Sometimes I’m not as good at things as I think I’m going to be

There’s a game called Scattegories that some of you may have played before. Each round, someone rolls a 26-sided die. The roll determines what letter is chosen, and then each person gets a few minutes to answer as many questions as possible – but all answers have to begin with the chosen letter.

For example, say the letter rolled on the die is F. You look down at your quiz sheet. “What is a reason to be late?” Flat tire, you answer. “Name a monster.” Frankenstein. “Name a famous author.” Here you pause. Maybe you read The Sound and the Fury in high school and you really enjoyed it, but thinking of things off the top of your head is so difficult… so you can’t remember who wrote The Sound and the Fury so you start thinking… Hemingway – no that’s an H… who was it who wrote The Great Gatsby? You can’t remember. You list famous authors in your head… Shakespeare, Austen, Bronte, Twain, Seuss, Rowling, and then BUZZ timer is up.

I once played Scattegories with a friend who is extremely smart, a great musician, great at math, etc, who was absolutely HORRIBLE at Scattegories. She had her Bachelor’s and Master’s from a prestigious university and yet couldn’t name words that started with the same letter. Anyway, sometimes it seems like you’re going to be naturally gifted at something and then it turns out that you aren’t.

So I went to the shop two weeks ago (I go on Sundays) with my 6″ x 1″ x 1″ piece of brass in hand, and proceeded to make mistake after mistake. Two or three times the owner of the makerspace wandered over and said (paraphrasing) “Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Because you told me you knew what you were doing…”

I guess there are a few takeaways from my metal shop plight. For one, if you don’t use a skill for 6-7 years it’s natural to forget some things. Maybe also to forget that you weren’t that great at it to begin with.

The real moral that I’m trying to learn from this situation is that practice makes perfect. I was back in the shop today, cautious, embarrassed, and determined. I drilled another five holes and fixed a hole that I didn’t finish last time. I noted where I measured incorrectly last time. I asked questions big and small. Because I was so embarrassed last time, I was too afraid to ask even the most basic of questions, like, “Is there a broom and dustpan for metal scraps?” or “Where is the light switch for the kitchen area?”

Today when I asked for help, I got useful advice. I learned where the various brooms live, I learned that there’s a separate scrap bin for brass and copper, and most importantly, when asking about smaller collet sizes, I jogged the memory of the shop owner.

“Actually,” he thought out loud, “I think we have a jeweler’s drill.”

“I’ve never used a jeweler’s drill,” I replied honestly. And so he showed me how.

What I have learned over the past three weeks: I cannot make the gears I need to make on the mill. It can’t do the very fine work that is necessary for very small parts. However, I’ve also learned how to use a mill reasonably well. And today I learned that a long time ago a diamond grinder from the diamond district in Manhattan donated a jeweler’s drill that has since sat unused. So next week, I began again with a new tool – a jeweler’s drill.




P.S. I still do not know where any of the light switches are. I guess I’ll ask that question next Sunday.


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