Relativity

So here’s something I’ve been wondering about:

Am I good at stuff?

Now I know this seems like a pretty basic question. I’m sure we’ve all wondered how good we actually are at non-quantifiable endeavors. There are things that can be objectively measured; if your an electrician and my house doesn’t have any power issues, I can say you are, in an observable way, a good electrician. If you operate an x-ray machine, and find my broken arm, you are a good x-ray technician. Same for the plumber who gets my toilet working again and so on and so forth. These are pursuits that we can all, at the very least, hold to a minimum standard. These are not what I’m talking about.

What I mean to get at, is am I good at the more nebulous activities. Am I a good artist, a good writer, a good poet, a good person. Now if I’m being completely honest, what got me on this train of thought was contest television; The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc… Sure the people who succeed can get you questioning your own ability via comparison, but what dug at me were the failures. The people who so obviously had no business being there in the first place, the people who were doomed before they sang their first note, attempted their first trick, or did whatever it was they were going to do, because they sucked. They sucked. They just did, and as soon as they showed us what they had, we knew it.

But I refuse to accept that they confidently walked into that audition room, knowing they sucked. Sure, a portion of these contestants *may* have done it for attention or what have you, but that 100% of them went in aware that they were about to make a fool of themselves is unbelievable. Part of them had to be saying,“You got this bro, you’re about to kill it. Go blow their friggin’ minds”.

That’s what eats at me. These people knew they were great at something. They knew it enough to try and get on national television doing it. They had to have something, be it  just themselves, an inner circle of friends and family, sympathetic strangers, telling them that they were skilled enough to be famous. They were hearing enough voices urging them to pursue something that to us outside observers, they just weren’t all that great at.

Now whether we block out the negative responses, or simply aren’t getting any criticism isn’t for me to say. I have a bachelors in art from a college that doesn’t exist anymore, not a psych degree. The point is we live in an age(and perhaps always have), where the arts are increasingly loosely defined, and while there is still a gradient of “good-to-bad” figuring out where we line up on that is challenging. Dub-step was categorized as noise, as a grating din, less than two decades ago and now Skrillex(rightfully) has multiple grammies. But it was so alien that there just wasn’t a group of people with the skill set to judge it. A brief peruse through websites like soundcloud will turn up musicians with voices that wouldn’t have fit in more classically defined genres, but are still wonderful to listen to. The same goes for walking through almost any contemporary art gallery; these are magnificent things, that we can all look at, and know they are good(whatever that means), even though we don’t often have anything of a similar nature to compare it to.

The question then has to become, “Am I innovative? Or Shitty?”. I find it next to impossible to judge my own work, as my only real opinions are extreme; “I hate it”, “This is even worse”, and “I AM GOD’S GIFT TO (insert whatever field I’m working in)”, so I often rely on the opinions of my peers. It leaves a gray area, and leaves me wondering how to judge my own ability in these less than quantifiable fields. Am I good?

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