Metatalktail Hour: Mad Skillz March 3, 2018 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, I'm curious -- if you could pick up a skill instantly, what skill would it be? (And are you otherwise working on acquiring this skill?)

As always, talk about whatever's up with you, avoid politics, and send me ideas!
posted by Eyebrows McGee to MetaFilter-Related at 5:05 PM (112 comments total)

I wish I was more artistic -- you know able to draw, absoutely, but just able to make these great ideas that I get in my head actually look good once I start trying to craft them into something myself. I have a very good sense of style and I know what I like, but it drives me crazy that I can't make it look good myself. Painting, drawing, hell, even plating some of my baked goods. That little detail that makes it look artsy.

That said, I'm teaching myself how to sew and I've started dusting off my old journal. I might not be able to paint, or coordinate a bow just so on an arrangement of flowers, but I can create. I haven't been doing much of that lately, so I need to get back to it. Being creative is vital to me; I always said I wanted to be eccentric when I grew up. Being creative and able to make things is a key part of that, I believe.
posted by PearlRose at 5:14 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


I would learn to knit. I've started and stopped a few times, but never reached the point where I could use it as a relaxing hobby. From afar it looks intellectually engaging and fun, and I love the way there's a whole community built up around it. I've never managed to stick with it long enough to get competent though, and there's always something with work or the kids that makes it impossible to devote the time.
posted by saltbush and olive at 5:16 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I've always wanted to learn to crochet. I can knit okay, but I don't love it. I really just want to make afghans, and crochet seems like the right way to go about it, but -- although in general I am very good at fiber arts, I can even tat! -- I CANNOT FIGURE IT THE HECK OUT with crocheting. I've tried every tutorial in the world and it's no good; the one person who tried to teach me in person was a lefty and it was a total shitshow. Maybe when Nano McGee is a bit older I'll go take a class at a yarn store and see if I can learn to granny-square!

In the more "wild idea file" I've always thought I would really enjoy woodworking, but I've never really known anyone to teach me, and it's never risen to a priority. If I could magically make fancy cabinets, that'd be cool!

I can also think of several languages I'd like downloaded into my brain if I'm getting magic instant skills. :D I like learning languages but I'm terribly slow at it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:25 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I'd be playing music. I was first chair violin in middle school, and then a bass player in high school, and I dropped it when I went to college, in favor of theater. What I did in theater was mostly backstage stuff, never on stage, or just bit parts. While it was a great community experience, I regret giving up my musical ability for that. I now have a ukulele sitting in a corner, that I have no idea how to play, and my grandmother's violin, in another corner, which needs restoration.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:25 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I think, I had grandmas teach me crochet and knitting. You have to sit with someone and have them show you. My one grandma taught me knitting, and the other one taught me crocheting, and then she taught me crocheting in lace (tiny crocheting using embroidery floss). If you can find a group near you, and sit with them, they will teach you, Eyebrows, and that is the best way to learn.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:29 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I want to learn to snowboard, skateboard, surf—all those skills that involve standing up on a moving platform and not hurting yourself too badly in the process. I like to think I'd be good at it, but I've never really had the opportunity to work on it or anyone from whom to learn. I also think I'd be good at hockey, but again, just never had the right opportunity or enough time to commit to it.
posted by limeonaire at 5:32 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I'm interested in getting into road cycling/biking. I have a nice $500 spending fee that's a part of my health benefits package and I can put it towards something healthy, I'm strongly considering using it in one giant lump and putting it toward a semi-decent road bike. It's something that would let me get outdoors a bit more. I've pulled back on running which I used to be really into and I miss the nature part of running, cycling could be a good fit.
posted by Fizz at 5:46 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Storytelling. I love hearing people's little stories and so admire people who have a good memory for and good delivery of stories/anecdotes/etc, because I sorely, sorely lack both of those skills.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:49 PM on March 3 [4 favorites]


The ability to read manuscripts, written in what is now England and Wales, between about 600 to 1100 AD. Which would require learning a whole battery of languages, dialects, regional and local quirks, and other oddities such as those pertaining to the Kings of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent. The Paenitentiale Bedae would be a good one to be able to "read", as would be the Vespasian Psalter, the controversial Historia Brittonum and the Vita Ædwardi Regis. Nothing later than that, as the project I'm working on/struggling on/trying to not sprawl in scope, just covers those five hundred years; modern England (i.e. the most recent 900 years) isn't that interesting to me.

But time, practicalities and ability (it's taking me a while to master Norwegian for other needs, let alone Latin) mean I'll have to settle for other people's reading, translation and interpretation. Highly related to this is that the British Library have the exhibition of all exhibitions coming up this autumn, which I'm considering joining the BL for just to make it easier to see (multiple times). One of my colleagues from a long time ago for a brief while now runs the cool stuff there and has a pretty awesome job.

As always, talk about whatever's up with you...

Day I think 4 or 5 of the BritishSnowWinterMiseryThing (see the post on the blue). It's still cold, that damp cold that persists in England and seeps into everything, and I swear (as I've sworn but failed for the last few years) that winters in future will be spent somewhere less damp and/or warmer. But it's not been deadly here; have been doing more frequent checks than usual on a few of the isolated elderly people nearby, and they are doing okay.

I have 156 Jaffa Cakes, 21 Cadbury Crème eggs, 3.5 whole Easter eggs, tea and wifi. So, could be worse.
posted by Wordshore at 5:49 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


2nding drawing. I've even gone as far as buying a big sketch book, but after assembling myself on the couch with pencils and such to DRAW SOMETHING I quickly get frustrated with my lack of skill.

I imagine that there are probably YouTube tutorials but I do not have a functioning computer or internet access in my apartment (I was poor for awhile a few years ago, computer broke) so drawing has been shelved.

Today was a good news/bad news day. The good: my ymca is going to start offering Saturday yoga classes. I haven't made it to a weekday evening class since November (sob) because of dumb work and it was making me sad to see my yoga mat just stuffed into a corner of my room. Also the cat has started experimenting with using it as a scratching post (soft and floppy = cat fail). So yay to Saturday yoga!

The bad: I did my taxes today (threw all my info into Turbotax) and I owe the CRA $250. Which, I mean, it's fine? I can pay it - I have savings. But I'm also trying to budget for some upcoming dental work and there is an LGBTQ retreat happening in Toronto in May that I was hoping to attend, and I was not expecting this extra bill. Bleargh.
posted by janepanic at 5:50 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Reading music. I can teach myself how to play an instrument reasonably well, but I cannot ever manage to learn to read music so i always hit a wall and lose interest. It's so frustrating.
posted by gatorae at 5:50 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I'd learn the violin because I think it's the most beautiful stringed instrument and I love everything from whimsical folk fiddlery to expansive classical violin solos. When I was in a WoW guild last year one of our rules was that people who won loot rolls had to sing a tune, and one of our main healers would play violin instead. It was amazeballs.

When I was a kid I played the piano, and I had an odd ability to play everything backwards provided I had memorized it. But I could not play the piano well. It always sounded mechanical and unexpressive, like a robot was playing it. So I quit. I also quit the clarinet because the clarinet is the musical equivalent to singing alto, which I also did and hated. Also I got tired of sucking reeds and having holes in my bottom lip.
posted by xyzzy at 5:58 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I wish I could read building plans and have an intuitive understanding of how the steps fit together, of seeing exactly how each piece fits into the whole. There's something about translating 2-D to 3-D that confounds me (yeah, I'm talking about you, make-your-own apple press instructions).
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:01 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Half the fun of new skills is the learning, I'd hate to lose the process, but if I had to gain one skill instantly it would be the ability to translate those skills into something that even remotely resembled financial success. Don't get me wrong, I do okay, I make do with what I have and live well within my means and keep my weird boho lifestyle much to the confusion of smarter people than I. But I see people parlay small modicums of talent into financial security and when they explain how they make money work, and budgeting and investments and god, my eyes are glazing over just typing this. I'm fully aware that financial security is a thing that can be taught, but I just can't bring myself to care about anythng as dull as money.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:04 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


It's not so much what I want, it's what I want back. I was so quick. Quick-witted, and sharp as a tack. My memory was a catalog of cultural references and people's names. I could string words together without even thinking about it and it astonished people, even myself. It's why people wanted to be with me. I was smart and funny, and people thought my knowledge was boundless. My mind was so fast it constantly needed to be reigned in. Sure, I'd say stupid things that sometimes hurt people. But they were really funny things. And it was why most people liked me.

Now that I'm older I don't have the same access. I can still occassioanlly pull off some smart and funny things, but now all that impresses anyone is my judgment. My brain, without my permission or approval, has ditched all those specifics and all that's left is experience, and not even specific or recallable experience, just a bunch of well-worn paths that typically lead to the right thing, leaving people if not happy, at least content. I don't always know the right thing to do, but when it comes to the handful of things I do well, I'm very good at managing those. And it's weird because it doesn't feel like a talent, it's just obvious. I manage things now in ways I'm sure I would have fucked up as a young person. But I'm not sharp. I'm not as funny, or popular, or envied. Instead, it's just respect which I still have a deep-seated mistrust of. I wish I could trade about half of that for some of that mental dexterity. I appreciate the wisdom and honor the experience that formed it, but I still really miss the increadibly absorbant and atheletic mind I once had, and the wit it fueled.

I suppose that's just the way life works. The burden of experience and the task of getting old. But I do miss my wit. Few things I say ever make people laugh like I once could. I'm not the life of the party anymore, I don't even like parties, they run far too late. And I like having this wisdom, it serves my colleagues well and provides comfort for my family, but if I had a choice I'd have retained some of that wit, instead of cedeing it all to some very selective wisdom.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:07 PM on March 3 [16 favorites]


Sing. It's been a continual frustration all my life. I started out in Gregorian Chant in the Catholic choir but they stuck me in 2nd alto because it was the farthest away from the rest of the choir and I was frequently off key and threw everybody else off. I thought I was tone deaf, even though I could always hear when others were flat—and then a professional singer friend told me to shut one ear and suddenly I could hear when I was flat. I had another professional music teacher who listened to me sing scales and told me my natural scale is a diminished fifth, which he said is a minor key. None of this really helped me sing well. I would love to open my mouth and have pleasing sounds come out. I don't have to be Adele or Susan Boyle or Leontyne Price. I just want to be a good singer.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:23 PM on March 3 [12 favorites]


Singing. I can sing but not well or with any real skill. I took some voice lessons a couple years ago. I specifically want to to sing to do musical improv. The improv part of it I've got a handle on. I've done some musical improv but I'd like to get it to a point where I feel better about it.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:39 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


drums - i can program them fairly well and i'm ok with hand percussion, but i really can't play a drum set - and living in a cramped apartment and having a cramped schedule, learning is out of the question

i also wish i could play keyboards better, but after playing them for 50 years, i think i'm going to have to settle for what i have, which is pretty sufficient for recording

i've also wanted to learn how to draw, but you know something? you can't do everything
posted by pyramid termite at 6:55 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Surfing.

I've been trying to learn for a couple of years now, but I live more than an hour's drive from the beach, so it's three hours in the car on a beach day if you include looking for a park. So I can't practice as often as I think I'd need to to get any good. I get out there about once a fortnight - once a week is the most often I could do if I really pressed myself. I've got to the point where I can stand and ride into shore, or I can stand, and start to turn, and fall off. But I'm unconfident in larger surf or with the etiquette of the line-up, mostly stick to white water, and I don't know whether or how quickly I'm likely to make any progress at my current speed.

I would definitely like to be able to flip a switch and instantly have mad surfing skills, so I could have even more fun and confidence when I do get out there.
posted by lollusc at 6:56 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I'd love to play an instrument. I don't care which one. I've tried and failed so many times to learn how to play so many different instruments and I just don't have the aptitude for it.

Also welding. But I think I can learn that pretty easily. My stepdad said he'd teach me if I figure out which kind I'd like to learn.

Speaking of snow, today I bought an oil drain pan from the dollar store for some reason (why not?) and then this afternoon I filled it full of snow and brought it in for the cats. Fergus was uninterested but Hannibal nibbled at it for a while. Being a shy boy, he would not let me get a picture.

Finally, I just got a call from my mom. Apparently she and my stepdad just spent the last four hours at the hospital where one of my stepbrothers has been in surgery and then recovery. He was playing with a sword and the inevitable happened when you're 22 years old and you're playing with a sword in the snow. He'll be fine, but it was a pretty good cut and he's been teased quite a bit already. He hit an artery, so I imagine their front yard looks like a scene out of Game of Thrones.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:59 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


I have 156 Jaffa Cakes, 21 Cadbury Crème eggs, 3.5 whole Easter eggs, tea and wifi. So, could be worse.

Wordshore, thank you for always making me laugh a little and smile. The whimsy of how you come to have these things in your possession—and the clear way you have with people, from the stories you tell—just delight me.

And Stanczyk, you can certainly turn a phrase too, even if you might not do it on-demand the way you once did. I like your stories a lot as well.

I have to say, feeling like I've gotten some insight into your and others' lives through reading these threads every week has been lovely. I'm feeling rather hug-emoji right now, just reading what everyone wishes they knew how to do.
posted by limeonaire at 7:05 PM on March 3 [9 favorites]


Add me to the list of those who would love to be able to sing. The ultimate party trick. Though I will say that for now I have an appreciative audience for even my singing - my six month old, who stops whatever he's to smile at my singing. That must be what the whole world is like for those who can actually sing!
posted by peacheater at 7:10 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I would be musical. I am the least musical person I know. I have been a frustrated guitar player for about 30 years now. I can learn where to put my fingers and read chords and bang out a song or two, but I don't hear music. Ask me to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star by ear and I can't do it. Ask me to sing on key... nope. Tell me I'm an eighth note off on my rhythm and I'll be shocked... I was sure I was dead on.

It's so amazingly frustrating and the worst part is people don't usually believe me or understand what I mean. They'll just say "oh, you just need to practice." but I literally cannot tell if one note is higher than another note unless they're an octave or so apart. I've been trying for 30 years and I just. can't. do. it. I liken it to being color blind. You would't tell someone who is color blind that they just need to "practice more" in order to see the color red, would you? Yet that's what people tell me to do. "just listen to the notes... you'll get it."

If I'm playing music with friends and they deviate, or they say "take it, Jim!" I'll have no idea what to do. I know some scales, sure, and I might know that an Am pentatonic scale can be played over an Am progression, but if I'm playing a "wrong" note I can't hear that it's wrong.

I've never been able to figure out a song by ear. Even simple, three-chord songs elude me. Yes, I have been trying for years to get better at this. I still play guitar from time to time, and I try to hear things and I try to figure out things by ear, but I always get frustrated and go find the chords.

People who are musical are like wizards to me. When they can just jump right in and start jamming with you when you didn't even tell them what chords you're playing, or when they just know what to play no matter what? Sorcery. My wife can pick up any instrument in the world and instantly play a melody on it. I will never understand how she can do that.

It doesn't keep me from playing the guitar. As I said, I can learn where to put my fingers and learn a song that way. It's very frustrating to have to learn it from a physical standpoint, and not a musical one. It makes it a lot less enjoyable for me.

So, yeah, I'd be musical if I could.
posted by bondcliff at 7:13 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


I would have good public speaking skills.

I waited until my last semester of college to take the required freshman level speech class all students had to take. And until then I made it through all of my university classes without giving one presentation. I'd drop the class after the first day if they had a speech as a requirement. lol. I was a shaking, hyperventilating, terrible mess. After each speech, the professor would tell me to go outside and relax and get a drink of water and my classmates would say, "YAY YOU DIDN'T PASS OUT!" I have never spoken in front of a group since then. AND I NEVER WILL.

I just learned how to crochet granny squares a few weeks ago! I am left handed and it took me going through approximately 5,000,000 youtube videos to find one that made sense to me. I'm working on my first blanket right now which is just going to be one ginormous granny square.
posted by ilovewinter at 7:36 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I would like to have that social skill of knowing how to make small talk, and effortlessly connecting into a room where people are already standing in groups. Those are such daunting situations for me, and I know people who make it look so easy.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:38 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


Play the flute. I've never really had the chance to learn a musical instrument (outside of recorder in elementary school) and flute is beautiful, a little unusual and very transportable without being damaged by changes in humidity. A friend plays french horn, trombone and some other horn and keeps trying to convince me to just join a band to learn but with my social anxiety that just ins't going to work for me.

elsietheeel: "Also welding. But I think I can learn that pretty easily. My stepdad said he'd teach me if I figure out which kind I'd like to learn."

Practically anyone can learn to MIG weld. And it's pretty cheap for a basic gasless rig though you do need either space out side or an appropriate covered area.
posted by Mitheral at 8:10 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I've been able to learn most anything I've set my mind to with the exception of musical instruments, which has something to do with turning notes what are on paper into ways I hold my fingers on a thing making no sense to my brain.

I'd also like a forge, but now I think it's probably not a good idea because I'd have liked to have learned how to make bladed weapons but apparently those aren't a good thing to have around in my family. We'd have to lock them up like we lock up the guns.

Just kidding, I'm still totally making a hobby forge someday.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:26 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I would like to know Latin. It seems like it would be very useful for unlocking a deeper understanding of language, and it's something I wish I had taken in school.
posted by sockermom at 8:27 PM on March 3 [5 favorites]


Multilingualism!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to be able to pick up new languages super quickly. Right now I am learning Korean and re-learning French. I wish I could also study Japanese and Mandarin right now but I recently had an awkward experience where I put together a sentence during a meeting using vocab from each language and my client was very concerned about me

Also ballet and piano but multilingualism first please.
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:29 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


I would love to have instant language learning; I've tried Pimsleur, off and on, for Spanish and Thai, but I think I'd have to do one of those immersion courses in order to make much headway. I retain bits and pieces, and I can stumble through a sentence or two in Spanish given a lot of lead time, but I know I'm unlikely to ever manage much more than that. I wish it was easier for me; whenever I visit Mexico or try to help someone who only speaks Spanish, I always feel awkward and wish I had more facility with it.

There's a bunch of things I wish I was better at in life, but that's the one I think I'd need magic to do reasonably well at.
posted by tautological at 8:50 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


I’d like to be musical but like more eloquent others upthread, I just ain’t. If I could have one skill, yeah, I would like to be able to pick up a guitar and play. I have tried and tried and it is just not going to happen. I can’t even play recorder and everyone can play recorder! I’d also like to be a carpenter. I think about that a lot - just build a shed! A chicken coop! A table! - but I’m too cheap and impatient so everything I build looks like an 8 year old and not a very coordinated 8 year old at that built it. Which, come to think of it, actually describes a lot of the things I make! I wish I was just a bit more competent at everything.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:09 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Singing for me, too. Not even fancy solo-ist singing, just the ability to carry a tune. I joined a UU church a year and a half ago and having to sing every Sunday is excruciating. I can't read music, I know I'm not singing anything close to the right notes, and I always feel so bad for anyone standing near me, no matter how quietly I try to sing. I keep thinking I should take lessons but I'd be embarrassed to sing in front of a teacher. And I don't really want to go through the process of learning, I just want to be able to do it.

While I have been having a bit of trouble adulting lately, I have been doing fairly well at keeping up with my friendships, and making new ones, and I'm proud of that, because I'm not always good at that. Someone at work emailed me on Friday asking if I wanted to get lunch some time, after being fairly complimentary to me at a meeting the other day, and it was nice to think, "Oh, that would be fun!" rather than getting into a total social-anxiety loop about it. And I asked another new-ish friend if she wanted to see "A Wrinkle in Time" with me and then realized, since she is a single mom, that it would probably make sense to see if she wanted to bring her kids along, it being a children's movie and all, and she does, so I get to meet her kids for the first time. Which feels like a very adult friendship milestone.
posted by lazuli at 9:10 PM on March 3 [7 favorites]


Most things I could learn and really have reason to learn, I am either currently working on or totally will at some point. The one I'd choose if you were going to let me learn it instantly would be drawing, because as of right now, I've tried it several times, even the whole Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain thing, and I cannot wrap my head around it at all, but I have so much envy for people who are good at it and so many things I'd like to use it for.

I mean, like 50% of them are fanart, but still.

For real practical stuff, most of what I need to learn is related to web development, and I am procrastinating from working on that stuff hard right now, but in my defense, I'm on pain medication due to having busted my foot and I'm not sure I'm retaining much from working on it anyway. I'm at the stage where it's no longer excruciating to move around but it's so incredibly awkward--I guess the other skill I would like to be able to pick up instantly would be "navigating on crutches without my entire upper body being sore". I can finally put enough weight on the boot to manage at home with that and will hopefully be able to walk around properly on Monday, but I expect everything to be slow going for the next few weeks. Crutches seemed like they had the possibility for faster locomotion, but if I was coordinated enough to use them, I wouldn't have slipped and fallen in the first place.
posted by Sequence at 9:15 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Learning Latin is not hard. Bella = Beautiful.

@sockermom you are bella
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:26 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


Sewing/tailoring/

I'm complete butterfingers at it and I've tried for years to get better and it never sticks.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty confident I can learn anything if I set my mind to it, particularly music things, so the skill I want is time management.
posted by rhizome at 9:33 PM on March 3 [6 favorites]


My instant download skill a la matrix would be languages. Just any and all. I don't want to have to practice them, I just want to know them.

I do wish I were better at drawing, but I'll take the slow route to that. I think for that one, the journey is what matters. It's not really a skill, but if I could I'd get rid of my aphantasia so I could draw better. I can't draw "from my imagination" at all because I don't have one. And that really stunts my drawing improvement. I can only draw from reference, which is a drag.

In bad news this week, I owe 3k in taxes because my work was taking out at the married rate by mistake. Ugh.
posted by greermahoney at 10:02 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


You guys I am going to show this thread to the next orchestra student I have who tells me she wants to quit 3 months in after the shine has worn off a little.

I’m really musical, classically trained and pick things up quickly but I am SUPER stuck playing what is on the paper (accurately! so accurately! but still!) and I wish I had any ability at all to jam or improvise without being terrified of losing control over the situation.

My brother is the opposite; he is self-taught and can just pick up a guitar and noodle or explore for hours and I’m envious of that skill. He also is a great artist, though, and that’s something I am really terrible at and would also like to be magically better at without taking the risk of hundreds of hours of making art that would not be perfect and would show the world how little imagination I have.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:04 PM on March 3 [3 favorites]


Another languages / multilingual person here. I've visited parts of Indonesia a dozen times or so over the last 20 years and usually picked up a few greetings and some basic vocab here and there. On longer visits might study a few questions or phrases. I've gone through periods of vocab study using Memrise or similar for a few months at a time recently which was pretty easy. Finally bit the bullet and just went to Yogyakarta for 10 days including 7 days / 20 hours of one-on-one instruction. I was surprised by how much progress I could make quite quickly. As a knock on, I feel more motivated to work on my Japanese more formally. It's been getting better over the years but the plateaus seem to keep getting longer. I had such a positive experience being a formal student again that I think I can get over some of my irrational reasons for not spending the time and money for some direct instruction in Japanese to "get me over the next hump." Keep meaning to go back and try to revitalize my old high school and college French, too. So wish I had learned some Spanish when it would have been easier to do so.
posted by Gotanda at 10:39 PM on March 3 [2 favorites]


I'm antagonistic to everything *like* marketing and would probably do more for other goals if I were even merely average at it, let alone good. But I cannot quite wish to be good at marketing (Yet, murmurs Augustine).

I would like to suddenly be good at woodworking. I just hate wasting wood while I learn.
posted by clew at 10:40 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


Language. Mum and Dad had us do many hobbies as kids but where I was from multilingualism was highly unusual and they never really encouraged us - and I had a facility for languages. I do feel it's a real gap in my otherwise quite broad education.

I have a smattering of words in different languages I've picked up over the years, but as I get older, the investment is large, and these days I have to be judicious with what I learn - maintaining what I know currently is challenge enough!
posted by smoke at 11:45 PM on March 3 [1 favorite]


I’ve always wished that I could dance. I love listening to many types of music but I’m not a good dancer. I’ve always envied people who are able to get out there and dance in public but I’m not one of them.

I also wish I had more innate athletic ability. I love to watch and read about sports but at times I have wanted to be one of those people who can just go out and play pickup basketball or join a volleyball league or whatever, because I think the social aspects of those activities would be fun, but I’ve never felt that I have the coordination or skills to do so. And I’ve learned from experience that, most of the time, when people say “oh, come and play anyway, we don’t care if you’re not good at it, just join us”—it’s not really true.
posted by bookmammal at 12:00 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


This thread validates immigrant parent stereotypes, doesn't it? Make sure your kid can play an instrument (singing on pitch basically comes for free) and learn languages. Maybe they are on to something.

Soooo with that, I would like to control my rage better and be able to tell stories appropriately in conversation.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:10 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Two. One, learn to fly. In an airplane, but if I could just Superman it around, that too! Two, to be able to hit a major league curve ball. I go to the batting cages all the time, but when it comes to a live pitcher, I am bailing out on that 78mph Uncle Charlie. I can stand in and foul off a 90 mph fast ball, but the curve has me flummoxed.
posted by AugustWest at 1:25 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Mine would also be time management, as the two things I would like to have, sewing skills and a perfect French accent, were skills I have possessed in the past! This week I (/a hairdresser) dyed my hair dark purple and it is making me so happy to catch in the mirror! Paris avoided most of the bad weather with snow only on one day which I am super grateful for.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:39 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


Languages, for sure! I have several somewhere in my brain from a life spent in different countries but it would be really nice to just be able to learn/speak anything else with anything approaching fluency.
posted by halcyonday at 1:46 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


sing! I actually think I can sometimes sing well, but my voice can't be depended on. Breathing itself isn't always something that comes naturally for me (those of you with allergies and asthma will know what I mean) and singing is so dependent on breath that I never know exactly what sound is going to happen... unless I'm alone and totally relaxed. So I have a snuffalupagus singing voice, it only shows up when there's no-one to corroborate it's existence.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:47 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I’ve always wished I could draw. I have ideas in my head that I’d love to put down on paper, but I can never seem to do it. It’s always been very frustrating.

I like calligraphy, and girlfriend gave me some dip pen stuff for my birthday. I’ve discovered that I really like putting ink onto the page. It’s very satisfying. I’ve been doodling a little bit here and there, and for the first time in my life, drawing is slightly more fun than it is frustrating. It’s just enough incentive to keep doing it. Maybe I’m 20 years I’ll be able to draw a little better.

I’m glad I’m not the only musician who has trouble jamming! I have a good ear, but for whatever reason, I struggle with the spontaneous stuff. I’ve been trying to get more confident about writing songs, but it never comes as freely as stuff I’ve heard (or read) before. It’s not like there’s an obligation to write songs, but it could be nice.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:19 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Skills I want that I'm not working towards: I wish I could compose and improvise music, dance without feeling self conscious, and put together devastating insults. You know those people whose disdain flows off the page in complex epithets and metaphors that would've never occurred to you but that make perfect sense as soon as you hear it? That. Not because I care to insult people per se (hence: not working towards this skill) but because I feel like underlying that skill is a specific fluidity with language and really Seeing people that can't quite be taught. (I also wish my writing were more lyrical, which I think requires a similar kind of observational remixing that seems to just elude me.)

Skill I want that I will be taking positive steps towards once I have any semblance of free time again: some sort of martial arts or self defense. This is partially about wanting to be healthy and finding the gym deathly boring and partially feeling like if I'm going to walk around in public wearing a shirt that says "Punch More Nazis" I should be able to back that up with all five foot four inches of me.

Skill I want that would make my day to day life so much easier: going to sleep regularly and waking up feeling refreshed because holy shit I'm tired of being tired. In related news it's 2:30 AM and I'm still reading papers to prepare for my three deadlines on Monday, sigh.
posted by Phire at 2:30 AM on March 4 [4 favorites]


I'd really like to be able to play the double bass. I think it's fun that you can dance and play that instrument at the same time, although strangely, I hate dancing.

It'd also be nice if I could get Hankyu trains to just skip Juso and go straight to the Umeda terminus, but for now I think I'll stick with learning how to bake bread in a rice cooker.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:12 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


If you can find a group near you, and sit with them, they will teach you, Eyebrows, and that is the best way to learn.

As a heads up, it's generally considered very poor etiquette to turn up to a knitting group expecting instruction. Helping you when it all goes to hell or drop a stitch for the first time, yes, teaching, no.
posted by hoyland at 5:27 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Oddly, this thread is making me think about my life and bringing me down a little, so I think I'll skip the skills stuff.

Here is why my train was delayed yesterday. Me and a bunch of drinking disgruntled Bruins fans trying to get to a game. Also a guy across from me yelling into his phone about all the guns he looked at at LL Bean, and his wife narrating every single moment of the trip -- there's a guy looking at the train, there's some birds, there's the ocean, there's a tree, we're stopping, we're starting, etc.

Also, somebody named Janet Land thinks my email address is hers, and has made a reservation at a Marriott in St. Louis. Should I cancel it? No, that would be too mean. But it's fun to think about.
posted by JanetLand at 5:50 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


If you have access, request a second mint on the pillow. That should scratch your impish wish in a friendly way and sow delightful chaos if you so desire it.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:58 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I'd want to be the BEST dancer! All the styles- ballet, tap, hip-hop, square dance, break dancing, you name it. I dream of doing my own SHOWTIME show on the A train but instead of young guys, it's me and all my white lady Mom friends flipping over the bars.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:03 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I've been working on learning Latin and improving my touch typing.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:07 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


My free advice to everyone who wants to learn to draw is this: learn to sketch. Don't sweat the photorealistic shading and crosshatching, but learn to make quick (less than 30 seconds) sketches, and learn form and volume. Do your drawing without picking your pen up from the paper - one continuous line. You can pick that up fairly quickly, it's loads more useful as a skill and a show-off, and if you decide to go on and learn "proper" drawing technique, it'll be a great first step. Learning to go be Rembandt, now that's a major commitment. Learning to sketch things on bar napkns and make people giggle, literally, child's play.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:12 AM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I would like to be able to visualise things, especially as it applies to interior decoration. You know, like the people who can walk into a room and say "if you move the couch there, you can put a grey rug next to it, and a blue vase on a side table here would really complement it". Not only can I not come up with ideas like that, I can't even really picture what it would look like after it's been described to me. I pretty much have to actually move the couch to get a sense of what it would look like in the new spot.

I can read music and improvise. What I can't do and what I'd like to be able to do is change a song to give it a different feel, like playing acoustic versions of dance songs or jazz versions of pop songs. Or being able to play jazz styles at all, really...
posted by pianissimo at 7:35 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I would love to be able to dance! I have terrible, terrible rhythm and all the joy I found in dancing has been sucked out of me over the years by the multitude of teasing-not teasing comments. To the point that I don't dance any longer, no even in the living room.

It has been a sad week here. We had to euthanize our beautiful boy Theodore, Saturday last. He stopped eating and the best guess was a tumor blocking his stomach and intestine. He was barely eight years old and we are heartbroken. He was a magnificent cat. Boy theBRKP and I have been rather gloomy. Today I am headed to purchase a shadow box and print a couple of photos to make a memory keepsake for the kiddo.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 7:49 AM on March 4 [6 favorites]


theBigRedKittyPurrs—so, so sorry. I’ve been there and it’s heart wrenching. Sending a virtual hug your way if you want one.
posted by bookmammal at 8:00 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I would like to be okay with being the center of attention. Why? Because I'd like to try my hand at community theatre. When I was in college, I acted in a friend's directing scene. The professor introduced herself to me after the performance and asked me why she hadn't seen me around the department. She thought I had talent and she encouraged me to audition for an upcoming production. Doing the scene was TERRIFYING. I wouldn't even let my then-boyfriend come watch it because I was so freaking nervous. I never auditioned for that upcoming production and have never done anything like that again. But I LOVE theatre and I think it would be incredible to be a part of a production. I have zero to offer on the tech side. But I also really really don't like being the center of attention. I hate it when people sing Happy Birthday to me. Public speaking gives me cold chills.

But I really want to act.
posted by cooker girl at 8:01 AM on March 4 [1 favorite]


So, so sorry for your loss, theBRKP. Theodore was a beautiful boy.
posted by cooker girl at 8:03 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Patience.
posted by crush at 9:05 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I'm so sorry, theBigRedKittyPurrs. Sending love your way.
posted by limeonaire at 10:40 AM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Starting tasks I don’t want to do.
posted by delight at 11:33 AM on March 4 [3 favorites]


I've been incredibly lucky (or self-deceiving) in that I don't care about most of the things that I'm bad at. I draw like a three year old; but, why would I want to draw anything now that CAD software exists? I dance like a neurotic weirdo; but, why would I ever want to dance? I have no idea how to bake a good loaf of bread; but, there are people who will sell it to me for the equivalent of a few minutes of time spent doing something I'm good at.

The one exception is languages. I'm a native English speaker. After years of formal classes and many months in Spanish speaking countries, I speak Spanish like a rather dim six year old. I pronounce the fifty French words that I've learned like a British comedian pretending not to speak French. In every other place I've visited, I can count to ten in an incomprehensible accent and then say "I'm sorry," and nothing more. A smile and not-being-a-dick go a long way, but it would be fantastic if my attempts at speaking the local language occasionally resulted in communication rather than pity.

I'd love to be able to read poetry in my second language, or talk to a supermarket clerk in any other language without resorting to hand gestures. I have friends who have an astonishing ability to pick up such things. Ten minutes after sitting in the same room with an international guest, they can recite twenty phrases and remember what each means; at best I have a squishy sense of the cadence of the language but remember none of the details. It takes an entire plane flight to learn five or six phrase-book entries and even then I have to re-read them twice a day to have any hope at retention.

As someone who teaches classes that many students dread and claim to be naturally bad at - despite my sincere efforts to make the experience rewarding - it's been useful to reflect on what it's like to really struggle at something despite actually trying and truly giving a damn. Remembering how much I struggle to talk about future events in Spanish gives me pause when I might naturally assume failing students can't possibly be trying hard.

I'd also like to be able to play piano. As someone who was once pretty good at a few instruments that all play one note at a time, it's been a slow and hard transition. But, unlike languages, I'm confident piano playing is a skill I can actually acquire and there's measurable , daily progress. It falls squarely in the "I could be good at it if I tried hard enough" category. The hard part is just making it a priority so that I try hard enough.
posted by eotvos at 12:19 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


I have always said that if I could download a skill it would be sewing/tailoring/making my own clothes. I am not great at sewing but the bigger problem is that when I try to take the time to actually learn it, I become infuriated and full of impotent rage. I just want to be able to make some goddamn skirts with pockets!

Last night me and my partner went to a birthday celebration for our very dear friend and part of it was a queer soul dance night and it was really fun. I had so much fun seeing all the younger, cooler kids in their out on the town outfits. Today is about quietly writing letters to friends and perhaps reorganizing my kitchen.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 12:20 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


eotvos: "I draw like a three year old; but, why would I want to draw anything now that CAD software exists?"

I'm trying to imagine Leonardo DiCaprio sitting behind a workstation as Kate Winslet implores him to draw her like one of his French girls and it just isn't forming.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Add me to the list of folks who would like to be able to really sing. I have a good ear and a decent sense of my vocal range so I can usually fake people out by just sticking within my (very limited) range, but anything outside of that and the heart is willing but the vocal cords are not, y'know? I would love to be able to really belt it out from time to time, but for now I will settle for lip-syncing and gesticulating dramatically instead.
posted by btfreek at 2:34 PM on March 4


So apparently little brother cut his leg with a replica Roman gladius, so right now I'm making one out of plywood to take to him when we go visit tomorrow.

I was going to write "Get well soon!" on the blade... anyone know how to write it in Latin? :D
posted by elsietheeel at 3:40 PM on March 4 [5 favorites]


I would like to make women's clothes and shoes. Functional pockets. Sizing by measurements, not arbitrary numbers. Shoes designed for women with five toes. No! Bespoke shoes for that perfect fit. Comfortable and functional, with a classic and whimsical line.
posted by Ruki at 3:44 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Well, "Vale!" can mean both "be well" and "goodbye" in Latin so that might be particularly apt for a sword wound sending him to the hospital! I'm glad he's ok and that's more the former usage than the latter :)
posted by Mouse Army at 4:07 PM on March 4


Foreign language for sure, with "concert-level and also jazz-improv genius piano" a close second.
posted by saladin at 4:15 PM on March 4


I'll take Farm Skills for a thousand, Alex. I mean, ok, I guess I'm supposed to limit myself to one. But if music "a skill" then I suppose "transforming a tree into burnable firewood using appropriate gas-powered and hand tools" is also "a skill." I'd also like to acquire the skills of basic residential electrical work, plumbing, and framing carpentry, but those ones seem more like a matter of just putting in the time to watch the right YouTube videos and buy the right tools. It's the one involving chainsaws and axes and mauls---MAULS!--that seems both imminently useful to my life these days and yet utterly intimidating and would really benefit from some waving-a-magic-wand form of learning.
posted by drlith at 5:56 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


(and yes, I'm working on acquiring this skill in the sense that I bought a gas chainsaw last year but I'm afraid to even take it out of the box)
posted by drlith at 5:58 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


A career in voice acting.

I've gone about as far as I care to in my 3-decade IT career, and younger hungrier people are nipping at my heels. So I'd dearly love to segue into a creatively (and financially) fulfilling career to employ myself in for whatever's left of my working life. I believe I either have or can gain the talent and expertise to be able to make a modest living at it. I've pulled together a pretty decent ad-hoc personal "voice studio", but determining and doing the next steps needed to progress to getting regular gigs is a psychological and practical hurdle I haven't yet managed to overcome.

So I guess maybe the skills I'd actually love to magically acquire are discipline and perseverance.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:05 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


Add me to the list of musical instrument players.

I'm taking flute lessons now. Cheers to the chorus here for some extra motivation to continue. I credit two factors that have changed:
- That it's difficult to simply make a sound on the flute. I sing (and can read music pretty well now from long-term choir involvement) but I could never bring myself to practice much because I could never hear the improvements. But it's impossible to ignore a clean flute note where once it was muddy and distorted. Much more rewarding for my lootbox brain.
- I've been treated for ADD since the last time I tried to learn an instrument.
posted by solarion at 6:14 PM on March 4


Team sewing.
I have always enjoyed working with my hands, and as I get older, I want to stay productive and creative. When I retire, I'd like to perhaps do custom sewing, tailoring and mending. I've spent some time gathering proper equipment, supplies and then just dove in! There's so much information online, and tutorial videos abound. PDF patterns and thrift store fabric give me plenty to work with, and I can channel some strong inherited skills from my grandmothers, who both sewed, and who let me sew with them. I've made some things I am really proud to wear. And a few things that were just awful, too! It's something that I try to devote more time to, and I take great pleasure when I see my skill level growing.


On the life side,the young stray cat I gave to my daughter is doing well, and seems very happy to have a person!
posted by LaBellaStella at 7:04 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


Motivation. I can do a lot of the things mentioned here, and do them well, but I never feel like it. I just loaf around.
posted by Stonkle at 7:09 PM on March 4 [2 favorites]


(and yes, I'm working on acquiring this skill in the sense that I bought a gas chainsaw last year but I'm afraid to even take it out of the box)

I hear you. The best advice I ever got about using a mechanical saw is that yes, they are loud, and scary, and every cut seems like it takes forever. But if you pay attention, never over-extend, and obey and wear all safety rules and equipment, you begin to realize that most cuts, while seeming to take forever, because it’s loud and scary and dangerous, only last a few minutes. Realizing that was for me a revelation. And allowed me to use the tool in a safe and productive manner.
posted by valkane at 7:26 PM on March 4 [1 favorite]


I'm with drlith and the farm skills thing, although even though I feel I could learn most of them, chainsaws scare me to death (and I think I own three of them). A winter around here, if you only have a woodstove like I do, is going to require between three to four cords of wood.

A cord of cheapo lodgepole pine is about $275 (it might be $175, I confess my mom pays and I don't pay attention much). A permit to cut a cord of your own damn wood (of whatever variety you can find) is $10. I have a truck that will hold a cord of wood. Unfortunately, I'd need a really REALLY long extension cord to run my chainsaws because I think they're all electric, and even if one of them were gas, I don't think a single one of them has a blade longer than 18 inches and that's not going to do me much good when it comes to firewood.

Part of me wants to invest in a 32" Stihl and hydraulic log splitter and know that firewood is taken care of for my parents forever, but jiminy christmas I'm so scared of the chainsaw that even though it would save us thousands of dollars a year I'm not sure I could ever manage it.

Also this is supposedly get well soon in Latin.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:27 PM on March 4 [3 favorites]


Woodworking. Including mortises and tenons. My grandpa taught me all sorts of handcraft woodworking growing up, and when you're a kid you just don't realize the value of it. I wish I could get it all back and make my own furniture. That said, the basis of everything he taught me has nonetheless saved me thousands of euros in home improvement. (Easily thousands, if not tens of thousands – mainly due to hourly rates.)

Also if I could instantly get back to the level I had on piano twenty years ago... *dreamysigh*
posted by fraula at 12:27 AM on March 5


For all who'd like to learn sewing, even a damn skirt with pockets ;) there's a great eCourse run by a couture friend – so it's to measure, but she starts simple – called Skirt Skills. There's a review here.
posted by fraula at 12:33 AM on March 5 [3 favorites]


Also, somebody named Janet Land thinks my email address is hers, and has made a reservation at a Marriott in St. Louis. Should I cancel it? No, that would be too mean. But it's fun to think about.

If you have access, request a second mint on the pillow. That should scratch your impish wish in a friendly way and sow delightful chaos if you so desire it.


That was a good idea. I went in and requested extra feather pillows and extra towels. I want her to be comfortable, after all.

Really people, know your own email address. I could have cancelled that reservation with a couple of clicks.
posted by JanetLand at 5:53 AM on March 5 [8 favorites]


Then I thought, uh-oh, she might be allergic to feathers. So I changed it to extra foam pillows.
posted by JanetLand at 5:55 AM on March 5 [9 favorites]


I'd learn the mandolin. I actually bought a mandolin a while back and noodled around on it some. But it wasn't long before my son started on it and asked for lessons. He's much better than me already and just played at his school's talent show to a good response.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:44 AM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I wish I could learn how to sew properly. I can sew and have made many a costume on my machine but I have gone on two dressmaking courses and am just so slow so I have two made to measure dresses sitting half made in bags in my bedroom. There is something about the sequence of sewing I find very difficult while I can knit and crochet completed garments no problem.

My mother is an excellent seamstress which means I hate the quality of a lot of clothes I can afford to buy but I just can't push through the frustration of my own skills not meeting my standards to get there. Also, I enjoy the process of knitting more - knitting is 90% producing a fabric/10% finicky details, right now sewing feels like 100% finicky details.

I have successful made several costumes for the daughters but they didn't need to survive repeated wear or washes.
posted by hfnuala at 11:14 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


I have some really special skills that I'm quite happy with, but I feel like if I could figure out graphic design, I'd be set. So much of what I do requires it and I have to farm it out even though I know what I'm looking for. So I'd be happy to trade knitting, crochet, beekeeping, chicken-keeping, fire-eating, sewing and gardening skills for a really good graphic design instructor.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:21 AM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Nearly 10 years ago, I asked this question about moving from being a fairly mediocre skier to...something better.

Since then I’ve reproduced twice and motivated by my own limitations on the ski slope, as well as to get the boys outside during the long dreary PNW winters, I’ve made it a point to get them on skis from a young age. Even though it’s meant getting myself out of bed at 630 every Sunday and schlepping two kids and an insane amount of gear to sub freezing temperatures for lessons at the local ski hill.

The six year old could probably take it or leave it, but the eight year old has decided this is his thing. It’s pretty amazing to watch this kid, who is incredibly unmotivated to do just about anything else that carries a risk of potential failure, push himself hard with only a little regard for the danger.

In the course of this, I’ve spent a lot of time skiing with other parents while their kids are in lessons, people who are often much better than me. Last year, the eight year old caught up to my level and the two of us began really skiing together for the first time which has been a really great special thing the two of us share. It’s a sport that requires skill and fitness but also a fair amount of emotional courage, all things that are a struggle to impart upon your kids so I really treasure the time with him. But in addition to being a sport, it’s also play and I’m so glad I have a way to engage in play with him as he approaches his snotty tween years.

Anyway, he pushes me. Nothing motivates you to challenge yourself more than your kid taking off down a run that you told him repeatedly was too difficult for him and now you’re racing after him to make sure he doesn’t get lost or kill himself. The first few times he did this I was super pissed off and still I rebuke him for not listening to me but secretly what he’s taught me is that learning a new skill, particularly excelling at something, you never really feel like you have mad skillz, you’re never just comfortable and competent, you’re just looking for the next challenge, always.

This season, he and I were pretty much only doing black diamonds, and even a dozen or so double black diamonds. Yesterday was the last day of lessons for the year. All winter we’d been talking about taking Chair 2 (Seattle ski people probably know where I’m talking about), the scary ass lift that goes all the way to the peak, with like cliffs and cornices and shit. Every time there’d be an excuse— conditions were poor, it’s too cold, no visibility, the line’s too long, I’m too tired. Yesterday, after lessons were done, we rode Chair 2 over and over again.

So I guess most people would now say that I have some pretty decent skill skiing and the thing is, it’s different than I thought it would be. I’m still pretty much shitting my pants ever time I go out, but I’m finding it easier to be willing to shit my pants. When I look around at other things people might think I’m good at (medicine, standing on a stage with a guitar, opening up a car engine), I realize there’s a similar sense of always extending myself beyond my comfort zone.

Skill isn’t something you can pick up and achieve and then sit back and enjoy. Maybe that’s competence, or basic familiarity. Skill is a process where you are willing to continually put yourself in uncomfortable positions and learn to enjoy and take pride in being able to put up with that discomfort and then look back up in amazement at that steep ass run you just skied.

It took an eight year old to teach me that.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:26 AM on March 5 [14 favorites]


Is self-confidence a skill? If so, that's what I would like. Barrels of it, please.
If that doesn't count as a "skill," I think I'd like to be a hyperpolyglot.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:44 AM on March 5


I would like to be able to clearly articulate my thoughts on the fly, and give well measured responses while in the conversation instead of as a follow-up. I'm pretty quick, but I work with a group of folks that are so quick and so fast and clear that I feel like I'm constantly playing catch up.
posted by larthegreat at 11:47 AM on March 5


I would like to be able to read body language and facial expressions and I'd like to be able to better recognize sarcasm. Generally all of these things have to be pretty exaggerated for me to be sure I've got them correct. This leads to me not getting the joke (or that there even was a joke) a lot of the time. I also often miss when people are sad, happy, confused, angry, or other common feelings. People have said I'm not empathetic many times but people who know me well say I'm way too empathetic (or 'sensitive' which is a term I really hate but that's a whole other thing) it's just that it's not often I realize there's something to empathize with.

I watch and listen to a ton of media to try to get better at this, but it's not getting a lot better - probably because on TV, podcasts, comedy albums, etc. everything is exaggerated for effect and I can figure it out. I can read my wife and kids pretty well but that's from many years of knowing and learning about them. I don't have that luxury with most people.

I can sight read music without thinking about it and I can stick my head right inside computers or mechanical things and just 'feel' how they are working - or why they are not working. I hardly had to learn math. Calculus classes in college just made sense without much studying. But after 40+ years of hearing it I just can't figure out context and subtext in spoken language.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:36 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


In reading all these, I almost think I need to make a list of new things I want to learn how to do, so many of them are like, "Wait, no, I should have picked that! Or that! Or that!"
posted by Sequence at 2:12 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


I wish I could lip read. I'm terrible at it.
posted by Fig at 2:44 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


I dance reasonably well, but it has taken years of practice to learn dances. I wish I had a better memory. I have a good voice, but poor hearing means it's hard to be on-key; I slay in the car with the radio, though. I would love to play an instrument, and am scouting out guitar or ukulele classes. I understand the basics of reading music, but it has never clicked. My ability to listen to beats and hear parts of time signatures is way better these days.
posted by theora55 at 4:02 PM on March 5


Personal: When I meditate I see pictures in my head which are all really calming combinations of colors and patterns. I wish I could make those images into reality somehow, like a xerox for my mind.

Social: LANGUAGES. I'd love to be able to go anywhere and talk to the people there, know what was going on know how to read the books, etc.
posted by jessamyn (temp) at 4:10 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


if you could pick up a skill instantly, what skill would it be?

evil answer: pick-pocketing
non-evil answer: Tagalog
posted by 23skidoo at 4:56 PM on March 5


Another answer for downloading any language instantly. My strongest second language (Japanese) is still not at a high-enough reading level for the fiction I like to read, and not having that barrier would give me a lot more enjoyment in the world. I am, as always, working on it, as well as relearning languages I've studied in the past but have since not used.

Both my French and Spanish are in a weird purgatory state now, where I've forgotten simple things like "breakfast", but reading news articles are generally okay but slow going. I'd also like to pick up some new ones but I suppose I should work on the ones I already have foundations for. I did poke around some at Esperanto on Duolingo the other day and was encouraged at how easy it came.

I'm currently knitting my first-ever sock! I'm quite pleased with the progress as I only started knitting in earnest 5 months ago. There's some progress photos on my Ravelry; I'm on there as armandette if you'd like to be friends.
posted by lesser weasel at 7:03 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


Weightlifting. Not yet working on it, but plan to soon.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 7:24 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Instantly I'd like to be current on InDesign/Photoshop/Illustrator. I was self-taught on CS2 and now am learning Cloud so re-learning properly is necessary but it's a time-consuming hassle so instant skillz would be great.

I do love the process of learning though, and am thoroughly enjoying slowly developing the "trades" skills to maintain and improve my home and yard. (I am rapidly approaching the get-off-my-lawn phase of life so these skills are necessary for puttering, being superior to my neighbors, and haggling with contractors.)
posted by headnsouth at 4:32 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Putting aside that this is the question Tyler Durden asks the convenience store clerk and my concerns that MeFight Club may be taking project mayhem a bit to serious...

I've got solid experience coding, and solid experience designing high level systems, and even ETL experience... but there's this nirvana of design that I've seen a few colleagues reach where they build something so simple, elegant and (mostly) bullet proof that I want to attain, and it has eluded me for years. And yes, it is a work skill...

Outside of work, I'd like to take up welding again but not just stick. I'd like to go back to mig welding, because it is simple enough that I could do it and hopefully small enough that I could keep a rig in my garage.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:56 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


I would pick up additional languages, but I seem incapable of learning one. I've tried several times, but my brain doesn't seem to be wired to allow this. Same with music. I still dabble with music, but have pretty much given up on languages.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:02 AM on March 6


I would not be shy.
posted by pracowity at 8:40 AM on March 6 [6 favorites]


I have a long list of skills I have failed to acquire and now that I am in my early fifties it makes me sad to think of how much time I've wasted getting really good at surfing the internet and watching Netflix. Now I think about what I can learn in the next thirty years that isn't dependent on having a fully functional body.

1. Writing two pages a day
1b. Developing a workflow for turning notes into essays
2. Table magic
3. Really playing the guitar, improvisationally
4. Entering a meditative state
5. Forgiving others
6. Forgiving myself
posted by mecran01 at 11:09 AM on March 6 [3 favorites]


My dream this year is to learn how to whistle reaaaaaaally loudly, like my mom used to do to call us kids in for dinner. Ideally I will learn how to do this without having to put the index finger of each hand into each side of my mouth but we'll see. I have done nothing so far to learn how to do this, other than literally just now googling "how to whistle really loud no hands", but I am going to the desert next week and I am looking forward to practicing what I just learned in this video when I'm driving around by myself!
posted by stellaluna at 4:47 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


People are thinking too real. I would want to ability to teleport a la a Jumper from the novel by Stephen Gould. Imagine the usefulness of it. Going to work and running a bit late poof you're there. Flying home to visit family, poof no waiting around in the airport. Feel like a day on the beach in Italy where you went four years ago poof instantly there. Want proper NY style pizza and also a chicago style pizza, just a few phone calls and poof poof you've picked up both and they're on the table in 45 minutes.
posted by koolkat at 3:55 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


I want to be super strong. Fortunately, I should have the time to start working on that this summer, so woot.

(Also, because everyone around me is already tired of hearing about this: our men's basketball team punched their ticket and THEY'RE GOING DANCING. For the first time since 2001.1 I love March.)

[They're going to bust some brackets, too.]

1. If you work where I work, I'm not here.
posted by joycehealy at 5:33 AM on March 8


100 Jaffa Cakes left.
posted by Wordshore at 2:59 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]


I can't really play the way I wish to anymore because somebody who has never stepped up left an uncovered exacto knife in a pen jar but I have been able to teach the likely culprits to play guitar better than I ever could. The kids were asked to do a short set before a local band at a small place and they did mess up Panic in Detroit before absolutely knocking CCR's Ramble Tamble out of the park and turning Mattie Groves into the scariest thing you have ever heard.

So then we saw most of the Flaming Lips show and Sunday night I've got them backstage for Insane Clown Posse on a school night. Salvage Station employee told me the booking agent had no idea. i am a terrible parent.

The three of them learn better when they are all want to learn the same thing. Non-competitive. A boy who actually listens to girls. Continual positive reinforcement.

My mom signed me up for music lessons when I was eight and let the band director tell us that I couldn't play clarinet because I was going to need braces when really what was going on was he needed trombones.

Learning trombone is too much like farting loudly and I quit when my sister, who went to a different school and had those braces with all the rubber bands got on oboe and did well.

Way before the web there was a really good article in either GQ or VF about the difference between learning and mastering a skill. Things you read on a red-eye flight.

If you are paying someone to teach you and they are rigid and formulaic, fire them. If you are trying to teach, adapt to the student.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:44 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]


I ended up with the trombone because my mom wouldn't let me play a "girl instrument" in school band, with the idea that a girl trombonist would have better college scholarship chances than a girl clarinetist. It never mattered anyway because I dropped out of band in 10th grade and dropped out of high school my senior year. And, as previously noted, I cannot play an instrument no matter how hard I try. Six years of trombone and I never made it past last chair.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:51 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]


let the band director tell us that I couldn't play clarinet because I was going to need braces when really what was going on was he needed trombones

As someone who had to re-learn how to play a brass instrument twice (once when I got braces put on, once when I got them taken off, because braces totally fuck up playing brass instruments most of all) this is appallingly irresponsible misinformation - shame on you, Mr. Yuck's old band director!
posted by btfreek at 10:22 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

shame on you, Mr. Yuck's old band director!
Heh. I was going to say the same thing. That's not even a passably good lie.

"You're going to get braces, so you should play the snare drum or xylophone" makes sense. If I were a shady school band director misleading students, I'd have made up some nonsense about an overbite or small fingers or having too many experienced clarinetists already. The world is full of jerks, but this one didn't even try.
posted by eotvos at 11:39 AM on March 11


Late to this, but I wish I knew how to ski -- everyone I know who knows how to ski learned it as a child, but I didn't have that opportunity. (I had many other ones! Just not this one).

As an adult living in New York without a car who has skied, very poorly, exactly one day in his life (and was EXTREMELY sore the next day), it's just not practical to pick up. Between the cost and hassle of getting to the slopes, the equipment, and the lessons, and the time required to get up to anything more than beginner level, it just doesn't make sense.

Which is a shame because I love everything else about ski vacations -- the snow, the mountains, the hot chocolate, the hot toddies, the jacuzzi, the cabins, etc. But having done one of these trips, I discovered that without the skiing part, the scales are tipped way too far toward the indulgent side and the novelty wears off pretty fast after two days or so.
posted by andrewesque at 12:55 PM on March 16


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