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Everyone Has A Skill

In Local News on May 5, 2023 at 9:51 am

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Remember when you were in grade school and an adult would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some reason, that question baffled confused me. I always wanted to say something like, “Hey, I’m only 8 years old, how would I know what I want to be when I grow up?” Needless to say, sass like that would have brought a far more negative response than my usual reply, “An astronaut.” Really, I just said whatever would make them stop asking.

But, there was some truth to my answer. When I was a young child, it was the tail end of NASA’s Apollo moon and Skylab missions. I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap in a high-back wicker rocking chair watching a splashdown. Afterward, I would set to building a fleet of my own rockets out of paper towel tubes, Scotch tape and construction paper. I’d carefully measure, draw, cut, and stick everything together finally launching off the coffee table to whatever world my imagination dreamed up. 

Shortly thereafter, I’d find myself sitting on the floor with my Mickey Mouse record player, a Radio Shack cassette tape recorder, and a microphone, ready to play both disk jockey and newsman. I’d fire up Micky and spin up a record like a pint-sized Johnny Fever to my audience of one, in the form of my cat, Frisky. Once the song finished, I’d pass it off to the news, where a quick change of my squeaky, 6-year-old voice, would give the headlines, led by NASA’s latest achievement, and a weather report. 

Late afternoon would mean a sit-down with my favorite wooden-headed dummy, Danny O’Day. Older folks will remember ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson and his dog puppet, Farfel – he used to do the Nestle chocolate commercials on TV. Danny was another of Nelson’s creations, a more modern version of Charlie McCarthy, with less sarcasm.

My Mom had ordered Nelson’s “Instant Ventriloquist” along with the dummy to help get me over an apparent fear of them. That seemed to work, and I took to it pretty well, eventually winning a prize in my first-grade school talent show. I was always the only ventriloquist.

But what did all of this mean for my future? Did this mixture of math and creativity mean I would be a DJ, news reporter, stage performer, sculptor, or engineer? How close was my childhood to my future adult work life? As it turns out, it was far more accurate than is probably usual with a kid of such varied interests.

Naturally, as I got older, those childhood skills would be used in far different ways. Ventriloquism would eventually give way to musical performances and professional speaking engagements. Paper spaceships were replaced by other creative outlets like photography, building large-scale models from scratch, parade float design, and an actual degree in mechanical engineering. The kid DJ and radio news anchor in me grew up to be a professional writer, podcaster, and master of ceremonies.

The point of all this is that, as children, most of us have an unlimited opportunity to be whatever we want. Sure, the restrictions of life get in the way, like money, aptitude, commitment, educational opportunities, and so on. But none of us has to be just one thing. We’re all many people inside, with interests and aptitudes sometimes squashed by the requirements of life. I know, I have been very fortunate – most of mine stayed with me.

My Mom once said to me, “You took everything you loved doing and turned it into your job.” She was right. I’m grateful my parents gave me the freedom and encouragement to do so. But even that is a double-edged sword. Sometimes the demands of turning a hobby or natural gift into a career can take the enjoyment out of it. Plus, to some, I might seem scattered or unfocused, but I can assure you that’s not the case. 

Everyone has a skill and most of us have many. Some came from our childhood games, others as we matured. Whatever the case, try not to lose them. Even if they’re not your chosen life’s work, they are all still part of you, no matter your age.

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