07 April 2010

talent, the double-edged sword.

For about as long as I can remember, things have come naturally to me; in writing, languages, and music, I have been blessed enough to rely upon my talents, and have achieved wonderful things. I graduated summa cum laude from a prestigious university, became fluent in Italian in less than two years, and worked as a professional musician and teacher, to name a few. And although I work hard throughout these years, always striving for excellence, I cannot truly say that I ever put in 100%.

My talents have thus been both a blessing and a curse. "Imagine how well you would have done if you had given it your very best effort," my father has always told me. My responses were usually of the witty, sarcastic variety, and often seasoned with the grain of salt of youthful defiance. But now I am finally beginning to understand just what these words mean for me, for the direction that my life will take: they communicate the vast expanse between complacency and greatness.

Now that I am in graduate school, I find myself in a place in which, for the first time in my life, talent will no longer suffice; I must work harder than ever before. And frankly, I find this a daunting prospect. No longer can I permit myself to simply get a job done, but rather I must hold myself fully accountable for my work, no excuses, no caveats. I have always been a proverbial sprinter, completing tasks at a whirlwind pace, and yet have hardly begun to develop the endurance necessary for the marathon that is an advanced degree.

I had been feeling rather gloomy about this lately, as I had recently received my first faculty review, in which I was told that I "can and should do better." Not that I didn't do well last semester, but there was still that edge that I was lacking– I had once again relied upon my talents, and they were only able to bring me so far.

I thus proceeded to mope around my apartment for a few days, with a presentation looming over my head like a storm cloud of Eeyore-esque proportions. And then it dawned on me that it is entirely within my power to change this, to grow, to learn to do better and to be better. To be who I truly am: to finally begin to explore the depths of my own capabilities rather than to be content with sailing upon the surface of my potential.

If I have come this far simply through talent, imagine what I might achieve if I finally, completely dedicate myself to the task at hand?

So, these are my new goals: to learn the consistency and discipline that I need in order to complete this academic marathon; to hold myself fully accountable for all that I do and to put in my best effort; and to be grateful to already have all of the resources (inner and outer!) that I need. Greatness, here I come! Un passo alla volta...


Melissa said...

Hi Stella!
I just found your blog today. I've read it all and I think your writing is beautiful.
I also used to wing my way through various things in life without having to try too hard. What you wrote in italics is spot on. I often wondered how much better I could be if I'd actually tried. I didn't learn what study REALLY meant until I did grad school!
Good luck with your studies and other adventures!

Stella said...

Hi Melissa, thanks for your comment! It's encouraging to hear that you had a similar experience and really learned to work hard- I am hoping that I will have as positive an outcome. Now back to the grindstone... x

Anait said...

My dad always told me, hard work without talent is a shame but, talent without hard work is a tradgedy. Don't rely on your talent but, rather, use it to push boundaries and make yourself better. Hard work always pays off :)

Stella said...

Thanks for sharing those words of wisdom, Anait-- aren't dads the best? xo