I am a Jane-of-all-trades, a polymath (someone who knows a lot about many different things)! You know that obnoxious friend who seems to be able to do everything, yet who isn’t so obnoxious when you need them, but even more obnoxious once the task is completed? Not, because they were a jerk, but because you struggled and struggled and they just walked right up and pushed the button and it worked! One of those. The frustrating thing about being a Jack-of-all-trades (Jane) is the feeling of being really good at a lot of things, while never being great at anything. Then to complicate matters (come on, I can hear those of you who know me already) if my friends hear me say something like this they immediately say “no, Lisa, you are so good at that, it is so great, you can do anything.” But, I know that there is always more to learn, that I didn’t understand everything in the process, and it wasn’t that great to me. It’s like going through life on the Cliff Notes when you long to read the novel. I appreciate their hearts and desire to make sure that I feel good about myself. I really do. Thanks friends!
I once had someone tell me that if you pictured 3 bars one over the other and the bottom bar was a job well done, the middle bar was really great, and the top bar was out of this world, fantastically good (nice use of hyperbole, no?) that people see me at the middle bar at least, but I act like I see myself at the bottom bar or lower. I suppose that, in some ways this is true. I long for so much more information, constantly, and I know that I could have done better if I’d known more! I always want to know why, where, when, who, what, how and I recognize that those words all have very different meanings. So, if I ask why, do not tell how, please?!
I took a personality test a few years ago, one that shows what makes you happy in life and not necessarily what you are good at and it said that my number one descriptor was curiosity! Surprised? me neither, but it was liberating just the same. It was freeing in ways that I could probably never put in words. It was a piece of paper that said “look, you being you, is what truly makes you happy”. How cool is that! Talk about an identity builder.
Why was it a big deal to learn this? Largely it was because the world doesn’t always know what to do with a JANE-of-all trades, a woman polymath. Let me describe myself; I can play the flute, love photography, can cook, love science, can change a light socket, understand software I’ve never seen, fix a leaking sink, love quantum science, I find a conversation about theories in science or math or languages and linguistics, or history or art, or plants, or well, you see what I mean… I find conversation about anything where I may learn something to be exhilarating, I mean I feel pumped, like after a really great workout. My blood is coursing and I feel alive. Hmmm, some of you are saying. Now tilt your head back up from the sideways squinty eyed hmmm look, good! All of that is great, but when it is a woman who is like that sometimes people are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with it. It’s ok. This is where you get to hear me say my favorite thought “I really like you being you, even if you being you is different from me being me!” and I hope you feel the same. It is a great way to think. It makes so many opportunities for friendships. It means that it is ok if you don’t “get” me, I might night “get” you all the time either, but I can still think you are great.
I have a confession. I never finished college. This combined with the above have been a paradox of sorts in my life. First people have said things (yes, out loud-amazingly) like “you know dear, you will never find a man if you don’t learn how to reign in that mind of yours”, “tsk, it is a shame really, with a mind like yours, you really should have been a man”, “you are a freak”, “we are going in now, do you think you could control your geekiness while we are there?” – I mean it isn’t as if I had tape on my glasses and snorted all the time. ( I used apoxy). Then sometimes the same people say things like “tsk, what a shame you didn’t go to college, I mean with a mind like yours”, “you could have changed the world, if only you’d gone to college”. I do often regret that I started life without college, but I am pretty happy with life and never cease to have opportunities to learn.
You see, that one piece of paper opened my mind to the possibilities. It said “BE CURIOUS”, “LIKE IT ALL”, “IT IS OK, AND IT IS GOOD”. It was the turning point for me to accept what I already really liked about me. I just like to learn, I love reasearch, I love to do something new, and I love to solve problems.
There was a teacher I had in high school and I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not, but he changed my life and help keep me on this path. I was already the way I am, but nothing had “sparked” yet. One day I came into class and there was logic problem on my desk, I had never seen one before. I asked about it, because that is what I do, and he told me how to do it. That same problem stayed on my desk until I solved it and then magically there was a new one the next day. I’m not sure how many I did, but it was a start-I still do them today when I’m stressed. Then my teacher started asking me questions like “Can you prove that you are not a mouse’s dream”. I tried and tried and years later I had an epiphany that I could not, but I felt to call him up at this point shouting my answer, was a bit silly. When I decided that I couldn’t prove I was not a mouse’s dream it was like walls in my mind came down and I could go anywhere in my mind. It was ok to be wrong, work it out and then maybe get it right. It was ok to say “what if…” and let it go. It was like flying through air. That was a true teacher.
The years of adulthood spent listening to the voices of those who couldn’t really see me for who I really was, put walls back up; wobbly walls that would sometimes fall, but then go back. The day I saw “Curiosity” on that piece of paper I flew again! So, I have decided to embrace my polymathness, maybe even be a Renaissance Woman and be happy about it. I don’t have to be the next Da Vinci or save the world. I just have to be me and do what I do, the rest will just happen. The possibilities are endless.
What about you? Who are you? Can you embrace it? Can you set aside your woes? Can you find resolution? It could be that you are miserable trying to be everything that others think you should be instead of just being you. You may not be a Jack/Jane of all trades, maybe you are really good at something, but hide it away. I can’t put logic problems on your desk (or whatever tears down your walls), but I can encourage you, I can tell you that I would really like you being you even if you being you is different from me being me, and maybe you’ll fly.