honorary Hose Monster:
One of my ex-girlfriends used to fondly refer to me as a "jack of all trades." But every time she did that, I could feel the sentence ending prematurely, as though she abbreviated herself and withheld from finishing the cliché with the requisite "master of none."
Now and again, when people find things out about me, they make comments like "jeez, you play guitar too?" or "you used to play hockey? Is there anything you don't do?" The comments generally strike me as rather strange, because I don't really feel like I am any different from any of the people I know, and it seems normal to me that people speak more than one language, can be really intelligent and fit in at a frat party at the same time, write stories or keep blogs, play an instrument, participate in athletics and perform respectably, enjoy cooking and have a respectable knowledge of wine or whatever else people seem to find strange about me. Most of the time I think that when people react to me like that, they simply don't themselves enough credit and don't recgonize the amount of diverse things they do in their lives and don't give much credence to the experiences and knowledge they too have collected. Most of the time I just shake my head and continue on like any other normal 23 year old guy.
I do have moments when I hear comments like that and I wonder if I really am that person who seems to do everything. For argument's sake, I suppose I am, and then maybe the "jack of all trades" comment does apply. I suppose I should feel flattered that I get this response from people, but most of the time all I can hear is the second half of the statement. Master of none.
I guess maybe I do a lot things, and on the whole, most of the things I enjoy are things I do reasonably well. But I often have a hard time contenting myself in this thought, that people respect me because of the diversity of my talents. They remark on the wide range of abilities, I lament the fact that while I do a lot of things reasonably well, I cannot think of a single thing at which I'm great.
I am a good skiier and snowboarding, but never the one that people will turn and watch. I play the guitar and sing passably, but I'd never have the ability to play coffee shops or make anyone want to come listen to me. I was an integral part of every hockey team I played on, but I was always a role player, never the guy opposing teams discussed and tried to shut down. I speak Spanish much better than most people would expect from me, but I'm far from bilingual or fully competant in an situation I could find myself. I've always been a good student, but was one of the few people I knew in undergrad who was not a valedictorian or salutatorian somewhere. I suppose I could go on, but doing so could seem like bragging, and that's not really my intent.
I want to be great at something. I want to be a master of something.
Don't get me wrong, 95% of the time I'm really quite happy with the person I am. I like myself, and I respect my own abilities and talents, and I'm glad I have them. But I do have days where I think I would love to be really good at something. Of course, if I were to become great at something, anything, I would probably cease to have the potential as a jack of all trades. I would have to pay an opportunity cost if I wanted to really be great at something.
Would it be worth it? If given the choice, would I give up the ability to do a wide variety of things passably in favor of the ability to do just one thing really well? Most of the time I'd answer that question with a "no," but I do wonder what it would be like if people stopped answering me with "you do X too?" and instead could watch me and feel the urge to respond "he's amazing."