dog jumpingJuly 13, 2022–Back when I was involved in committees and boards and other collections of people with disparate backgrounds sitting around conference tables making motions and debating by-laws, one of the annoying mixer games we endured at retreats was “guess who this is.”

Each person would write down the most unusual “other thing” they did in their life besides the mid-management role we bumped up against every day. The president-elect would collect the slips of paper, then read them aloud as everyone tried to guess which unusual occupation went with which button-down colleague.

As mixers go, this turned out to be less annoying than most. That demure lady counselor sitting quietly in the corner for the past three meetings? She held a black belt in karate. The osteopath? A champion hockey player. The orthodontist? A skydiving expert. The Assistant Superintendent in Charge of Every Department No One Else Wanted? A brilliant party planner.

I repeated this experiment on social media recently, and was surprised how eager everyone was to share their “other” sides. It started when I jokingly revealed one of my own hidden talents: Not to brag, but I was top Iowa Junior Hereford Livestock Judge while in high school. Yes, I endured razzing from friends who chided me for holding on to that trophy for 50 years. But it also earned me respect from those who saw cattle judging as an actual marketable skill, as opposed to sitting at a word processor writing drivel.

Getting in the spirit, posters eagerly joined in sharing their own responses to this line: “Not to brag, but…”

A Fitness Trainer who was the Grand Champion Broiler Pen. Twice.

A Radio Personality who was crowned the Houston slide rule champion.

An elementary classmate who was named Bookkeeper of the Year.

A Local Leading Citizen who claimed, “I can write backwards.”

A Former Teacher whose husband was the Duncan YoYo national champion, and appeared on To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got a Secret, Johnny Carson.

One wag claimed he once shot two bullets in a row through the same hole at 600 yards. Not a claim I was going to doubt, though I do.

Another Local Luminary was 1986 Stonewall Peach Jamboree and Rodeo Chicken Flying Champion.

The only Internationally Acclaimed Author I know was voted Mr. Pacific at a Polynesian-style dance competition.

Now we are getting silly.

But isn’t it fascinating that behind every white button-down shirt or gingham pinafore there lies a different person with amazing, interesting, and yes, even silly, interests and accomplishments that we don’t know about? That ability to compartmentalize our lives into home, work, fun, and hobbies may be necessary, but it is also limiting. We end up only sharing parts of the whole that make us who we truly are.

I understand. When I was Serious Director of a Public Nonprofit Organization, I didn’t ride down the hallways on a unicycle while juggling, even though those skills were in my stack.

But sometimes I wonder that if I had, I would have garnered more respect.