It’s quote from a book day!

The Book: The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir by Sherry Turkle

The Background: Turkle is a Professor, as well as other things. Her memoir covers some of her relationships as well as much about her chosen area of study, which,simply stated, is about how the brain and tech coexist. I’ve done her a bit of a disservice with this, but what she talks about can’t really be summed up. It is pretty enlightening though. The following is what she tells her students.

The Quote: You are at university to understand your gifts and what you love to do. If you are lucky, they will be the same thing.

Which leads to the question:

How many people figure out their passions when they are at college?

How many people ever actually understand their gifts?

Personally- At college, do you know what the greatest thing I learned was? Too much Jack Daniels gives you a three day hangover. I mean, perhaps this is a gift, because I can’t even smell the stuff now without getting queasy…

And maybe my lack of understanding my gifts is why I’m not a memoir writing professor at MIT…

But do people take the time to really figure out their passion while they are young?

I’m going to segue to my daughter, an actual college student.

My daughter has found some things that she is really interested in. She has discovered things that she loves. Has she figured out her “gift”?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When you are in the middle of something, can you always see what is right in front of you?

Ok- now back to me…

Can narcissism be a gift?

I’m 57… and I have no idea what my gift is. Perhaps that is my own failing. I have things I love to do, but if I’m just average at them, can you really call it a gift?

I mean, I can pack a lot of stuff into the trunk of a Honda Civic…did my miss my calling as a professional packer?

I love organizing…is it my gift?

Or how about asking unanswerable questions? I’d like to think that was a gift…I know others will beg to differ though…

What do we mean when we label something a gift?

And more importantly…

What do you think your gift is?

When did you figure out your gift?

82 thoughts on “What’s College For

  1. I’ve never figured mine out. In college I figured out a job I would like. I did that job for 26 years. I don’t think it had anything to do with my gift. It was a job. The main thing college did for me was break me out of my shell a little.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Do you know how many 23 year olds I meet that went straight to college only to realize they are not digging their job? When I was 23 I really thought I’d change the world. But I do have to say I find it refreshing listening to young folks and their dreams and aspirations. Those glory days I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I always said it was a lot and really too much to expect anyone to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life at that age. For many of us, that really applies at nearly any age. When I first retired at 50 I used to tell people I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up! Thank God I think I have figured it out, more or less, at age 66, though life or God or Karma or whatever you call it had a lot to do with it, too, by putting me where I’m at now.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah. I like that! Yeah, college exposed me to, I guess, different personalities and a great learning experience. I think everybody has a gift, whether it’s small and seems insignificant. I like your posts. I think that is a gift you have because I look forward to them. So thank you!

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      1. I am going to have to look up pedantic. I just did. It makes it even more of a witty nature. Wow. Love the vocab! That is one of your gifts…. Writing and words. I learned something today. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Making me think on a Thursday morning at 6:30 is not fair. But here we go…. I stumbled upon my “gift” 14 years after college (I’m 57 also). My gift wasn’t realized for another 7 years or so. I am fortunate that my gift has allowed me to make a very comfortable living and I enjoy what I do today. Can’t say my gift and my vocation are the same things – they are not. I use my gift in my vocation, I use my gift in my hobbies. The advice I gave my kids when in college was simple, “study several things you are passionate about. Hopefully, there is something inside you that will make you great at it.”

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      1. I equate it to innate ability, like musical or artistically talented. I feel everyone has abilities they excel at. Your example about packing the civic. That shows your ability to work thru a geographic puzzle to optimize space. I’m guessing you could picture the boxes in that space before you did it.

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      2. I think most people don’t realize their “gift” until there is data to confirm it. If we do something well it usually comes easily, so we don’t really consider it a gift. I didn’t realize teaching was my gift until technology started placing a number on my students’ successes. About a decade before I retired state and National percentages were documented each year and administrators and state officials started giving me high accolades for my consistent high scores. My teaching didn’t change. But the method of documentation did. Rather ironic. I knew I was a good teacher by the fact that my former students kept in touch with me over the years. But when the data showed it was when it could be documented. So perhaps ones gifts have to be documented. Van Gogh wasn’t considered a great artist until after he died and the data confirmed his popularity. Same with Edgar A. Poe. So is talent only considered a gift when it can be proven??

        Liked by 5 people

      3. Wow. That says a lot about your former students contacting you. I still remember Ms Nobis, the art teacher in my 4th, 5th and 6th grade. That and my gym teacher, Mr. Jay. It was funny, they would always send one of us to give a big hug to the other. Turns out they were dating and ended up together. That’s funny looking at it grown up. Yeah, that’s a very high compliment to you’

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      4. Thank you. With Social media it’s so much easier for them to find me. I had one student who is now an attorney but he sent me a pic of him in between Obama and Biden when they were in office together. He was working in the WH while in law school. I told him in 4th grade he needed to go to DC because he was so politically astute . So he was on Capitol Hill and watching senators vote on educational bills and he told them his 4th grade teacher was doing that when he was little. He said they were so behind the times and thanked me for encouraging him back then. He got to take his pic with Obama and Biden by telling them he needed to send it to his former 4th grade teacher. Lol
        Another young girl I guess I must have told her that I knew she’d get into Harvard. (She was an incredible writer). Well, when she got in she found me on FB and told me I was right! She got into Harvard and wrote about me in her entrance essay. I was so touched. I have so many stories like that. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is and how amazingly lucky I am that these young men and women keep in touch with me. How fabulous IS THAT? I loved teaching and the kids picked up on that. You can’t fake it with children.

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  3. My gift and what I do for making a living are two different things. I would have loved to do art and writing for a living, and I knew this when I was in high school, but life got in the way and I had to settle for the job that brought in a paycheck for my family.

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  4. If I have a thing, I discovered it on the job in my thirties. I enjoyed writing. I enjoyed taking an idea and turning it into a marketing campaign with collateral materials. I’ve evolved my writing ability, I won’t call it a gift, into writing novels. I also enjoy playing the guitar and growing that ability. I can concentrate on both, now that I’m retired. I agree that it’s rare to discover latent abilities in college, but it seems extremely talented people can do it, even before college. And you, LA, are a gift and an inspiration. Yours is the only blog I read daily, and then find myself commenting on.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. I wonder if there’s a singular definition of “gift” in this context? I think in terms of being adapt at something, being known for how you do that something, but that doesn’t really mean it has to be a tangible thing. You can be known for your baking ability-people might say you have a gift for making extraordinary pies. Likewise you may be someone who is know for your empathy and listening ability. You are the go to person when people need to talk.
    Did you learn either of those things in a formal setting? Probably not unless you went to culinary school regarding the pies. I really don’t associate liking a subject or having a passion for something with the idea of having a gift, but I’m sure you can define this ideal in many ways. I don’t believe college is the answer though or even necessarily needed for many. Nice existential question this morning LA.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes to all your thoughts. There are many avenues we can learn and hone our gifts, but how do we define gift? I figured we needed a lift on Thursday to get us to Friday…and yes…is a passion a gift?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know about gift, but I found my passion when I was in my early 50s – which was tiresome as it requires a lot of study and training to use it professionally. That said, I feel it’s better late than never, I’d not like to be still wondering…

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  7. Having never official tramped about the learned halls of academia, I can only ventured the main benefaction one comes to truly unwrap, is that late stage capitalism certainly knows how to keep score. And subsequently, if but tangentially, one’s personal aesthetic will markedly change with the market over time.

    What more could any self respecting undergrad ask for?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And who says college is the only place to discover your gift? I know you’re not implying it, but I felt compelled to bring it up.

    Also, I don’t believe you have only one gift in this lifetime, and I think you may discover other gifts as you age. It’d be pretty gloomy if you thought you had to discover your passion for the rest of your life when you’re 18, 19, 20, or 21. 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  9. Good questions. I do think some people know their passions/ goals early on. Both my sons did. I thought they both were (are) gifted writers and should have majored in journalism. My oldest majored in sports management when there were only a couple schools in the country offering programs. He knew what he wanted to do, set out to do it, worked for two professional sports teams, won NFL awards in his field and continues to do so to this day working in his field.
    My youngest started making movies in elementary school. He always knew that was what he wanted to do and yep, you guessed it. He is in the Director’s Guild of America and works in the film industry as a director or assistant director in film and television. So he too always knew his passion. Both sons also write and create successful podcasts. But they always knew their individual passion.

    I have had many passions and goals during my lifetime and had to change my goals because of my life circumstances. I think oftentimes, especially for women, if you have to support children on your own, you have push your passions to the side. Survival takes precedence. I , like many women my age, had to switch gears and do that. But ironically, that is how I discovered my true gift.

    I’ve been pretty good at a lot of things during my life. But I discovered that teaching was my true gift. I veered off my path and taught school to support my son as a divorced mom in the 1970’s and realized that was my true calling. Who knew? But I started college as an art and drama major. Those were my first passions/ goals.

    Some people know from early on. I’ve had a lot of students who knew from the get go that they want to be a doctor, a journalist, a mathematician etc.. Yes, some kids just know. For others it takes time. And sometimes life intervenes making our decisions for us.
    It just depends.

    For women over 60 we weren’t given as many opportunities growing up so it’s understandable that our choices were more limited when we were young. Luckily girls today have a host of vocations available to them. The important thing is to continue growing and learning and to keep finding new inspiration as we age. Who says we can only have one lifelong passion? Evolving is the best part of growing older.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. No , passion and gift the same? Not necessarily. I love music. When I played guitar in my youth I was fairly good at it. But definitely not the best around. It also wasn’t my passion or I would have kept it up. However, writing the lyrics or poetic verse in my songs I was more passionate about as I have always been a writer of sorts. But, shaking up boundaries like being in the first all girls Rock band in 1966 in Fl I was more passionate about that. Making sure girls had the same opportunities as boys was actually something I was way more passionate about than actually playing guitar. It was imperative that I break the rules. Push things forward. I enjoyed playing music. But I was way more passionate about changing things for women. I needed to be a rebel. A suffragette. Music was my way to do it. But I wasn’t a particularly gifted musician. On the other hand I was and still am passionate about protesting for change.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I have a gift for parallel parking. Seriously. I can back into a space in one fell swoop. As for college and discovering your gifts, I think they change through the years. Something you were passionate about at one time you may not love as much decades later. Another issue with college is kids feeling pressure to know what their major is and what career they want as freshman.

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  11. I dislike the concept that everyone has a gift or is gifted in some way as it tends to imply a level of greatness that the average human being is incapable of achieving. That everyone has some form of that greatness and is something to be sought. Someone could be capable of tripping over their own two feet while standing still. It is a thing that may be part of what makes that person unique, but I doubt the person would necessarily consider it a gift of any sort. The same goes for something you are passionate about. Some people aren’t passionate people and just enjoy a low key, content and calm life and there isn’t any one thing that they define as being a thing they love to do. I feel like striving for those things, especially if they aren’t obvious to a person, can cause a whole lot of internal ugliness and discontent with life, that a person’s value is tied up in those gifts and passions and without them, there is no value. I’m more of the opinion that you just do what makes you happy, whether you are good at it or not. You can be horrible at cooking, but that act itself makes you happy, so cook even if what you make is inedible. It may be a bit of semantics on the passionate argument, but I do see a difference in the things that bring you joy and what a person can call a passion.

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      1. I’d say yes. Then you add the judgement to that “thing” you may feel is yours from those that think it isn’t good enough because it wouldn’t make you money (enough to live on or more) or give you prestige of some sort.

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      2. Perhaps people DO feel pressured to find their Specific gift. Their special “thing”. But it’s rather absurd to assume everyone on the planet only has one dynamic gift. We are not all a DaVinci or a Motzart. Apparently, for centuries the pressure to find a superior talent has been part of our society. But how realistic is it to think we all have gifts? Not very. As a teacher I can attest to the fact that most people have a few things they excel in. But what criteria do we place upon a single talent? If only 2percent of the world population is gifted, and 1 percent considered highly gifted and talented, then that means 98 percent of the world is filled with interesting but NOT GIFTED PEOPLE. So why do we assume everyone needs to be gifted at anything?. Isn’t it good enough to just be competent at a few things?
        I taught gifted students. They are delightful, but even they rarely see their true abilities.

        I’ve mentioned that my oldest son has a career in the sports field for decades. But because he was also a gifted student, rather than majoring in sports management, his college professors tried to get him to become a physician. As part of his sports training he had to take all the same medical classes as pre med students had to take and he excelled at them. He said he didn’t have the stomach to become a doctor. The fact is, he’s really, really smart and Aced any exam he ever took. So yeah, he scored higher than many students who actually went into medicine. But, that’s because he was academically gifted. Not because medicine was his passion. So passion and giftedness don’t always go hand and hand.

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      3. That’s a good point. What if you’re gifted in a thing you don’t particularly like? I know I always say that I’m a math whiz trying to make myself into a humanities person…

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  12. I think I have the gift of encouragement. I love to compliment people and spur them on, and it comes easily to me. It has to be honest — no false flattery allowed.

    In the past ten years, I found I had a passion for writing and playing with words. How do I know? I will give up both food and sleep to write! Is it a gift? I really don’t know. I’m probably better than average, but is that enough to label it a gift? In the blog world, we are surrounded by good writers. Perhaps some are gifted and some are technically good. Who do we set up as judge?

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    1. That’s a good question. Plus, writing is also subjective. I tend to over judge technical errors. I can’t help it. Too many years as a teacher. Yet, when I write or respond to blogs I don’t edit or check my responses since I consider that writing for fun and not serious writing for publication. Anything in the arts is subject to opinion. Beethoven was his biggest critic. To me he was a genius and yet he was beaten by his father for not being a child prodigy like Motzart. There are always judges with unrealistic expectations. Is any creative artist ever really satisfied? Hmmmm….

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      1. I think people have become more judgemental these days. I like your view that blogging is for fun, and you don’t edit your responses. I have to laugh at myself, because I am making many mistakes these days. A couple of weeks ago I lost most of the sight in one eye, and I cannot see the mistakes I’ve made. I hope people will just mentally correct them and keep going.

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      2. I hope so too about my mistakes. I didn’t notice any mistakes by you. I’m back in chemo and I’m just too sick to worry about editing anything. I figure if people don’t like it they can skip over my stuff. Lol. So Don’t worry about any mistakes. Just do your best and Keep on going no matter what! ❤️

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  13. Hmm, this one’s had me thinking.

    (Back in the day) at school I enjoyed metalwork, an aptitude for it so Mr. Ruffles said. After leaving I was one of 4 apprentices chosen from 136 and loved everyday of my Toolmaking apprenticeship. 39 years later I still love making components from metal to a high degree of accuracy, in fact as others have proven you could drop me into any workshop across the Globe, give me a drawing and I could make whatever the required……….. infact I so love my job I would honestly work for monkey nuts. So do I have a gift (because I’m that brilliant and talented lmao)? Or a skill honed over the past 4 decades? I’d equate gift with passion, they go hand in hand. Thinking about it, I’d return all the way back to schoolteacher Mr Ruffles, I have an aptitude for machining metal, and decades of ‘practice’ has made me pretty good, I have a talent but I don’t regard it a gift………..a gift is being able to paint a good picture or play the piano without sheet music. As always a thought provoking posting.

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  14. I figured out my gift when I was 10. It was never nurtured, so I dropped it for a couple decades then picked it back up seven years ago. Now, here I am.

    I honestly think you should begin thinking about your gift before college, while you’re at home with your parents. If that happened, I think there’d be a lot fewer people going to college in the first place.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You know my theory that way too many people think college is going to provide answers and solve everything…but that’s a whole other blog. But what about parents who have expectations?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it starts everywhere: at home, k-12, and also colleges have to be honest. As a professor, we know all y’all’s children don’t belong here, and not in an exclusive kinda way, in a maybe you should’ve been an artist or community worker kinda way.

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  15. When I went to college I could never figure out exactly WHAT I wanted all my credits to go to. I took anthropology, astronomy, social sciences, critical thinking, etc. All of my credits did not add up correctly to get a degree in any of those fields. I think this may be an embellishment on my part but every morning while selling Real Change I seem to be the “familiar stranger”. I have been told I make their morning and I make them feel that everything is going to be ok. I her thank you cards constantly. At this point if I can make somebody’s morning then I guess that’s my “gift.” I dunno. I’m average at everything else I guess

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