「week 14」Wasted talents

Last weekend I was practising piano in my parents’ home in Shenzhen, on the acoustic piano I played in my childhood. Since I resumed practising piano, the progress I’ve made and my relaunched passion at it have way exceeded my own expectation – I feel more attached to piano than I did when I was little. One key evidence, is Bach doesn’t appear distasteful anymore. He’s still a pain in the ass, but in a good way.

My father was pretty surprised at how “well” I was playing in such a short time and commented, “it seems all your childhood hardwork isn’t completely gone.” I joked back:” Yeah I think I’m pretty talented in Piano.” He said: “Well, you and I, we are both artistic people in the nature, with our talents wasted through time coz we didn’t stick with it.”

I was almost triggered and wanted to remind him that I didn’t stick with piano only coz you didn’t let me, which apparently is a forgotten episode for both of my parents, but I didn’t. I have no intention to risk the peace with them, and I’ve also passed the age to blame one’s parents for everything less than ideal.

But I can’t stop thinking about the “wasted talent” theory – did I really waste my talents? To be entitled to this statement, one has to be talented to start with, which, without some sort of obvious achievement or outstanding performance, is quite in question itself. Even so, throughout the process of growing up, I did hear people telling me of my potential talents from time to time: my language expression and writing skills; my singing voice and musical ear; my handwriting/calligraphy; my photography touch; my aesthetic and styling sense……and I did use to believe that I was talented in some, and was indeed quite passionate at each of the above at different periods of my life.

The thing is, I grew up in a culture that worships success, and sees a talent only worth celebrating if the value of it is maximized, ie, either one is living on a talent or making a name out of it; otherwise, an “unfulfilled” talent is merely a situation to sigh over with. These values have indeed caused me anxiety over those “wasted talents”, I can’t even begin to describe how much guilt and disturbance I had to live with for not pursuing them, for not trying harder, for not risking things for them along the way. For years, I couldn’t write anything and didn’t write anything, only becoz I cared too much about it that I thought if I don’t have the luxury of doing it perfectly, I’d rather not do it. My therapist after hearing me once pointed out: “You have a very unhealthy relationship with writing.”

These days, standing in my early 30s, it has more or less come to my realization that the intrinsic value of a “talent” lies in the fact that it brings you sensual revelation, unconditional pleasure, fullness at the soul and eventually, peace of mind. This shouldn’t be compromised with or without a worldly-defined success.

Am I really talented? Who knows. And I’m certainly less assured than my younger self, a girl who had little idea of how much it takes to call it a talent. Have I really wasted my “talents”? Maybe. But the least I have achieved so far is that I have made my peace with all my wasted “talents”. And I’m grateful that they are mostly still with me in my life, in the form of “interests”, supporting me through the daily mundane, completing me as the person I am.

P.S. My father is probably more talented in many ways than I am. He resumed his calligraphy passion after he retired a few years ago and here is the work he did for the mid-autumn festival that just passed, which is a traditional poem verse presented with a creative character. I am truly impressed.

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