Sunday, February 17, 2019

Love Letters to my life #8: The Joy of Being Unqualified

by Joyce Wycoff

(This love letter to my life is written on my death day, the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my incredible life.)
"My most creative work seems to be on projects where I'm inexperienced and uniquely unqualified for the job.”  — Paula Sher

When I first read that quote, I thought, “Wow! That’s me.” My first thirty-some-odd years were spent becoming more and more qualified to do work that paid well but didn’t feed my spirit. When my first marriage disintegrated, the idea of normal died with it, which may sound nice, but it left me in that space of not knowing which direction to go. I began experimenting with the idea of doing stuff that I had no experience or credentials for and discovered the joy of steep learning curves.

Over the next few decades, I kept plunging into unknown, marshy territory … sometimes with success, sometimes with abject failure, always with joy. Gradually, I learned that, for me, success has little to do with money or most things that are measurable. As long as there was enough to fund the basics of life and the “necessities” of whatever project I was on, it was enough. Following this happenstance path didn’t change the world, make headlines, or feed the starving children in Africa, but it made me happy.

Last month I dropped out of the Spanish immersion class I had paid a lot of money for, with no real idea of whether or not I could make progress on my own. Fortunately, the resources I found have brought back the joy of learning a new language and, while I'm still light years from fluency, I am making progress. My confidence is blossoming and I can imagine the day when I will be able to actually talk, in Spanish, with my new neighbors.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this has become a project. However, I was amused when I announced to a group of friends that I was going to start “teaching” Spanish. Not in the normal sense, of course. What I’m really doing is making a series of self-study lessons which I hope will become a tasty salad of Spanish sprinkled with the joy of Mexico, it’s culture, history, people and amazing geography.

This week, four of my friends will try out the first lesson. Will it work or fall flat? I don’t know. Right now it’s in that glorious “perfect possibility” state. It works for me and has brought me immense joy putting together the pieces and imagining possible outcomes. 

Stay tuned. In the meantime, I am grateful for my bottomless well of ignorance which gives me such splendid opportunities to learn.


  1. Your journey continues to inspire me, Joyce, and as I'd like to learn Spanish in retirement (whenever that is), I hope you'll share your wisdom.

  2. I am lightened to laughter by your startling and wonderful statement that you are"grateful for my bottomless well of ignorance which gives me such splendid opportunities to learn."

  3. I too love your last statement about your gratitude for your bottomless well of ignorance. So perfectly sublime and inspiring!