on qualifications

Like many people, I undergo an annual review each year, and with some frequency I encounter other evaluations of and justifications for my professional existence. Basically, this means that I need to keep track of various accomplishments, publications, presentations, and teaching innovations. People like me use strategies ranging from a continuously updated resumé to a collection of sticky notes that they use to jog a memory at the end of the year. I’m somewhere in the middle of this strategy spectrum, compiling items from a calendar and an electronic document that gets updated and synced in “the cloud,” a place where I imagine there are angels playing harps and taking care of my information.

Each item in the checklist represents a task of some kind, but these don’t really represent a person much more than any other daily record. But, from these, it might be possible to construct some set of skills and other qualifications. What strikes me is that my professional portfolio doesn’t include other things that I might be good at and enjoy doing. Rarely are my athletic accomplishments (e.g., “Most Improved,” PeeWee Lightweight Football league team award, 1983) brought to light. No one asks if I’ve ever played piano accompaniment at a science education conference. Not a soul has ever asked if that was me who found a way to get a bunch of elementary school principals to blow bubbles out on a busy metropolitan street while homeless people strolled pass. But, when I think back on my childhood, I can remember how impressed I was at my dad’s ability to eat an ice cream cone while driving, never a drip nor control lost, and I’ve always wanted to master this for my own fatherly assignment. This just all reminds me that there are hidden qualifications of folks that we seldom get to even imagine, not to mention ask about.

For the most part, this is just fine and even for the best. Yet, I’m certain that for every limitation that I’m unaware of, I should have lurking, hidden within the watermark of a resumé, some set of skills, attributes, and accomplishments that could be useful, if only given the right context and opportunity. So, I started to write these down a few months ago, if for no other reason than to remember what I’ve got going for me:

  • Regularly kill common houseflies with bare hands.
  • Ability to simultaneously rinse with Listerine and complete 50 pushups.
  • Fastest showerer in my household.
  • Switch hitter; i.e., can bat left or right.
  • Unicorn-like hair that grows out of the center of my forehead.
  • Can remember the name of the car salesman that sold us our first new car in 1998.
  • Experience with heavy equipment, including front-end loader, tractor, plow, and spreader. Can back up a trailer. (Excellent at backing up in general, as well as parallel parking.)
  • As of Friday night, I’m a Silver Medallion member of Delta’s Skymiles program.
  • Can play variation on Beethoven’s Fur Elise and turn it into Gershwin’s Summertime.
  • Once drove over 700 miles with vomiting children across the desert to Disneyland.
  • Can spontaneously offer a complete track listing and year for any Billy Joel album.
  • Have channeled the voice of Louis Armstrong during a modified game of charades.
  • Expert use of “effect” and “affect,” each in both their noun and verb forms.
  • Used the correct form of “their” in the previous bullet and in most other contexts (if I don’t make a dumb mistake).
  • Can make instant cheesecake, including crust, at 10,000 feet above sea level in the backcountry.
  • Dominated a game of monopoly with my spouse during our honeymoon. Still married.
  • Rich imagination and/or delusions of grandeur, often including fantasies about being interviewed on late night talk shows and/or having long lists of qualifications.
  • Left thumb bends backwards to form a 60 degree angle between my thumbnail and the lower segment of my thumb.
  • Can levitate a pool ball with a hose and an air compressor. Can make a pickle glow. Intimate knowledge of special recipe for giant bubble solution that includes surgical lubricant. Etc.
  • Semi competent trial runner.
  • Sweet list-making skills.
  • Impromptu blog entry completions during lunch break.

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