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Times and skills change


March 12, 2012
Billie Shelton , The Daily Freeman Journal

Have you ever thought about the skills you worked very hard to master that are of absolutely no use to you now? For some reason, that has come to my mind recently. It is an interesting point to ponder.

I remember when I worked in an office and learned how to change a typewriter ribbon, spool-to-spool. This was no drop-in-the-cartridge operation; but with several bouts of ink up to my elbows, I finally had it mastered.

We all know now just how useful that skill is now in these days of computer printer cartridges that are simply dropped into place when needed. And I'm not even talking about the obsolescence of the typewriter.

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When I was in college in a magazine journalism class, we had to set up a magazine complete with pictures and stories. Part of that was learning how to fit the copy into the allotted space in nice, tidy columns. I remember that I really didn't understand how to copy fit, but in time to pass the course I mastered the skill well enough to finish my magazine.

And now copy fitting is done easily with the push of a button on the computer.

What about the skill of playing sports on a team? The gallons of your sweat that went into the drills you endured, the plays you may have struggled to learn, and the shot you tried over and over and over again before you mastered it - and now with the exception of a very few, none of us have a use for those skills any longer. The work ethic, endurance, and camaraderie are all useful in any lifetime setting, but, really, when was the last time you needed to make a lay-up or throw a touch-down pass?

When I asked my friend about a skill she worked hard to master, she immediately said with a laugh, "I didn't think I would ever learn to drive a tractor." This was back when tractors had no cabs, certainly no air-conditioning, and had to be shifted. A baby boomer farm girl, my friend had to learn to drive the tractor as her part in making hay every summer.

"I don't know how many times my poor grandpa was thrown off the hay rack before I mastered shifting that tractor so it didn't jerk," she added. "And now the tractors drive themselves, but I never drive a tractor."

Then there's handwriting, which students used to have to practice in school in order to learn to do it right. Now hardly anyone writes anything on paper with a pen or pencil. We don't even regularly sign checks any longer.

Times change. Skills, even those difficult to acquire, become obsolete. In some cases, at least, we must change with the times and learn new skills.

As Ellen Glasgow said, "The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions."



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