In Praise of the Renaissance Soul

Now is the time for performance evaluations at work, which I actually find is a good time for me to take stock in certain aspects of my life. I know some people hate these things, and I won’t say it’s all fun, but I like the opportunity to have think about where I am and what I did over the past year that may have helped or hurt my cause. Like some, and perhaps many, my career has been less than mapped out. My choice of jobs has been at times out of necessity and at others a conscious decision that I felt would further me along a path I thought I wanted to go. In some cases, it’s worked and in others not so much. Needless to say, I’ve picked up a bunch of skills along the way.  Some things I pretty near an expert in and in others, I have passable knowledge.

When I was in high school, my band teacher gave us a lecture once on focusing.  The lecture wasn’t so much about our focus during our playing, but more on focusing on an instrument and mastering that. The ultimate idea was that if you focus, you’ll get better, you’ll get good. Bouncing around made you a jack-of-all-trades and thus a master-of-none. Most of the rest didn’t stick and now a couple of decades later I wonder about that.

Granted, over the years, I’ve had friends who’ve pursued the same interest or field as me and have progressed farther than I have in the same amount of time. Some of this maybe different levels of talent or raw intelligence, but a lot of it is raw amount of time they spent versus me. To look at the course of my life since my undergraduate years, I’ve bounced around. I really focused on poetry from about 20 until 27, when I left for Japan. This includes my MFA years. 27 to 30 is a mix. I refocused on Japan (I was a Japanese history major), but wrote little. I also started aikido in earnest. So from 27 until 37, I really concentrated on aikido, with 2003 to 2007 being the “intense” years. I got to third degree black belt.  As far as day jobs go, I worked a lot of office jobs, picking up things along the way. Some by choice and some by chance. Some self-directed and some through some sort of course, whether a formal academic course or a career development course at work.  I’ve worked in government, corporate, and non-profit.  All this to say is I have in the words of Margaret Lobenstine, a Renaissance soul.  I’ve remade myself more than few times over the past two and a half decades, and am now a more balanced person because of it.

My personal path has taken me a lot of places, shown me a lot of things, and I haven’t made a lot of money along the way.  I try to make enough to help support my family, and my kids really don’t suffer for it, I think.  They’re happy, which is the most important thing.  The other side of this is that I’m happy.  I have a very odd, multi-layered life with parallel careers and a hobby that I get a lot of enjoyment out of.  I’m also a lot more at peace with myself than I was 25 years ago.  So with all due respect to my old band teacher (who actually is someone I have a lot of enduring respect for), being a “jack-of-all-trades” isn’t all that bad.

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