Master of None
I am finding myself in a bit of an identity crisis. The last time I had one was in my late twenties, right around what would be my first Saturn Return*. And well, yes, it looks like my second one is on the horizon. Something is definitely kicking around inside me; something that is tired of shifting to try to fit in, tired of concerns about others perceptions. I am asking myself, “Who am I, really?” More specifically, “Who am I regarding my work and service in the world?”
Over the past several years I have been reshaping my work. While on the inside it feels like I am moving in a pretty cohesive direction, the detailed description does get pretty muddled. When people ask me what I am doing these days, I pause saying to myself, “Well, it depends”. Because it depends on who is asking. If it is a potential client or opportunity, I might want to highlight a particular aspect of my work. It also depends on where I am and how I’m dressed. That may seem odd, but if I am dressed in my nature exploration clothes or my tree climbing clothes I am probably not going to talk about being an anatomy and physiology teacher or a massage therapist. But the “it depends” pause really sucks for me. Sometimes I wish I could simply say, “I’m a nurse” or “I’m a farmer”. That would be so much easier!
On the phone with my mom the other evening I told her that I was driving home from teaching a drumming class. She exclaimed, “What don’t you do?” I love her, and appreciate that she sees me as multi-talented. But that question got me thinking about the “Jack of all trades” saying. Actually I was remembering the “master of none” part. I am involved in a lot of activities, some that I get paid for and some that don’t. With so many hats, how can I be really good at any of the things I do?
I checked Wikipedia hoping for some insights, and found this dreaded notation. “The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ used in its entirety generally describes a person whose knowledge, while covering a number of areas, is superficial in all of them.” Just as I feared, I might be mediocre!
The opening Wikipedia description did give me hope: “Jack of all trades, master of none” is a figure of speech used in reference to a person that is competent with many skills, but no particular one. The earliest recorded versions of the phrase do not contain the second clause. Indeed, they are broadly positive in tone. Such a Jack of all trades may be a master of integration, as such an individual knows enough from many learned trades and skills to be able to bring the individual’s disciplines together in a practical manner. This person is a generalist rather than a specialist.”
I certainly like the idea of being a master of integration; sure feels a lot better than a master of nothing. Much of my current work falls under the category of “teacher”. Teaching a variety of things in unrelated settings does sound like I might be a generalist, though internally I add the caveat that I only teach things I love learning about and/or practicing.
The truth is I am proud of who I am regarding my work and service. I love the things I am involved in. I am doing the work that gives me the most joy. So I deserve to be able to boldly claim my self in the world. I need some new language to support me in telling others who I am. As I explore these notions, my new “master of integration” self is most definitely going to drop the “it depends” part.
*I am many things, but not an astrologer! When I say Saturn Return I am referring to the astrological transit that occurs when the planet Saturn returns to the same place in the sky that it occupied at the moment of ones birth. Occurring at roughly 29 year intervals, Saturn Returns mark major thresholds bringing us into a new phase of our lives. Roughly, the first Saturn Return is a threshold into adulthood, the second into maturity, and the third into wisdom.
This post was written by Lucinda Sohn