Greatest Strength. Greatest Weakness

by beccaborrelli

"Femme Maison". 1994. Louise Bourgeois

Sometimes the best wisdom isn’t an ee Cummings quote. Sometimes the best wisdom comes while sitting on a couch watching a movie with friends. Someone takes a swig of beer, puts their feet on the coffee table and states rather unremarkably:

“You know, my greatest strength is my greatest weakness.”

Research has shown that the human unconscious has infinite capacity. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of my brain matter is the breakfast I had on June 13, 1985.

My conscious mind? Not so roomy. The things that my conscious mind holds are therefore very precious. If I remember something my friend said between sips of Heineken four years ago on a Saturday, I assume it’s important shit. Important to my path. My identity. My life.

I have remembered this friend’s movie night rumination ever since, and I know I will reference it for the rest of my life. My greatest strength is my greatest weakness. That statement has aided me in some of the toughest lessons, and most triumphant accomplishments.

The most beautiful part?

Between Donny Darko scenes, Doritos, and laughing twenty-somethings, my life was changed.


A strength: I’m a fabulous big picture person. I tend to see connections where no one else sees them. I think I have a knack for seeing the merit in most points of view simultaneously. I love paradox. Whenever someone talks, I play devil’s advocate in my head, trying to create a whole pie out of their personal slice. Some call this creative.

A weakness: I’m a terrible small picture person. My first year of teaching, with virtual ease, I pondered how I would address the industrial framework of public education; articulate what student’s were missing; and how to offer something fresh in my class. Yet for the life of me, finding a workable way to organize student artwork, store supplies, and keep up on grading was intensely difficult. Some call this ADHD.

I learned early on that making life decisions using the intellectual cement truck in my head was not time efficient. A tendency to see things in big pictures got in the way. I would end up lost in mazes of possibilities. Even though my rational mind sucked at focusing, I learned my unconscious was pretty dang awesome at it. I learned people with ADHD are more intuitive than those who aren’t. Maybe they can’t explain, but they can still know.

Greatest Strength. Greatest Weakness.


An example of this intuition happened my Freshman year of undergrad. I was enrolled as a Graphic Design student, and after one semester learned that I hated it. I was terrible at it.

“How about Art Education?” said my advisor.

I felt deflated, as if I was being pushed into a “softer” program because “I couldn’t hack it” in the militant design program. Yet on the first day, of my first art education class, I was struck by a cliché lightening bolt.

I felt home.

I felt like a teacher.

I thought like a teacher.

The readings we did, the projects we executed… everything felt natural… as if I was born to do this work. I wasn’t too weak to be a designer. I was a fish trying to hang out with birds. In an instant, I cut through all the possibilities and found the one with my name on it.

Leaving the tree and finding the pond didn’t happen by data analysis. It just felt much better being in water, so I trusted it. Early on, I realized this was the best way for me to make big decisions. Of course the greatest strength has a greatest weakness, and making decisions this way was scary because it wasn’t measurable. It wasn’t easy to conversate with friends at happy hour, or to parents on the phone why water felt better than air.

I found the older I became, the less I trusted my feelings as a compass. Why did you leave your family, amazing job, boyfriend and financial stability to move Austin and be a poor grad student? A feeling? I waste a lot more time these days dissecting my feelings… looking for a way to do what I was not built to do… find proof that my feeling is trustworthy.


I would have really loved a class on this stuff. Not a test taking, worksheet filling, analyzing, memorizing, regurgitating class. What I would have loved was a teacher who asked us to think about this stuff.

The “following your heart” stuff.

“The opposite of one profound truth is another profound truth” stuff.

The “finding your identity” stuff.

Instead of memorizing the quadratic formula in Algebra– a skill I have yet to use outside the SAT and GRE– I would have loved one class on things unfit for a spreadsheet or district report card. Just one class, so that when I’m taking on the tough stuff,

the relationship stuff,

the identity stuff,

the who am I stuff,

my strengths and weakness stuff,

I can look back on my sixteen years of schooling and find something… anything deeper than the framework of a Haiku poem, the periodic table, or the fastest way to add fractions.