No Good (a.k.a Things I Suck At)

You’re no good, you’re no good, you’re no good

Baby, you’re no good. -Linda Rondstat

Confessional time. (Thanks, Linda)

My students ask me, with some regularity, about what I do when I leave school.

I have to say, compared to most of you, I think I’m pretty boring – and I’m probably getting WORSE.

It’s not for a lack of want on my part. I can point my finger at several reasons as to why, but that’s much less entertaining. I try to remind my students that all of us are far from perfect, yours truly front and center in that regard. There’s a lot of things that I’m really very bad at. Horrible in fact. Thankfully, most of these have little repercussions to NO ONE except me.

(Sonia has pointed out to me that many things we enjoy doing don’t require us to be GOOD. We just have to enjoy doing them. Fair point. I’m just pointing out – with a dose of good humor – of what I know I’m not good at doing. Whether or not I wish to improve at any of these things, well, varies in the level of importance to me.)

I’ll use the arbitrary 0 to 10 scale in two respects here.

-Level of suckage: 0 being no suckage at all; 10 being suckage so bad, I might disappear into a black hole of embarrassment by my own level of suckage.

-Level of importance: 0 being the thing I suck at holds no relevance whatsoever and 10 being I’d better get my $#!& together.

Drawing / artistic ability of any kind:

I flat out suck. I tell my students that I flunked finger painting in kindergarten, and it’s not far from the truth. I can’t draw whatsoever. It’s horrible, and I’m kind of embarrassed anytime I have to draw something on the board for my students, so I have to make a joke about it.

It’s a 3D world, but I can only draw 2D – and I barely do that. The Ocean’s Thirteen line of, “You’re analog in a digital world,” is super relevant here.

What stinks is that I’d like to have some kind of creative outlet, but I lack any ability to represent what I see into a drawing or a painting. At the end of last school year, as a part of “self-care” (rant on that coming later), my little pod of teachers was forced into doing a painting. I tried to paint a trail through the woods. All I could think of was Bill Burr’s voice saying, “My God, what a piece of shit!” I was laughing uncontrollably – and the group I was with (thank God they are my friends) – thought I had lost it.

But it was a piece of shit. I have to call a spade a spade sometimes.

Even when I take a good picture, it’s all the camera and playing with digital filters. I have ZERO idea of what I’m doing. “Oh, that looks pretty.” And I do it. There’s hope there that I could take a class theoretically and learn a few pointers. With photography, at least I don’t have to draw lines. I have less of a chance of screwing that up. I could take a class and learn what goes into taking a good picture, processing film, etc.… 20 years from now, I guarantee you my drawings will still look like bad modern art.

My wife and daughter have a ceramics knack. They are WONDERFUL. (Side note, when Sonia and I were dating in college, my buddies and I used the outdoor kiln as a “campus golf” target – we used old tennis balls instead of golf balls. We honestly had no idea what that outdoor THING was near the Center of Fine Arts at Knox. Turns out, it helped make beautiful ceramics, and I’m an idiot. Glad I didn’t break anything.) I can’t stand the feel of clay on my hands.

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Level of suckage: 8

Level of importance: 3

Ability to watch TV or Movies:

I also suck here. I can watch standup comics (I need to laugh. NEED.) I love watching mini-documentaries on Nebula and YouTube (Half as Interesting and Real Life Lore for example). Soccer, too. That’s about it.

I WANT to be able to sustain my attention. But I get antsy – and I need to move.

That, and the people in the shows just piss me off.

Example – I kind of like watching The Great British Baking Show, or whatever the hell those uppity, accented, tea drinking, posh S.O.B.s call it. (I watch it with Sonia and Allison). I just admire what those amateurs can make. “Oh my God, that looks wonderful.”

Then Paul Hollywood – or whatever the hell his name is – has to shit all over half of the contestants. They put these people in artificial scenarios that the judges WOULD NEVER ACTUALLY BE IN, and rip these poor people a new one. So, then I start screaming at the TV, which Sonia thinks is funny, and Allison thinks is annoying. I kind of get uninvited after a little while.

When it comes to movies, I don’t even volunteer myself. I KNOW I’ll be uninvited at some point. If I’m bad in half hour bites, what will I be like in a two hour bite? Best not to go down that road. I just suck at watching TV shows and movies now. At least with the pandemic, I can’t get kicked out of a movie theater.

Level of suckage: 7

Level of importance: 1.5

Reading for enjoyment:

I can read. Swiftly, too. It comes from years of having to do TONS of academic reading for research in college. And in medical school. And residency. And professionally.

The net result? It has killed my enjoyment of reading.

I have done so much reading in order to keep current on topics that I absolutely HAVE to learn about, that it’s hard for me to read in order to unwind. It’s why I love the topical Nebula and YouTube mini-documentaries.

I have started plenty of books in the last 5 years. The number I’ve finished? Few.

Of all the things in the blog, this one worries me. I want to enjoy reading again. I actually kind of NEED to enjoy reading. There are so many interesting things going on in the world, and there’s no way someone is going to make a podcast or a video about all of it. I have to read to be informed.

I’ve actually toyed with the idea of trying one of those crazy “speed reading” courses (in order to plow through a book in 2 hours), just to see if that would work. That way, even if I don’t “enjoy” it, I could get through and retain something essential rather quickly. I know I can read, but the previous 40 years of my life has absolutely whacked any resolve to read (on a regular basis). This one makes me go “eek”.

Level of suckage: 2

Level of importance: 8.5

Musical ability:

Wow, I’m bad. No, really.

You don’t understand. And I’d like to have some ability here. I’ve had people that want me in a choir. Here’s a note to you: if your choir is so bad for members that you are asking ME to join, it’s time to end the choir. I have too much respect for what you do to bring down the artform any further. Those of you that can actually SING, I’d hate for you to hear me. (Except when I’m being stupid in my classroom – that’s ok).

I really wish I had taken up an instrument. In my younger years, I showed zero interest. I was all in on sports. It’s what I enjoyed and what my friends did. There’s no regret there.

It just seems like it would be fun to be able to play SOMETHING. For my past birthday, Sonia got me an acoustic guitar. She said it was to serve as a reminder to unwind and learn to do something new. I’ve been able to mess around with it a bit, but I would need more time to learn and read music in order to do anything semi-enjoyable with it. And I want to – but it’s hard to wedge the time in.

Real confession: because my seniors last year had hung in there so well, I wanted to be able to play something for them (because their graduation was a big, but impersonal event). But – no talent for me – what could I record? I even approached a friend of mine that had a band about recording one song, but I chickened out (and the logistics would have been bad). The inspiration was this woman; I wanted to record “Out of Control”. (By the way, gotta love the Explorer she uses. Even her echo unit is on point…)

The point? It just seems like fun. I need more time. Seriously – unlike photography, where it would take a class maybe over a summer and a semi-respectable camera – this will take YEARS. Damn it!

Level of suckage: 9

Level of importance: 5.5

Self-Care:

I just threw up into my mouth using those words. And I still maintain that it would help if employers didn’t put the emphasis on you. “Hey, I know we’ve killed you for six months, so go meditate for an hour. I’m sure you’ll feel refreshed.”

Employers still don’t get it. If you demand MORE out of people, telling them “Self-care” isn’t going to work. It’s like climbing Mt. Everest but throwing away the oxygen canister. “Hey, I know you’re out of breath. Take five! We’ll resume climbing right after that.” Un-be-(word I’m trying to use less)-lievable, yet somehow, totally believable.

Rant aside, I’m not great delegating and deciding what needs to get accomplished NOW and what can just wait. In my mind, everything needs to get done now and very little can wait. This makes me very punctual, but with some very obvious flaws. So, I have a tendency to  just collapse rather than just recharge.

That’s been a bit of an issue lately. I think I’ve been cursed with my mother’s autoimmune gene. I’ve been running out of energy lately, and at times and in ways that I’m just not accustomed to. It’s been difficult for me to adjust to what seems like a different level of energy reserve for me. I’ve prided myself on just having boundless energy, and that may have changed. So, learning to say “no” and to take mini-breaks just have to happen. I’ll have to get good at it.

The good news is that when one goes to sleep, well, you go to sleep! I’m more positive about this one than the other four, really.

Level of suckage: 6

Level of importance: 9

So here I am. I’m more of a one-or-two trick pony (but those tricks ARE pretty darn good). I do someday hope to learn a few new moves, even if I’m not great at them. But for now, I’ll stick to science, hiking, and cooking a few meals. I’m not sure if this counts, but since no one has (as of yet) shut me down, I’ll count this as “something I don’t completely suck at.” I do need to add to the bag of tricks. As much as this is tongue-in-cheek, I do think it’s important on some level to keep finding things to work on and finding more things to enjoy.

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I just won’t write an illustrated blog about it… Maybe stick-people.

Author: Jason Kesselring

I am a 44 year old high school chemistry teacher (and former pediatrician), happily married, and a father of two wonderful children. I blog sporadically, and if there's a theme in here, please tell me what it is!

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