I think we are on the same page a lot.
Licensed in 1958 as KN5AWO
six months later passed the General Test K5AWO
as I was born deaf, and have an extreme case of Tinnitus, I did not do well with AM or SSB.
my favorite mode was CW and over the years, my speed crept upwards....
somewhere around when keyboard keyers became the vogue, I bought one because I am a touch typist.
Listening to your own messages going out really helps to improve your ability to read code groups, and as you pass the 40 wpm levels, you start "hearing sentences"....
how that works is unfathomable to me, but work it does.
about 1981 a friend of mine in Hobbs, NM ( where we lived at the time ) asked me if I would go with him down to El Paso, TX to take the General Class ticket.... he was a Technician at the time.
I was sitting in the room with him just idly listening to the code tests that FCC examiner was sending out ( on tape of course )
when he finished, he asked me why I was not turning in an application?
I replied back to him, uh, well, you haven't even got past the 13 wpm test yet sir...
He looked at me kind of funny, and asked me "what did that last code run say?"
I forget now exactly, but it had to so with a general exchange of reports back and forth, QSL info, etc....
He then said, you write that down on paper, and you are now approved for "Extra Class"
20 wpm for those who don't know
and that was how I went from a lowly little CW operator to a "high speed" demon in the "real world"....
in 22 years, I never once used a microphone..... then 2 meters came along and then the Wilson Walkie Talkie was my daily rig for years in the company trucks.
I have not been "on the air" since about 1990 or 1991... an issue came up that I don't like to think back on.