At least once a year—every year—for as long as I can remember, I have been taught the parable of the hidden talents. I was taught that we all have talents given to us by the Lord. He expects each of us to discover those talents, use them, and develop them.
I always struggled to discover what my talents were. Surrounded by musicians, writers, artists, and bakers, I felt as though I could never live up to the expectations. Did God forget about me? Or was discovering my talents just one more thing I wasn’t talented at doing? Finally, during a high school English class, a unit on grammar led me to believe that I had found it: my talent. But I was wrong.
In college I decided to minor in editing. I came to my first day of ELang 350: Basic Editing Skills, bright-eyed and ready to embrace my future. I was expecting excitement, perhaps ease, but especially fulfillment. What I got was a slap in the face by a bright orange book named Chicago.
I tried. I read all of the assigned readings—something I had never done before. I did my homework faithfully, sometimes days in advance. I listened in class. I never fell asleep. And still, every day, The Chicago Manual of Style would taunt me, alternating between whispering in my ear and shouting in my face, telling me I wasn’t good enough and never would be.
I could try longer and harder than I had tried anything ever before, and still there would be red, pink, and sometimes purple marks all over my page. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! My already fragile psyche was under attack on every side, and sooner or later it was going to fall apart. How dare Chicago do this to me? I needed this talent desperately, and Chicago yanked it out of my grasp before I could fully appreciate what having a talent felt like.
It was heartbreaking. I felt as though I were ten again, wondering why God had forgotten only me when he handed out the talents. I couldn’t learn all of the ridiculous rules in that massive book. And who would want to, anyway? For the first time in my life, I considered camping with the descriptivists. I became a jealous lover: if I couldn’t have the love of Chicago, I didn’t want anyone to. “I do not need you, Chicago!” I declared. “No one does! I quit!”
And then I thought, “Am I afraid to try? Am I just afraid to fail?”
And suddenly, an unlikely surge of confidence, a feeling of newfound hope: I want this. I want this to be my talent. I have to accept that I won’t be the most talented, the end-all and be-all. I will not be the next Max Perkins. I will have to work, and I will have to fail. But after all, what is worth having that is easy to have? Maybe God was trying to teach me something—that I had to make my own talent. It’s not simply stumbling upon a talent and wiping away a layer of dust from on top—it’s shaping it into what I want it to be and taking responsibility for it.
I believe that even I have a talent
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