi)
  • Design a university-level course and teach it (see previous item)
  • Converse on a high level about questions of history, theology, hermeneutics, and devotion
  • Know where to look for bibliography in fields that I have not studied intensively myself
  • Critique an argument and make suggestions on how to improve it (a.k.a. grading, but also thesis advising and peer review)
  • Read medieval European book hands in manuscript
  • Read and translate Latin, plus a few other languages when I need to (mostly German and French)
  • Design and carry out a research plan
  • Write a book (at least once; not yet clear whether this is a repeatable skill)
2. Things that I actively practice but still wish I could do better:

  • Yoga (since college, more or less daily, with a hiatus of 3 years when my son was younger)
  • Fencing (you knew that one!)
  • Knitting (revived after a hiatus of 12 years; practiced intensively throughout graduate school, say, 6 years)
  • Cooking (I can manage a full Thanksgiving dinner but my daily meals are considerable simpler; I have been known to make a full gingerbread house, complete with windows)
3. Things that I have practiced in the past with some enthusiasm but which I do not seem inclined to practice now despite the fact that I can do them moderately well:

  • Swimming (competitively for 4 years in high school, but never as good as my brother, who is world class)
  • Gardening (pots and window boxes, 5 or 6 years, before I started fencing; depressing in Chicago without a place to overwinter the pot plants)
  • Drawing (obsessively throughout my childhood, through various courses in college; never good enough to make it out of sketch books though)
  • Playing the piano (9-10 years of lessons; never really good enough to play in public; see Draw)
  • Square dancing (2-3 years, including first year in college; my mother's passion in her 40s and 50s)
  • Making beaded jewelry (2-3 years in college; actually sold some earrings and my mother still wears the necklaces I made)
  • Doing math (up to differential equations and vector calculus in college; alas for my son, I've forgotten most of it now)
4. Things that I can do but that I don't think of skills because I don't remember ever actually having to learn them:

  • Arrange the furniture (you laugh, but not everyone can do it!)
  • Ride a bicycle (not entirely true, I do have vague memories of hurtling down a hill in Nebraska when I was six)
  • Read
  • Ask questions; worry about whether I have found the answers or not
  • Make lists
5. Things I wish I could do but am convinced that I can't/can't learn/have no talent for:

  • Sing (I was kicked out of our children's church choir by my piano teacher)
  • Paint (allied to drawing, which I wish I could do better)
  • Act (partly satisfied, I suspect, by teaching)
  • Write poetry
  • Play the violin
6. Things I think I should want to do but don't really:

  • Be "more active" in the community (i.e. other than what I do on campus or at church)
  • Write a novel
  • Travel around the world (although I wouldn't mind some more time in Europe)
  • Science (except peripherally insofar as it helps me think about history and religion)

  • It's hard having a mid-life crisis when you're basically doing exactly what you hoped and dreamed you would be doing by age 40. And yet, interestingly, it hits anyway. Go figure. I wonder what I'm going to dream about doing next.


  1. It's hard having a mid-life crisis under any circumstance. It's more acute (trust me) when you've accomplished some of what you hoped to do, but then realized (too late?) that your aspirations might not have been the most noble to begin with.

  2. What a great list! I may sit down to write my own.

  3. It's an interesting exercise. The lists didn't come out quite the way I thought they would when I started. It's good, though, to start with the skills one has--that tends to help put the things that one wishes one could do into perspective.


Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post. I look forward to hearing what you think!


Popular posts from this blog

Milo, the Heathers, and the New Sheriff in Town

The Face of God

Why Jordan Peterson Lost That Bout to Cathy Newman

Social Justice Sophistries