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Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

General UpdatesKristina Pino1 Comment

Every now and again, I think about the way life doesn't cooperate as this straight, narrow path to some goal. Growing up, I definitely thought I'd always be an artist, and go into some kind of artistic career and that would be my life. But as I got older, my path started to get wider, and eventually when I got into university, it started winding and squirreling around as I tried different things. For all my love of art and expressing myself creatively, my love of learning exposed me to other things that interested me just as much.

The phrase "Jack of all trades" is one I enjoy, but I don't like the weird "master of none" that comes after it sometimes. My life is a web of my various interests and competences, and I like it that way. But it doesn't mean I'm a master of exactly zero skills.

When I hear "master of none," I sit and think about what that's supposed to mean. That we have a finite capacity for learning? Maybe. But not all expertise take up the same amount of space, and I like that bit I read in a Sherlock story that when you reach your capacity, your new memories simply re-write or record over the old, musty ones that your brain deems unnecessary. And I reject the idea that having varied interests and hobbies and being capable at several things (or having several professions) would render someone incapable of honing a craft to mastery, which is something I've thought more about since reading Nick Offerman's excellent memoir. I do think everyone should have one, even private, special craft and make things with their hands. I also believe we have an obligation to ourselves to do things that make us happy, at least part of the time. And I know first-hand that our interests and goals change over time: my competition-level dancing skills as an older teen didn't result in a career path for me, either.

Everyone has amazing skills, whether they realize it as such or not. Some people can make anyone laugh, can write words that make you want to cry, can draw photo-realistically, can photograph surreal-y, can flip an omelet like a champ every time, can hold complicated yoga positions, can empty their minds of noise, can build canoes, can make eye contact and listen really, really well. Skills take time and intention. As a culture I think we value people taking one craft all the way to extreme mastery - and that's really cool. But I also think it's really cool when people are simply masters. An authority, but not The Grand Authority. Or maybe not so much: competent. Good enough. Enough to do the thing right, and happily move on to the next thing, having gained some knowledge, having gained an experience. Is there somehow less value when someone isn't trying to be a Super-Duper Grand-Master?

I'm not going to say "my life is at a crossroads," because I don't think it works that way for many people. It's more like a series of roundabouts and winding mountain roads (or forest paths if you prefer). Not stopped at a crossroads, but traveling in circles until we decide which exit to take, even if it's back where we came from. And we have to choose one (for now). Another path to the same destination might appear later after a winding trip through an awesome (or hey, not so awesome) new place. But with the right amount of time and intention, we can all get there in the end. "There" being where we were meant to go all along.

I'll be over here, enjoying the ride and learning as much as I can along the way.

Thoughts On: WE SHOULD ALL BE FEMINISTS - an ebook short by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

BooksKristina PinoComment
What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun
With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
Listen to a bestseller for $7.49 at audible.com!

This was a completely oddball, random read for me because a few of my fellow Rioters were talking about it on Twitter and I dashed over to Netgalley as fast as my internet would take me. Then I saw the cover (green is my favorite color, that helped too) and I was pretty much sold.

This essay is adapted from a presentation Adichie gave at TEDxEuston two years ago titled We Should All Be Feminists. You can watch it right now.

If you don't want to read the essay, you should at least watch the talk over your dinner tray (just don't read the comments below it if you surf to YouTube instead of clicking on the embedded video in this post). It's so, so important. Adichie is rehashing some of the things you've probably heard before, but she brings a wonderful perspective to the conversation, and does so while being incredibly charming. What I mean by a fresh perspective is she comes from Nigeria - a society she describes as one that respects and values men over women, to the point where she is not greeted by servers at restaurants and her male companions receive the thanks when she tips someone with her own money.

One of the points she made that makes me happy, so so happy, is that we ("we" is all-inclusive) should be angry. And anger isn't a bad thing, especially when it leads to positive change. It reminded me of a lecture I sat in (if you sit in lectures online) where the professor was talking about The Odyssey, and how Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, had to grow up and "learn to be a man" in his society. And one of the things he had to learn was that anger was the appropriate response to the awful things happening at his home while his father was away. That he should be angry, and that he should do something about his situation. Too often, many of the qualities we praise in men are discouraged of women, and there are some fantastic examples of and arguments against that in this essay that serve all genders. Because that's the whole point of feminism.

This is completely unrelated, but this essay/talk has also sold me on reading all the rest of her work. Rock on.