Tell us what you are good at.
I’m good at learning. I’m good at being curious and asking questions. I’m good at wanting to know why and how. I’m good at seeing how things can be applied to other things to make systems easier or more efficient.
I’m good at helping. At wanting to help. I’m good at caring about people and things. I’m good at understanding if something can be improved and actually improving it.
I’m good at understanding that people are more than “things”. People aren’t numbers. People are hopes and dreams and aspirations and emotions. People are families and friends. They’re living. They have experiences that make them feel the way they feel. They have fears and insecurities. They have scars from Life. They have memories. They have self-preservation instincts.
I’m good at seeing the big picture as well as the small steps that go into achieving the larger goal.
I’m good at explaining things. I’m good at breaking down information or presenting it in such a way that people are more receptive to it. I’m good at taking something intimidating and scary and making it seem not so bad.
I’m good at teaching and sharing, especially if it’s something I’m passionate about.
How and when did you first realize you had this aptitude or knack?
I can remember when I was in middle school there was always a “word of the week” at my school. Teachers picked a student at the end of the week who most represented this word. Honest. Dependable. Compassionate.
We had a school news program and every Friday the names of the students who had been picked for the “Weekly Word” were mentioned and congratulated.
I was picked for a lot of those words. I didn’t try to get them. I didn’t strive or change things about myself. I did my homework. I was a nice person like my parents told me to be. I did what I was told when I was told to do it instead of giving my teachers a hard time.
At the end of the school year, there was an awards ceremony. I had been crushed because at the time I was in band. I focused a lot on band. Poured myself into it, really. It was how I was coping with my parent’s divorce. Band was my self-medication before the invention of World of Warcraft.
There was an award I had been striving for, but I had failed the music theory test during the solo and ensemble event. Passing that test was a requirement for the award so because I failed I wasn’t eligible anymore even though my “competition” was.
I remember being in my band director’s office and having silent tears running down my cheeks as he told me there wasn’t a way for me to achieve the award. I felt lost and hopeless. That award was how I knew I was doing something meaningful, that there was a purpose to everything. I NEEDED that award to have a reason to breathe.
She, my competition, was going to get to have her name called and walk across the stage and be acknowledged for her outstanding performance and I wasn’t. I had studied and practiced so hard. I knew ALL of my major and minor scales. I had passed every test in class. I had gotten a superior on my solo. I knew all of our musical terms and legitimately practiced all of the hours listed on my “practice sheet” while most students just randomly wrote in times so they wouldn’t fail the assignment.
I had done so much. So much. But because I had failed that one test, a test only offered once, I wasn’t going to be acknowledged. I had failed at something when I had put in so much effort into it and that hurt.
My effort hadn’t been good enough. I was a failure. Just like how I had failed my dad and that’s why he wasn’t around anymore.
I remember there was a while where I felt nothing. Depression. Apathy. It seemed pointless to keep striving when there was no way for me to reach the goal I wanted so badly.
Because I wasn’t eligible for the award I was surprised when I received an invitation to the ceremony at the end of the year. I very obviously hadn’t achieved my award, so why was I getting an invitation? At the time I thought it was a sick way for the system to twist the knife inside of my chest.
I remember showing mom the invitation. She was more excited than I was. We went out and got a special outfit so I could have something nice to wear for the ceremony. I remember sitting in the auditorium, the lights dim so the stage was brightly lit, displaying everyone who walked across the stage for their award. A honor roll. Perfect attendance. Things like that.
My competition was called for her band award and I wasn’t and I struggled not to cry because I didn’t understand why I was there. I didn’t want to see her achieving while I sat in my seat being reminded that I was a failure.
Eventually, we got to the end of the ceremony. The final part. It was the Empathy Award. This award was going to go to the student who embodied the idea of empathy. The student who most embodied every word that had been a “Weekly Word” for the whole school year.
My name was called.
I sat for a moment, not understanding as people clapped and cheered for me. I remember my mom poking me and telling me to go to the stage. I walked down the aisle, terrified that I would trip over my own feet, or that I would stumble as I walked up the stairs to the stage. I stood in front of my homeroom teacher as she gave me my certificate of Empathy and said I looked amazing in my outfit and that she was sorry she hadn’t been able to choose me for every word, but that she was proud of me and was happy I had gotten this award.
It was the first time I had heard the word empathy. I remember asking my mom when I got back to my seat what it meant. She said it means I’m a good person who cares about others.
I remember thinking it was sort of silly. I didn’t understand. I hadn’t done anything special. Caring for people is something you’re supposed to do. I didn’t do it better or more than anyone else. Everyone cared so how could there be an award for caring?
It wasn’t until later, as I got older, that I realized, no, not everyone cares. Not everyone is a good person. Not everyone has empathy.
It’s been something that I have always done subconsciously, and only gradually became aware of how it makes me different and sets me apart. Discovering my personality type of INFJ had a lot to do with understanding myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, but also my differences from the people around me.
That award was the first indication of how I was different, even though it took me a while to understand what it truly meant.
How do you use your skills and talents?
I like to think I use my skills and talents to help people.
Even seemingly random things like creating custom D&D character sheets goes back to the thought of, “This will help someone and make them happy.” A lot of the things I find joy and fulfillment in revolve around making someone’s life easier or more pleasant in some way. I help solve a problem they have.
In regards to teaching, I help my students absorb the information they need, whether it’s because they’re genuinely interested, or just want to pass my class so they can keep moving through the program.
Through my use of empathy, I’m able to see why they are struggling with the information. Maybe it’s overwhelming and they need it in smaller doses, or maybe there’s fear because it’s new and scary computer code and they’re doubting their own abilities. Maybe there’s a lot going on in their personal life and they just need someone to listen so they feel less burdened or can find some action steps in that area so their mind can move forward to other areas like school work.
Now, with my transition into the medical field, it’s with the hope that I can help people who are going through situations similar to what I went through. The uncertainty of seeing a loved one in the hospital and feeling weak and powerless to do anything to help them. I want to be there to help during those moments of darkness since I, myself, have had to go through it.
I can’t make bad things not happen, but I can be there to offer support and empathy when they do happen. I can be in those situations where someone needs to not only care but to understand. I can be in those situations where a person needs someone to co-suffer with them because I have suffered in a similar way.
How have your peers and adults reacted to your abilities?
I have been thanked during graduation speeches for my help and compassion as an instructor. I have received awards as an employee for my hard work and dedication to my job. I have received what feels like countless emails from former students thanking me for my help and how they feel they are successful because I took the time to help them believe in themselves.
I have received awards as a student, again for my hard work, but also for my ability to harmoniously interact with my instructors and classmates.
Even now, in my phlebotomy class, my instructor has offered to write me a letter of recommendation and we’re only a week into the class.
My therapist mentioned not long ago how she knew from the first visit to her office that the energies of the Universe move around me differently. That most likely sounds weird and raises, “That’s a load of crap” flags for some people, but as an INFJ it feels like validation. I know I’m different. I’ve always felt different and that difference in my teenage years and early adulthood left me feeling alienated and detached. I didn’t fit in.
I’m not meant to “fit in”, though. I’m meant to be myself, and that’s ok.
Even the drunk guy who came down to talk to me the one night I was outside on my phone at Sir’s apartment. The one who said that I had a beautiful soul and that God had plans for me. A total stranger whom I had only seen in passing a few times and had never spoken to before felt the need to tell me he saw something “other” about me.
It has taken me a while to understand and accept my difference and it’s still something I am striving to understand fully. I might never “understand it fully” but the people I interact with seem to react positively to whatever difference there is in me, and I’m glad that I can use it to improve my sphere of influence.
Are you passionate about the things you are good at?
Yes. I feel it is my purpose in life. I’m meant to help people in whatever way I can. I’m meant to better humanity. I feel I will always gravitate to a teaching role. I like the idea of teaching EKG because I feel I would do well with conveying the information. I feel I do well at the dojo when I’m paired with a student who doesn’t understand the technique we’re practicing.
I enjoy showing people how to do something they are struggling with and seeing them finally understand or grasp it. That moment when their soul lights up from the inside with the feeling of pride and accomplishment within themselves. It’s a good feeling to build someone up.
In a selfish way, it charges me. I helped. I did well. It makes me feel good so I want to do it again. If I didn’t get anything out of it I wouldn’t do it. But I do, so I do.
It’s how my brain is programmed. It’s my core code. Instead of fighting it and trying to be someone else, something else, I have chosen to embrace it. I like my journey so far. I want to see where it takes me in the future.