How I learned to embrace being the jack-of-all-trades

How I learned to embrace being the jack-of-all-trades

There’s a lot of special beyond the specialized.

Back in elementary, I wanted to be part of the annual talent show, though I didn’t know what I could do to get in. At my mom’s urging, I did audition with a three-note “Hot Cross Buns” on the piano, for which I give myself a gold star for bravery. The attempt was half-baked, to say the least. Pun intended, cringeworthy memories not.

I went in hardly expecting to be in the show, let alone to best anyone. I just wanted something to showcase, because that would have given me a neat little box called talent to fit myself into.

Call this the deepest wish of the little girl who would become a serial dabbler: you name the summer workshop, I’ve tried it. And then I most likely failed or was just ordinary at whatever “it” was — never stellar enough to take the endeavor seriously, especially when I was young, restless, and easily frustrated.

This isn’t baggage. In fact, I still get laughs out of Kid Me’s sports blunders, kitchen scares, and onstage mishaps. But it’s ironic how obsessed I was with trying to find just one thing to define my interests, when the path I’m currently on is a sometimes overwhelmingly wide road. And despite how fulfilling it may be to stay the course, switching lanes from time to time has since been the natural strategy.

By that, I mean a coping strategy for the generalist’s life, which is quite a paradox in itself. I have no idea whether being a jack-of-all-trades embraces security or spontaneity, but does it have to be one or the other? Unintentional case in point.

 

It’s all about knowing what you like more and what you like less, without necessarily confining yourself to what you like best — because that can change beyond the meantime.


I thought I was choosing the safer option when I chose to pursue a business degree. Come college applications, I did have an inkling that I liked communication and the humanities a wee bit more than numbers, but that I was okay at the latter if I worked relentlessly. Yet, from the little girl who wanted to dive down the rabbit hole of a “true calling,“ I suddenly was too scared to. I didn’t want commitment to erode the passion I had already been hard-pressed to find. So instead, I took up something that was just mildly interesting to me, and flexible enough to be applicable in different fields. No strong feelings, no hard feelings in trying (or failing) to master anything. And that, for me, was security.

Three years later, however, I’m back to dabbling. I told myself that my college career would focus on business alone, told myself semester after semester that I’d drop writing commitments soon, until the refrain lost its tune. With every opportunity, I found myself saying, well sure, why not? That spontaneous response has even seeped into my business life, making me consider roles far from the functions I first envisioned myself in. I used to think that trying new or diverse things meant I would never know myself enough, when it was really a process of elimination. It’s all about knowing what you like more and what you like less, without necessarily confining yourself to what you like best — because that can change beyond the meantime.

To some, the freewheeling, jack-of-all-trades attitude may read a lot like a lack of investment. But in truth, I’m allowed to care about more than I thought possible, sans the pressure to take a single, straightlaced path to success or nirvana or whatever people are after these days. So here’s to being a host to many and master of none, as long as I’m never tied down to just one.

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