Strong Weaknesses

Every Wednesday form 7 to 10 PM, the slam poetry group I'm a part of meets to work on our poetry, whether writing or performing. Regardless of the day’s activities though, we always start by catching up with each other. Two weeks ago, I was trying to find a way to describe my uneventful life to the group, and settled on saying that “my life is flatlined right now.” Obviously, this didn’t go over quite as smoothly as I expected, and I spent the next few minutes explaining that my choice of words had nothing to do with death and everything to do with a lack or meaningful highs or lows. That’s not the first time something like that has happened, either. Oftentimes the way I choose to express things in casual conversation differs wildly from what others would expect, which can make talking with others both exciting and somewhat fraught for me.

However, my odd phrasing isn’t entirely a bad thing. One of the things I’ve always been proudest of is my ability to turn a phrase, which often comes in handy when writing papers or poetry. These powerful and unexpected phrases, as well as the quirky and engaging premises of my poems, though, arise from the same part of my mind that can make casual conversation difficult for me. Also, the fact that I know I phrase things differently from other people has made me hypersensitive to the things I say, which means I pick up on things like the sounds of individual syllables and the minor connotations of every word I use, which in turn makes me a better writer. In other words, the very thing that makes talking with other people difficult for me also plays a large role in my ability to write.

The point I’m getting at with this is that we all have aspects of ourselves that, in certain areas of our lives, are considered weaknesses, but this doesn't mean they can't allow us to do extraordinary things in other areas of our lives. Human experience, after all, is infinitely varied. We move between drastically different activities even in the course of a single day, and so it shouldn’t surprise us that aspects of ourselves that make us slightly less capable in one area can make us even more capable in others. Different tasks call for wildly different skill sets, and the very things that detract from us can add to our capacities just a few moments later.

I can’t help but think there’s something inspiring in this for all of us. We all have things that we don’t like about ourselves, things that we wish we could change, things that we can’t help but think of as blemishes on personalities. The idea that some of these things might actually be strengths in certain situations can only be described as heartening or inspiring. Even the parts of us we think the worst of can be great things. What could be more uplifting than that?

With excitement and optimism,

Alex