MetaSkills February 19, 2019 12:35 PM   Subscribe

It's still early in the week but I'm already overwhelmed with politics and awful news. Let's lighten the mood and talk about something else. If time wasn’t an issue and you had forever to master a skill, what skill would you master? Sword-making, basket-weaving, knitting, quilting, embroidery, carpentry, coding/programming, languages, pottery, cooking, leather-work, tattooing, brewing, hunting, etc? Think like you're inside of a video-game and you have unlimited skill-points to invest in, what skill(s) are you leveling up? Also, be kind to yourself and to others. Cheers.
posted by Fizz to MetaFilter-Related at 12:35 PM (94 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I'd invest all my SP into herbalism/foraging. I'd love to learn how to forage for food from the wild. To be able to safely and confidently identify what is healthy and what is poisonous. I guess the next logical step is to take what I've foraged and put it to use, so I'd need to also invest in alchemy. What I'm saying is that I want to be an earth-wizard/witch that lives outside of town and helps people.
posted by Fizz at 12:39 PM on February 19, 2019 [14 favorites]


And this is the problem with me. I want to do EVERYTHING and do it REALLY WELL but, well, I DO have a time issue!
posted by cooker girl at 12:46 PM on February 19, 2019 [19 favorites]

1) oil painting
2) gardening
3) speaking Spanish
4) other art stuff
posted by supermedusa at 12:47 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ooh I would like to get my old theatrical skills back - particularly carpentry and electrics, not so much painting and costumes (I have retained some of my costume stuff, which is nice).

Also, I would like to learn songwriting for real. I dabble. *dr evil pinky* But I don't know enough music theory to be good at it. Beginner piano from when I was in elementary school doesn't cut it.
posted by wellred at 12:56 PM on February 19, 2019

I am such a dilettante, I basically have a whole stack of half-learned skills that I would love to master but never really have the time.

Right now, I want to master outdoor skills - gardening, fishing, hunting, things like that, specifically increasing productivity of all. My garden is "ok but mostly a novelty" and I'd like it to be a larger percentage of the produce we eat. I started seriously trying to learn how to hunt and fish just last year - caught literally zero fish all year and was unable to attract any waterfowl to my decoys. I continue to try, though!

Seriously, though, if you live around Boston and have an interest in mentoring me, let me know. Will pay for bait/shells/gasoline.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:04 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Music theory, so I could be a musician instead of a guitar player.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:14 PM on February 19, 2019 [9 favorites]

Getting many history PhDs, which is sort of a skill. Making stained glass. Making that kind of cake that has like fifty layers of crepes.

I'm a huge klutz, so it really would take a long time,but I'd love to learn shoe-making.
posted by Frowner at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Athletics, just general athletics. I would like to be able to participate in a team sport without embarrassing myself and/or others. Being good at sketching would be a useful and fun thing too.
posted by Fig at 1:18 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I want to be better at understanding people- which I guess is really a few different skills, from really listening to people, getting my own head out of the way, reading facial expressions and understanding how they relate to the person's current context, etc. My wife really gets people in a way that I wish I could.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 1:20 PM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Writing things on paper that are as good as the things in my head.
posted by gauche at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would become an awesome forest ecologist. Probably in just one or two bioregions that I live close enough to to visit very often. ID all the plants and fungi and moss and lichens and track their habitats and phenology. Learn about the underlying rocks and soils. Get better at tracking animals and IDing birds. Take vouchers and describe undescribed species. It's been super fun as I layer in more elements of this on hikes, with different parts of the picture coming into focus.

Realizing this makes me feel better about getting my unmarketable PhD.
posted by momus_window at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also, sourdough. I would bake sourdough bread every day if only I could get the knack of it.
posted by gauche at 1:25 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.
-Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I aged out of that entirely accurate quote a few years ago, so now my if-I-wasn't-a-techbro dream is singing and dancing like Gene Kelly. Or like Neil Patrick Harris hosting the Tonys, I suppose, to get with the times.

My slightly more achievable goal is to make giant Mark Rothko style paintings. Mostly I don't have a spare living room to use as a workshop and dump turpentine everywhere.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:32 PM on February 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

I am upgrading my foraging skills! I have books, and I even go out and eat things! I want to taste the forest and even be able to extend my camping/backpacking range or even just have a tasty salad on the trail. There's soooo much food around here it's kind of ridiculous, and it's not all dandelions, berries or mushrooms.

I would also like to learn more about forestry and forest ecology and I'm working on that, and, well, probably already know more than average just because I've been living in it for a while.

And so far I think the best thing anyone can do for a forest is leave it alone, stay out of it and stop walking all over it. Unfortunately most modern forestry seems to be "here's how you farm trees" and "here's how you cut down and mill a tree into planks for a house." and even "here's how you prevent forest fires and never let the understory naturally burn and wow is that a crown fire?"

Also I should probably upgrade my adulting skills in major ways but so far that looks highly overrated, which may explain why I keep retreating further and further into the forest.
posted by loquacious at 1:36 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

My spouse (the seldom-seen Mefite known as Comrade Doll) speaks five languages fluently and oh how I wish I could say the same. I like to fantasize sometimes which other four I'd want to speak on top of English. Today's answer is Hungarian and Romanian first (just because CD is Transylvanian and those come up a lot), Japanese, and Hindi. The last two change often though. Other days, I might say Mandarin and Tamil. Or Navajo and Arabic.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:44 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

There are a lot of making-related skills I would like to have, machining, welding, carving, stuff like that. Those are all skills I could, and would, learn if I had the time. I know I could learn them and if I spent enough time I could be good at them, or at least good enough to do what I want to do.

But the one skill I haven't been able to acquire, despite years of trying, is music. I just do NOT have any kind of an ear for it. I can learn chords to a song and learn to play those chords, and I can enjoy myself somewhat while doing it, bit it's all just a matter of where I put my fingers. I want to hear the notes. I want to hear some chords and know what notes I sound good over them. I want to be able to figure out a rhythm. I want to play with my ears rather than my fingers. I want to be able to jump into a jam session and know I'm playing something that sounds good.

I cannot do this, and I have been trying for almost 30 years. I do not have this skill and will never posses it. I would give up a pinky toe if I could do this.
posted by bondcliff at 1:52 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh! (Very ironically!) I thought of another one! I wish I could develop the skill of quick wit. I am a slow thinker (I'm slow at pretty much everything, really.)

Just yesterday, I was in a project management class, and was asked to be a volunteer. I went up to the front, and the instructor asked me to come up with a celebrity. Someone who is very assertive. My mind went completely blank. Someone I admire, again, someone who is assertive. Mind still blank. After about 15-30 seconds, I said "NOT that I admire him, but Donald Trump is certainly very assertive."
Instructor: "OK, pretend like you're Donald Trump, and walk back to your chair the way he would"
Me: "oh god, this went from bad to worse. I have no idea how Trump walks", so I just did a exaggerated sashay/hair flipping strut back to my seat.

The idea was to be to channel your inner (assertive, take no shit) celebrity to make you feel more powerful at meetings. mkay. well my experience just there was the exact opposite of that, and now one of my coworkers is calling me THE FIG. I did threaten to send all of my emails in all caps and end it with "FAKE NEWS/NO COLLUSION", so theres that.

Yeah. Please, Divine Powers if you see this, up my "thinking on my feet" points way up, kthx.
posted by Fig at 2:22 PM on February 19, 2019 [12 favorites]

Instructor: "OK, pretend like you're Donald Trump, and walk back to your chair the way he would"
Me: "No puppet. No puppet. You're the puppet."

Also, I'd like to be a world-class advice-giver.
posted by box at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here's to the dilettantes who want to learn all the things!

But, when I win the lottery and therefore go into hiding, freeing myself from all obligations, I will devote all my time to synchronized swimming and training my border collies in agility and herding. Note that I don't have the border collies yet, but would love a really smart, high energy dog, if I only had the time to give them the stimulation they need.
posted by the primroses were over at 2:33 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am bartering quick wit skill points for boring adulting skill points.

Warning: Quick wit is only rarely useful. It often backfires horribly.
posted by loquacious at 2:48 PM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

I really wish I could draw. And a lot of other creative things. But I think the ability to draw would facilitate many of those creative things.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:53 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would like to be able to blacksmith. I live next to the train tracks, and over the years a significant amount of steel has ended up by the side of the tracks, and I have salvaged it. In addition to short lengths of rail, I have freight car suspension springs, a coupler, and various large broken bolts, plus spikes and fat screws.

I would be fun to fire up the forge, heat up the steel until is glows orange, and then bash it into a useful or decorative object. The heat, the noise, the sparks, it would be glorious.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 3:06 PM on February 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Helicopter piloting. Pretty different from every other kind of piloting skill (car, airplane, battlemech etc..)
posted by some loser at 3:08 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's a different kind of flying altogether!
posted by backseatpilot at 3:12 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

If time wasn’t an issue and you had forever to master a skill, what skill would you master?

Depends on if this is a monkey’s paw skill acquisition. Like, I finally learn how to play piano, then crash on a desert island with no piano for the rest of my life. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:22 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Braiding. I'd love to be able to whip up a crown braid in no time.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 3:23 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Two very different skills:
  • My math skills were once fairly decent (BS in Physics), but have sadly declined with disuse. I’d love to just sit down and study math for ten years, without having to worry about money or responsibility.
  • I truly love baking, especially elaborate desserts. I often fantasize about setting my computers on fire, selling everything, and getting good enough to open a bakery.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 3:25 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Watercolors and patisserie.

Also embroidery.
posted by Hermione Granger at 3:40 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’d finish learning Spanish. I’m an intermediate speaker, but not as good listening & I get lost in conversations.

I’m seriously thinking about taking piano lessons. When I hear Satie & Chopin, I just want to be able to do that - to create that sort of beauty. I’m a self-taught ear player that’s never mastered another instrument besides the bass, though I’d love to own a drum set too. Back when we had an equipped practice room in the late 80’s I was on my way to being a passable drummer & I wish I’d been able to keep it up.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:45 PM on February 19, 2019

I'd love to learn woodworking, and make elaborate little cabinets with a bazillion drawers and secrets and stuff. But that is both expensive and requires a lot of space! Maybe when the kids are older I'll take a couple woodworking classes and see how I actually like cabinetry stuff.

(This nice thing about embroidery is that it's easy to learn, easy to store, and there are kits for under $20! Another nice thing about embroidery is that it doesn't actually require a ton of fine-motor dexterity; you can keep restabbing the needle until it's right where you want it, and THEN pull it through. If you want to try it, get yourself a kit! HMU via memail if you want some help narrowing it down or finding something specific, I am a life-long embroiderer.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Filmstock preservation and restoration.

Calligraphy. Copperplate and Spencerian scripts, specifically.

Textile weaving.

Fluency in Spanish, French, and Hindi. Maybe throw Farsi and Punjabi in there, too.

Nathan Myrhvold's "Modernist Cuisine" from start to finish.

Bicycle mechanics.

Bushcraft and most stuff in the Foxfire book series.

Like some other folks here have mentioned about themselves, I identify as a bit of a dilettante, so once I get going with a list like this it's kind of hard for me to stop.
posted by nightrecordings at 3:54 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

Things I might actually do when I have more time:
--BASSOON. We had a contrabassoon in last week's concert and it is so cool, you guys. Other people have, like, popstar crushes. I fangirl on crazy low notes. It always reminds me of a line from an Emma Bull novel "...the bass came in as if the Rocky Mountains had begun to walk."
--Languages. Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, Indonesian, Finnish, German...

Things I probably never will/could do:
--Become a really good cook, one of those people who can just get everything right in the kitchen.
--Grow a real garden.
--Knit things that are not long garter-stitch scarves.
--Python and other coding stuff.
posted by huimangm at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Singing. I love to do it, but I haven’t done it with musical intent in nearly 20 years.

Then makeup. I didn’t have any role models for this growing up. As a result, I have no concept for what looks good. And I don’t have a ton of money to waste on something I’m so bad at.
posted by Night_owl at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

This week's answer: encaustic painting.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:08 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

quantum theory and kpop idol.
No, I don’t know why, but sometimes you just gotta follow the heart.
posted by forforf at 4:15 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd love to learn fashion design and sewing, also enough Japanese to say, "please don't feed me shellfish, it will kill me."

On a practice level, I'd like to be better at gardening -- food (mostly) not flowers.

What prevents me from undertaking a lot of, especially artistic, things -- music, drawing, woodworking, cake decorating, dance etc. -- is that the conceptual space where you know enough about the thing you're doing to know that you're incapable of executing what you've planned is ever so wide.

I enjoy painting because I explicitly tell myself that I don't expect myself to be good and deliberately avoiding taking a bunch of classes and tutorials. I'm not trying to become good at it, I'm trying to play.
posted by platitudipus at 4:30 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd like to learn to speak Portuguese well enough to chat with my grandmother in her first language.

I'm pretty good at drop spindling, but support spindling continues to elude me - I'd like to be good at that too.

I'd like to be better at birding by ear.
posted by darchildre at 4:52 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

If unlimited funds are included in this lovely fantasy then Flying. First sailplanes then single and dual props and a small trainer jet maybe. But if not then diesel engine repair, for practicality it's the only option on a small sailboat and sailing is easy but those engines are a dark art.
posted by sammyo at 5:00 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

If I could max out a skill it would be "reclamation" - both general fixer-upper-itude, and also being a lot like a Womble, using things that no longer worked/were needed to make other things.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:41 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I definitely want to learn to spin yarn. I took a spinning class last summer, and it was so much fun, but spinning wheels are prohibitively expensive. I'm on the lookout for a second-hand one.

I feel like I'm pretty intrepid about learning new skills. I am very bad at most things, but I'm willing to give almost anything a shot.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:09 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd like to be a better listener, and I'd like to be better at remembering things.

I'd also like to gain the "painting wall murals" skill.

Whatever's left can go into language acquisition.
posted by duffell at 6:42 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]


Ah, too late--just as in life.
posted by duffell at 6:43 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

and I'd like to be better at remembering things.

Shit, yes, that's what I was trying to think of! I mean, I can remember impersonal facts but I can't remember what I've planned to do or much of my own life's historical details.
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 6:50 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Woodworking, coding, moar gardening, moar coming, actually getting for real conversational in Mandarin.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:54 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm one year into piano lessons and it's wonderful. And arduous. It's worthy of as much time as you can give to it.

On a more practical level, I would love to learn everything home renovation -- flooring, tiling, hanging drywall, basic carpentry.
posted by missmary6 at 6:56 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

So I closed this window, opened Logic & started to learn Promenade Sentimentale from the Diva soundtrack, just because it seems like something I could play on the piano. I can do one hand or the other but not both at the same time. Also, my midi keyboard is bad, but I think I’m going to do this piano thing. Picking out whole chords by ear is tough - I need some theory & notation, at long last.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:05 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh lordy, autocorrect. Moar cooking. Cooking!
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:10 PM on February 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

I would like to have enough time to learn how to pull my head out of my ass.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:28 PM on February 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Woodworking. I love taking time and building things, even more than when I have time to do technical projects well. I never seem to have the time to really sit down and really skill up on making things- and the idea of ever having a real, heated space for doing things in the winter just feels like a pipe dream right now.
posted by rockindata at 7:32 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Listening. I lack patience.

Reading and understanding philosopy. I work at this (have a doctorate for god’s sake!) but it’s still a struggle. I guess that’s the point?

If I could just snap my finger and gain a skill, it would be understanding Chinese.

For everything else, I thoroughly enjoy practicing on a low level of skill: music, cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, poetry, art, gardening.
posted by The Toad at 7:56 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd want to learn to pick locks. Someone held a one-time-only lockpicking session I went to in Pittsburgh a few years ago and it was deeply satisfying to get those locks to open (I have always liked playing thieves best in any RPG so actually doing the lock picking thing was nerdily delightful) - I went home and bought a see-through practice lock and a cheap set of picks off of Amazon, and played around with it for a while and can now open that particular lock, but I didn't get much further because apparently it's something I'd prefer to learn in a group (or possibly a guild).

I'd also like to learn contact juggling so I could dance crystal balls around on my hands like Jareth in Labyrinth. I do have one such ball, along with a book on contact juggling, but I've never really gotten the knack - though I have practiced enough that it makes it difficult for me to pick up an apple in the grocery store without wanting to kind of pivot it up and over my palm onto the back of my hand and then back. I usually resist the urge but have bruised the occasional apple over the years ...

Come to think of it, there are few actually useful skills I want - mostly I just want to learn better ways to play with stuff.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:03 PM on February 19, 2019 [3 favorites]

I’d bring back the Spanish and Italian I used to speak before speaking French every day, and add Dutch, German, Portuguese, and Arabic.
posted by ellieBOA at 11:15 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I would love to be able to play the guitar well enough to play for a couple hours without repeating a song. I've been trying to relearn to play after a 40 year hiatus and I can manage about 3 songs before the pain sets in. I keep spraining fingers or having a nail ripped off, blah, blah blah, and never keep up my practice long enough to build up my callouses. If I had more time, I would play a few minutes every few hours! When I was young I could play for hours; I want to again!

Last year, my new year's resolution was to play well enough that I could play out on the porch without embarrassing myself. I did make up a few songs and practice them enough to play a few minutes on a couple evenings on the porch. (I wasn't embarrassed because no one saw me.) Now I want to learn more songs and more picking patterns and maybe write some words to go with the songs. Maybe I should take my guitar to work and take picking breaks like the smokers take smoke breaks...
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:21 PM on February 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd become a better travel photographer and get skilled at model photgraphy. I'm feeling time/money limited in the former and I have way too much social anxiety to even take a stab at the latter.

I'd also like to have Cirque du Soleil acrobat skills. Even if I managed to develop the strength and flexibility to get there I am currently way to uncoordinated to ever make that happen.

I'd love to be able to play the flute (can't play anything now)

These are separate from the situation of having won a significant lottery money. Given 10-20 million I'd spend all my time developing co-operative owned, low and medium density housing. IMO we build houses with misguided priorities and I'd really like to take a stab at changing that at least for the people I build for. I have basic competency in most of the things I'd need to have to make this happen, I just lack capitalization.

Eyebrows McGee: "But that is both expensive and requires a lot of space! Maybe when the kids are older I'll take a couple woodworking classes and see how I actually like cabinetry stuff."

A maker space oriented towards woodworking could help with the space and some of the expense.
posted by Mitheral at 12:32 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Creativity - I would like to learn the skill of creativity. I tend to have boring, mundane ideas and while I can sometimes painstakingly work a piece of art (such as it is) into something with some originality, I envy and admire those who just seem to have that artistic "flair". Ditto those people who seem to endlessly generate fresh ideas for articles, projects, work goals and the like.

Dancing - I would love to be able to dance. Socially, performatively, like no one is watching and like everyone is. Alas, I have no rhythm, no spontaneity, no grace and no moves whatsoever. My rhythm is so bad. Is it possible to have a rhythm-related learning disability? I think I must have that. I have been especially entranced by belly dancing since I was young. I took some classes and I was just so so terrible at it, it broke my heart. No amount of practice seemed to help.

Art - I do art in spite of not being especially good at it, and I try to focus on enjoying the process and not being too attached to having spectacular results. I would really love to have spectacular results, though. I know I could improve with practice, as I do see improvements when I really work at increasing my skills; but then it's more work than play, and I have too much work to do already. With endless time though....

Wearable art - this is one of those fantasy skillsets I'll probably never do more than dabble in, but with endless time (and a fair amount of money and dedicated space for working and storing supplies) I imagine I would enjoy pursuing. Crocheted lacy sweaters, layered skirts, embroidered blouses, hand-embellished boots and jackets, boho jewelry. I would be utterly striking and people would whisper admiringly, "she does all that BY HAND".
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:12 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

In a world of infinite time/money/resources... nature photography.
Which would be a fine excuse to travel the world and get up close and personal with waterfalls, hummingbirds, glaciers, tropical fish... just set the alarm, adjust the lens, capture the moment.
posted by TrishaU at 1:55 AM on February 20, 2019

What a lovely threat Fizz! So many practical skills and crafts we all enjoy.

I'd learn how to draw people; I can do trees, scenery, buildings but my best people look like pipe cleaners.

And lean how to do some real maths. Numbers have stayed strangely distant for me.

Herbal medicine - I have a nice long list of plants and notes for when I get the time - how I'd love a garden.

Yep lock picking\hacking is a fun passtime and very useful when they give you a 35-floor building and no masterkey - a job I had once.
posted by unearthed at 2:31 AM on February 20, 2019

Towel Cataloger.
posted by Wordshore at 4:16 AM on February 20, 2019 [9 favorites]

I like the idea of foraging, we get morels here in Maine, and there are some serious foraging folks here. Every Spring, you'll see guys parked by the side of the road with buckets of fiddlehead ferns for $3 a lb., they even sell them at the grocery stores ($5/lb.). I'm not actually all that fond of fiddleheads, but would love to get my hand on some morels (if I can get over my fear of ticks, ugh).

I took an elective class in high school called Maine Outdoors, it was mostly identifying different types of trees, mosses, and ferns. We did learn that the underside of young yellow birch branches tastes like wintergreen (hence, birch beer). I've got a giant herb book, with color photographs, latin names of plants, how to use herbs in dying cloth, etc. I still drink dandelion tea in the Spring, just because.

What I'd really like to learn, tho', is rug weaving. There's an old woolen mill in a town nearby, and my Mom used to buy wool ends from them, and she actually started a braided rug. It traveled with my folks until they landed in the Midwest, and think my sister threw all of that away when she cleared out their house. The mill is no longer operational, it's a medical center now.

There are several small mills in this area, some using equipment from the old mills that once employed thousands in Maine. One makes recreations of old bedspreads, such as the one George Washington gave to his wife Martha when they got married. Another makes blankets and such, baby blankets, etc. Lots of sheep farms with wool for sale.

I think probably a braided rug would be easier than buying a giant loom, ha-ha. I could buy wool pieces and do that. Not sure how I would manage such a project in a 400-square foot cabin. The actual cost of the wool seems to be more than buying a ready-made braided wool rug. Sewing it together would be a challenge for me, my sewing skills are at the level of "sew on a button" and not much more than that.

One of my favorite pieces of weaving was a giant wall rug, made by an artist who did have a loom, and she made one with a giant face, and it was so colorful and vibrant, it was an amazing piece.

I'd also like to learn wood working, more primitive stuff than making cabinets. Shelves with stick frames, I saw some online that I wanted to recreate and couldn't for the life of me figure out how they got the shelves fastened onto the stick supports. Again, I don't have much room for these types of projects, but I love watching people make them. So if space wasn't an issue, I'd hunt down some classes in rug making and wood working and go to town.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:54 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd really like to up my baking game -- patisserie, decorative work, etc. I leaned how to do a lot of it in cooking school years ago, but never used it enough to even maintain the basic skills, let alone really get good at it.

I regret never having learned to play a musical instrument and would love to learn how to play the piano.

I would love to get fluent in a bunch of different languages, French especially.
posted by briank at 6:06 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

So many of these skills can be learned in a weekend. Get to it, people! Learn the things you want to learn!
posted by bondcliff at 6:19 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, I used to play piano and saxophone, would love those skills back! And the ability to blow dry my hair with as much volume as I get at the hairdresser.
posted by ellieBOA at 6:23 AM on February 20, 2019

If time wasn’t an issue and you had forever to master a skill, what skill would you master?

Hanging on in quiet desperation.
posted by flabdablet at 6:30 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

CONVERSATION. I listen and "uh-huh" with the best of them, but that is not enough and I'm afraid of dying alone (apart from partner and cats). I'm reading How to Win Friends and Influence People, and it's charmingly and sometimes horrifyingly midcentury, but the tips do not really help. It's like, ask questions about their interests! I'm like, which questions! How do you not sound like a serial killer! What is this sorcery!

Just one language. I'd like to be one of those people that people like, in just one language.

Writing fiction. I do it, but I struggle to improve without the budget for an editor. I'd love to not suck enough to afford one. Chicken/egg.

Drawing and songwriting would also be great. But in the end, people will just give you whatever you want if you're likeable, so it all starts with conversation.
posted by cage and aquarium at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Playing the goddamn piano that I already own, that my dude and his band use as a coffee cup/capo holder and general shelf. There's a book of Joni Mitchell piano music on top, except Joni now has a big wizard beard of old vaped weed, that's how long it's been since I've played.

My biggest problem with music is moving between all of the different layers of abstraction. My brain really connects well with learning by listening (which is fascinating as that's not true at all for verbal information), and has a strong intuitive understanding of music - I can harmonise on the fly, understand what does and doesn't sound harmonious etc. My brain composes original music in the same vein as this recent AskMe, mostly orchestral or EDM. I would love to be able to get it out of my head somehow, but...

...I find the endless layers of abstraction around music theory and the way learning/playing music works in the real world really hard to grasp - this thing that works naturally inside my skull when I'm hearing it or doing it suddenly butts up against written music notation (one layer of abstraction), the way that the notes are arranged on various instruments/on the keyboard (another layer of abstraction) and formal music theory (this one feels like nothing but abstraction to me, even though I know it's sensible maths and stuff; the language feels very inaccessible and totally unrelated to what I experience in my head when I'm playing or listening to music). I really struggle to reconcile all of those pieces into something that both makes sense to me and looks like what other people understand as "music".

I went to a fancy university and know a ton of musicians' musicians who clock the whole piece, and I have a lot of anxiety and low self esteem around my own musicianship. I am more musical than most people who've never engaged with music, but much less musical than most people who took thirteen years of classical violin, which I did (though the fact that I did that and no one noticed everything in the paragraph above the whole time makes me suspect I was let down by my teachers and parents at least as much as this being a struggle for reasons to do with the way my brain is structured).

This wasn't intended as a cry for help, but if anyone has ideas or experience around reconciling music-as-it-is-heard-and-experienced with music-as-it-is-formalised-and-abstracted when those don't innately marry neatly, I would love to hear about it.

Until then, I will wait until I have forever to master that goddamn piano because I certainly wasn't getting anywhere with beginners' books and Christmas carols and trying to play for 20 minutes after work some nights.
posted by terretu at 7:21 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd really like to be able to sing, and in particular, to sing harmony with other people, which always kinda seems like magic. Difficulty level: currently going through second (trans) puberty, so my voice is all over the place.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:53 AM on February 20, 2019

Man, this framing makes it tough because for me, at least for several things, the problem is not so much "I have no time to get better at these things" and more "I cannot get motivated to do the things that I am currently only bad to average at." Like, I want to be good at drawing, so I should practice drawing more, but it's not like I can't put down MetaFilter and Sporcle for a half hour to practice, it's that I know at the end of that half hour I'll have a drawing that barely matches what I had in my head, and it's hard to get over that hump, ya know? I have a similar problem with sewing, it's not that I don't have a free evening here and there for a project, it's that by the end I'm going to look at that project and see all the flaws in it, no matter how much my partner is excited for the flawed thing I've created.

That said, while thinking about those two things I did remember something else that I have picked up and put down again several times not because I'm unhappy with my skill at it (even though it is not at all developed), but because it just feels like I have better ways to spend my time than learning that skill. It is such a silly thing, and it is also silly how happy it makes me to imagine being good at it. So I would spend this limitless time learning Gregg shorthand. No specific relevance to my current work, or any that I've ever done really, I just grin at the idea of closing a meeting and knowing at any point I could go back and read precisely what everyone said, not just my abbreviated notes of my interpretation of what they said.

I'd probably also get back into piano, which I have enough practice in already to not produce sounds I'm so unhappy with that I'm entirely unmotivated, but which I could still be very very much better at than I am. Though to do that I'd have to start by spending this limitless time finding an apartment both affordable and big enough to fit a piano, then finding an affordable piano....
posted by solotoro at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, I would like to learn songwriting for real. I dabble. *dr evil pinky* But I don't know enough music theory to be good at it. Beginner piano from when I was in elementary school doesn't cut it.

I hate seeing people make a mystique about "music theory"! You don't need to know much at all to write great songs! What makes a great song is mysterious to me, but it is not really knowledge, I am pretty sure of that.
posted by thelonius at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Since I was a kid I've wanted to draw and paint, inspired by the gorgeous scenery I grew up with.
Upholstery would be great for sidewalk finds.
I'd like to perfect my calligraphy, get back to copperplate, and do illumination.
I could perfect my Spanish, and revisit Russian. Maybe Dutch, one of two heritages languages for my family.
Something like the Maine Outdoors class would be fantastic, and I could teach it and lead excursions.
I'd like to perfect my swimming and, if I could orthopedically trust myself, my ice skating.
I don't care about sewing clothes, but doing home goods would be right up my alley.
Jazz dancing would be great.
Most of all, I would like to sing, as a combo of Adele, Aretha Franklin, and Judy Collins.
posted by jgirl at 12:18 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Make fluent my rudimentary Mandarin and mediocre Spanish. Continue the incredibly slow work of becoming a competent pianist as a not-inherently-musically-talented middle-aged person.
posted by Smearcase at 12:43 PM on February 20, 2019

This is a good one for me. The next two months and two weeks, I need to find a job and also sit at a computer for 8 full hours a day looking busy (watching YouTube tutorials).

My current list is:
become much, much better at embroidery
Adobe Illustrator to design, among other things, textiles
become much, much better and more confident in sewing
Hand lettering
Weaving (again - I learned and then completely forgot it)

I'd also like to learn to be better at:
Using a jigsaw for precise cuts
Writing for magazine/emagazine publication
posted by Sophie1 at 12:59 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Arabic calligraphy!
posted by supermedusa at 3:46 PM on February 20, 2019

I could swear I posted "not procrastinating" here yesterday but I guess I didn't get around to it
posted by ook at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

I mean . . . . . for everyone who's stumbling over the "music theory" element of making music or playing an instrument . . . . . *pfoof (blowing air through puffed cheeks)*.

It's just not that crucial, y'know? I get that some people really like or need to have a grasp of underlying concepts and principles before embarking on something, and if you're like that then you do you, but . . .

One thing be aware of is that in a lot of ways music theory is more an after-the-fact tool useful in analyzing and describing music more than a set of rules and principles for making music. I was a music major in college, and I can't tell you how many times when we were analyzing a piece in a theory or music history course the prof went, "And then (Beethoven, Chopin, Stravinsky, whoever) did THIS, which doesn't really fit in the rules and principles of the theory at the time, but given how they just broke the rules this is how we would describe it in the framework of theory."

I'm actually kind of an example of how theory is maybe not as important as some of you fear it is - although admittedly I'm probably pretty weird this way. I started saxophone at 8, took up piano at ten - both with formal lessons that continued for years and years and years. I was, as mentioned, a music major in college, with a bachelor's degree in same. Sax was my major instrument, had multiple lessons as classes, and I did all the practicing scales and modes and sight-reading and playing in a variety of classical and jazz ensembles, learned all the theory, performed in recitals and gigs, all that. While my chops are rusty, stick a piece of piano or sax music in front of me, or ask me to play a C# minor scale, I could probably whack it out relatively quickly.

But I also decided to pick up the guitar at about 13 (of course me & my buddies wanted to start a rock band), and I really didn't feel like taking more lessons at that point, so . . . I never did. I'm completely self-taught on that instrument. I can't really translate from notes on the page to actually playing the guitar (at least not without a lot of effort), I have no real idea how to play most scales, point at a random fret on a random string and ask me what note that is and I'd have to basically count on my fingers from the few that I do know. ("Uhhhhh, let's see . . . . the fifth fret of the A string is "D", so D#, E, F . . . . hang on, I got lost . . . ") I know the basic barre and open chord shapes and that's about it. I learn other people's songs by ear with a lot of trial and effort.

Really, seriously, I may be (or was) a monster in music theory on two instruments, but on another? Pffft, beats the heck outta me.

But guitar is the instrument I've continued to play my whole life, long after sax and piano kinda fell by the wayside. Guitar is the instrument on which I wrote many songs back in my 20's. Guitar is the instrument I'm currently playing in a band. And the closest we get to "music theory" when working out the tunes is knowing generally, roughly, which chords we're supposed to be playing when, and having an occasional argument about it, or deciding that we're gonna intentionally go for something dissonant.

Music theory is not a prerequisite, I guess is what I'm saying. If you don't get it, it's OK. Just try playing the thing, writing the songs, making the music, whatever. You might be surprised how far you can get without theory.

Also, it's OK to be bad at it, as long as you're enjoying it. If other people don't like it, fuck 'em.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:10 PM on February 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

My "if I won the lottery" fantasy has, for years, been to go to Europe for a year and a half, spending the time learning charcuterie in Spain, France, and Italy. Like, proper jamon, learning to make chorizo, coppa, guanciale, pates, and all that sort of stuff. To somehow find a spot at the feet of masters of the craft and learn from them. Of course, it's hard to win the lottery if you don't buy tickets, and I'm too broke to throw money away like that.

Other than meat tour, I want to learn to use photoshop and illustrator, and keep working on drawing. In the last year or so, I had the chance to start drawing again, doing illustrations on the window of the restaurant I've been at, even designing an anniversary t-shirt. I hadn't really had much to do with art for maybe 20 years, and I kind of remembered how much I enjoyed it, and yeah, I would like to see if it's something I can do more of, but I've also run into the barrier of adobe, and needing to somehow get illustrations I've drawn off the paper and into a proper file format, and lord, I have no idea how that's done.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:52 PM on February 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to stop in to say that I had such a nice day today for the first time since about Christmas that I can't wait until the metatalktail thread.

I've actually been pretty blue and frustrated with personal growth stuff (literally/physically/emotionally) and dealing with - irrationally - feeling like a piece of shit. I won't dwell on the feeling like a piece of shit thing because it's just a thing, and I'm not there now, and I will appreciate it if you join me.

And also still dealing with being - still - kind of technically snowed in with rural problems on the home front like having to hike everything in.

But my day started out with sleet and an icy walk, yet almost breaking my personal record on the hike to the bus stop. I thought I was going to be rather late.

And then I was randomly picked up by someone I kind of know from in town who managed to recognize me at highway speeds and to pull over and give me a ride in to town.

From then on I ran in to many of my favorite local people, and not only were they all glad to see me but it was like each one went out of their way to let me know in a variety of ways that I was appreciated, either thanks for previous advice or "it's good to see you" or just good vibes. I wasn't keeping track but it was over twenty people. Some folks I ran into more than once as I ran errands or wandered about.

It ranged from in depth catching up to good creative-focused chats or just waving at a busy friend across the street.

And to tie it back into the thread topic, I've really appreciated reflecting on what skills I have because I beat myself up way too much and the facets and angles of that range from the dilettante and impostor syndrome side of things to the more esoteric or developmental - all those self doubts that most of us struggle with, and like many, amplified by trauma or struggles with depression or other behavioral struggles.

I a pretty cool, unique, weird set of diverse skills. I think twenty year old me would be pretty ok with today me. I think 20 year old me would see me as a survivor that hadn't gone too soft, was current and present and even caring and nurturing to the people around them.

But only after 20 year old me was disappointed I didn't live in a mansion or underground super villain hacker raver lair full of stupid, forgettable toys. And relationships. And 20 year old me might not understand the thing with today me about the trees at all.

Today? Today I experienced more riches than all of the 1% put together.

And I want you to know I appreciate this site and the people on it very much. It is an oasis, an island in an unforgiving sea.

You all have so many skills and so much strength, and I have learned so much from you and our community and how we get along. Stay in love.
posted by loquacious at 8:54 PM on February 20, 2019 [11 favorites]

First: Mathematics.

But I'd have to start with arithmetic. Because that is where I lost the thread -- in the 4th grade we moved from one town to another, the new town had a totally different approach, I got lost and never, ever have caught up, went from A's to D's. My fathers business had just crumpled, our family was in crisis, from a nice house in one suburb to a $125 rent house in another, no one to catch me on the home front. I got put into all of the dummies classes though I'm not dumb, it's just what it was.
There were some dumb kids in those classes, for sure. But most of us weren't. We fell between whatever cracks, a lot of us got into drinking and drugging, etc and etc, blah blah blah blah. But most of us weren't dumb. I got one A in high school, in my junior year there was this one history teacher who really loved us, and we worked our ass off for him.

Upshot: I can't even do long division. It's annoying. It's humbling. And I know that before I can get into any mathematics I'm going to have to start on Page One, with flippin' arithmetic.

Why mathematics? Because I can only go so far in attempting to understand physics without mathematics. I bought a book once -- was it maybe even written by Einstein? -- bought a book that said anyone can understand the laws that Einstein found. I was all in a sweat to do it, but it presumed at least algebra and I don't know enough about it to know what other type of mathematics.

And Feynman. Feynman brought pieces of it closer to me than anyone, and I was unreal happy when that lecture series of his was put up, Cal Tech, I could only wander about ten minutes into the first lecture.

And I came across Feynman somewhere stating that there is no. way. to get from A to Z without mathematics, without *really* knowing mathematics, able to comfortably converse in it.

Sagan brought a lot to me also. Both Feynman and Sagan are such excellent teachers, and have given me so much.

But there is a wall. A glass wall, I can see through it, and what I can see is beautiful. But the door is mathematics.


For the past month I have had a tab open, the math page @ Khan Academy. It is all right there. But there is so. much. there. and I am *way* at the top of the page. It's like standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon looking out across the vast expanses but mostly looking down.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:29 PM on February 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

Birding by ear -- I'm so crap at it.
Pickling things.
Wilderness first aid

I'd also like to get back my Italian and French and learn Spanish.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:44 PM on February 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

Speaking of charcuterie, my husband lived in France for many years, and speaks fondly of saucisson. I found this guy, Julian Picamil from Saveurs in Dartmouth, making it. I could watch this guy all day, there are a bunch of YT videos of him making different things.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:32 AM on February 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I’d like to be conversational in Italian and Spanish.
Learn to sew, so I can make and re-make things.
Get really good at baking - not bread, but pastries and cakes.
posted by dbmcd at 3:33 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

it's OK to be bad at it, as long as you're enjoying it. If other people don't like it, fuck 'em.

It's even OK to be bad at it even if you're so bad you're not even enjoying it yourself! Because that's a necessary part of the process. When you first start messing about with any new musical instrument you are just going to suck at it until you begin not to.

As you begin not to suck, your increasingly trained ear is going to keep on finding more and subtler ways in which you still do. And that's OK as well.

It seems to me that the thing to do is to keep an ear out for accidentally-produced sounds that strike you as kind of cool and interesting, and work out how to pull those out again on purpose. Eventually, you will build enough of a vocabulary of deliberately intended and reliably approximable sounds to scaffold a workable framework for the volley of accidents that everybody else will interpret as your unique instrumental voice.
posted by flabdablet at 4:42 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

""it's OK to be bad at it, as long as you're enjoying it. If other people don't like it, fuck 'em.""

"It's even OK to be bad at it even if you're so bad you're not even enjoying it yourself! Because that's a necessary part of the process."

Quoted for truth. Same way with drawing / sketching. I loved sketching and drawing all through school, and spend so. much. time. polluting sketchbook after sketchbook. I'd be better if I had spent some of that time doing drawing exercises (not enjoyable in the moment) to build my "vocabulary" to make the things I drew from my imagination (so enjoyable!) better.

Another "jack of most trades, master of none" type, here. The skill I absolutely do not have, that would be nice is gardening. Sailing, or pretty much any non-powered boating would be good too.
posted by coppertop at 5:31 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you want to learn an instrument and happen to live in a city, search out festivals such as First Time's The Charm (facebook event link) in Philadelphia. Basically, you go to music workshops, find bandmates, and put together a set's worth of songs all within a few months. Then they all play their first gig EVER on one night to a super supportive crowd. I did this to learn drums last year and it's one of the best things I've ever done. You don't need any previous musical experience.

This year's workshops are coming up and I'm going to sign up to a bunch because this thread has me excited.
posted by yaymukund at 9:25 AM on February 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Building Furniture, without a doubt. Even if I spent the same amount in cash and it took longer than buying premade items, I would love to be able to make the exact size and shape that I need.
posted by soelo at 11:08 AM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've said for years that if I could go back to when all my musical instrument choices were made, instead of learning violin and clarinet I'd learn cello and French horn. If I ever get to the point of retiring to a cabin in the woods, I'm buying a cello and a book of Bach suites.

In possibly more practical musical terms, I can sight read on single-line instruments and I can sight sing better than most professional singers, but I have a horrible mental block when it comes to sight reading on the piano. I see all those notes on the staff at once and I have to stop and read them all individually. It's a skill I never picked up, but I never really had to, because there was always somebody else around who was better at sight reading on piano but there weren't good readers in the tenor section of the chorus. I went where I was needed more.
posted by fedward at 5:52 PM on February 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've said for years that if I could go back to when all my musical instrument choices were made, instead of learning violin and clarinet I'd learn cello and French horn.
posted by fedward at 7:52 PM on February 21

If in France, do they refer to the French horn as just a horn? I've often thought of that with French doors, do they in France just call them "doors"?
posted by dancestoblue at 2:39 AM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

A French horn is just called a horn here, and French windows are door-windows which has always confused me!
posted by ellieBOA at 6:29 AM on February 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

I also want to learn all the things!

I’m good at pottery but I’d get REALLY good at pottery and better understand how to make clays and glazes from raw materials by doing slightly hazardous chemistry experiments. With unlimited time I’d also love to pick up other practical art skills involving fire - forging and glassblowing come to mind.

Brewing beer and sewing, in both of which I have basic skills I want to develop but don’t have time. Home maintenance and basic construction things, which my dad can do blindfolded and I wish I’d learned from him.

Learning languages, which I had an aptitude for as a kid that no one supported. This would require magical neuroplasticity!
posted by centrifugal at 12:36 PM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Chinese; I got a lot of basic vocab and practice in my twenties and now have no real reason to keep it up other than general interest, since I haven't been to China in almost a decade.

I don't have any trouble practicing Spanish but I feel more insecure in Chinese. I'd love to take a class again but it's always at the wrong times or costs too much.

fedward, I decided ~3 months ago to start playing a cello someone abandoned to me years ago. My (fairly unrealistic) goal was to take a stab at Bach's first cello suite.

I'm not starting from scratch entirely; I play several other instruments, learned to read bass clef in high school and briefly played upright. But haven't more than plunked on one since and that was over twenty years ago, and it's tuned different, and etc etc.

Surprisingly I've managed to get in at least 15 minutes a day ever since, it's become my dominant instrument in a new pop recording project, and lo and behold I was able to play the first couple measures of Suite #1 pretty cleanly yesterday, while looking at the actual sheet music for the first time.

So maybe it's worth taking a stab at it!
posted by aspersioncast at 4:36 PM on February 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'd love to speak Mandarin at least at an intermediate level. Oh, well, if it is the top skill in my game then I had better be fluent in speaking, reading and writing! I've been a beginner studying off and on for 10 years. This is the year I will move forward!
posted by goodsearch at 10:01 AM on February 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

This thread inspired me to finally start learning a second language. As I mentioned above, my partner speaks five languages and I've always admired that.

So as of about a week ago, I dove into Hungarian using ideas culled from Benny Lewis's Fluent in Three Months theory. (TL;DR: obsess over the language, make learning it your primary hobby.) I'm hitting DuoLingo hard and it's keeping me involved and teaching me a lot about grammar and syntax, even if the words/phrases it covers are often nonsensical or useless. ("The kindergarten teacher is battling in front of the hospital.") I'm pairing it with more traditional lessons from HungarianPod101, flashcards of key vocabulary words, and constantly hassling poor Comrade Doll to help/teach me more.

Három éven belül anyanyelvi szinten fogok magyarul beszélni!

Bonus perk I found about after starting my study: if CD gets her Hungarian citizenship (which she can do easily as an ethnically Hungarian person who is fluent in the language), as her spouse of more than ten years, I would need only pass a basic conversational Hungarian test and file my forms to also get my Hungarian citizenship. As the child of Hungarian citizens, our kid wouldn't even need the language test.

I don't think we'd want to jump from the Trump frying pan into the Orban/Fidesz fire, but with EU passports we could live in all kinds of places. So it's exciting to know if I stick with it, it means we have an escape plan if the US keeps backsliding.

If you happen to be and/or speak Hungarian, please shoot me a MeMail!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:20 AM on February 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

To further illustrate this point (link to my previous comment about being v bad at thinking on my feet) Check out this interview I gave this morning (link to Twitter video), and guess what question I didn't get ahead of time 😆
posted by Fig at 7:46 PM on March 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Aww, that was adorable!
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:42 PM on March 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

posted by ellieBOA at 11:05 PM on March 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

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