Frisbee, Meringue, and Paper Piping Bags: You Can't Be Good at Everything

One college Thursday night, I was hanging out with a usual group of friends, including my now-husband (who was then just a cute guy I thought I’d like to date).  As was typical at that time in our lives on a Thursday night, we’d enjoyed some drinks and were trying to decide what to do next. The decision ended up being a game of frisbee on the lawn in front of our apartment. We spread out on the lawn, one of my room mates not too far to my right near somewhat of a pothole in the pavement on the sidewalk. That cute guy, my other roommate, and another mutual friend were definitely much more than proficient frisbee-players and were really tearing it up. I got a coveted pass from Cute Guy, skidded on some goose poop, and tripped in a hole. That performance was followed by many more than one errant throw. Afterward, humiliated, I lamented to my roommates that I was such a horrible frisbee player that Cute Boy would never want to date me, and that I was nothing but an embarrassment as a friend and person. (Or something very close to that.) Meanwhile, my now-husband was trying to ask anyone other than me why in the world I was crying.

                Ahhh … can’t say I don’t leave an impression!     

We’ve been married over seven years now. He really couldn’t have cared less that I was atrocious at frisbee.

Frisbee wasn’t the first thing I was ever bad at, but I like that particular memory, due to its silliness and youthfulness and lovestruck angst.

Have you ever felt like you wanted to nail something or should be succeeding at something at the exact moment that you saw failure flash before your eyes? I have: in my career as an attorney, in my endeavors as an amateur baker, in my role as a mother, in my vocation as a wife, and in life in general. The feeling’s even worse when it’s a new addition to or finer point on something that’s already within your “wheelhouse.”

I recently attempted making piping bags from parchment paper. I picked up a box of pre-cut triangles at the cake supply store before a fairly large (for me) cupcake order, thinking they would be cost effective and easy to use. I even momentarily day-dreamed about the further expense spared if I cut my own triangles. The package even promised directions inside. After I’ve baked the cupcakes and am ready to frost them, I find that the triangles are much smaller than anticipated. (Apparently I glossed over the dimensions on the box.) There were also no aforementioned instructions inside. No problem – that’s what YouTube is for, right? Wrongo. Not for this girl. The video of the cheerful woman I viewed pulling a pristine triangle from counter to chest height and swirling it around into a cone appeared nothing short of witchcraft. Several watches in, I was still flummoxed, and also quite irritated.

My mother is sitting with my son in another part of the house, and I call to her in an exasperated tone, asking if she can make one of these devices. She of course says, “sure,” and, although she said she hasn’t done it in a while, she produces just what’s needed. She later draws a diagram for me on a sample, labeling where A and B need to connect and explaining how the point needs to overlap.

It’s another order on another day, this time for cookies, and I think those paper triangles will be the perfect size. But I’m still struggling. Yet I feel like this is something I should be able to do. So I study the diagram, and it takes some time, but I produce the paper piping bags I’m after, and I use piping tips with them, and things go rather well.

But I still feel like I should be able to use without a piping tip, just like the photo of the disembodied had on the box. So, my next order, I make all the bags ahead of time. I make them as pointy as can be, cut them as little as possible, try to make sure the consistency of the icing is just right, and somehow the planets align and I feel a great weight of “why can’t I do this the way that I want to?!” lifted from my shoulders as I finish off the order without using any tips. I of course send a victorious photo and message to my mother, feeling that it is not boastful but only fair that I should share my personal coup with my baking mentor.

That was a skill in my purported wheelhouse that I couldn’t let become a frisbee.

I still have quite a few frisbees in the kitchen. Meringue, for instance. No matter the humidity, the cream of tartar, or the pie, mastery of it escapes me – to the extent that one day at story time with my son, I commented to another mother about how the “MERINGUE” book on the nearby librarian’s choice shelf taunted me to envy with its cover art full of golden swirls and peaks. Maybe someday I’ll check it out. For now, whipped cream it is.

I also have yet to make a chocolate cookie that I can’t live without, although that research is still tasty and I feel progress is being made. However, fondant I have sworn off for the foreseeable future.

I have become frustrated to the point of tears with these things; things I know others to be able to create in a delicious, beautiful fashion. But it no longer galls me to the point of self-loathing.

I am not good at everything. I am not even good at all of the things that make up something that I am deemed to be good at or that I believe I am good at. There. I said it. I can say it because it is OKAY, and I believe that it is okay. (Most days.)

Someone’s else’s best may be better than my own best, but it doesn’t mean I am less as a person.  People are malleable and suited for learning, and we don’t age out of that once we cease attending educational institutions. The application of those traits to our own passions and unique characteristics and world views is what shapes our abilities. That’s not to say that I intend to learn and better every area where I fall short. Oh no. I’ve learned to live without frisbee, calculus, and parallel parking, among other things. I merely point out that there’s still hope for mastery of something that I do wish to conquer, and perhaps someone to tell me about the square root of cosine when I’m in need.